I feel a rant coming on! I have just been to visit my mother in South Africa and I found many examples of designer oversight that proved very frustrating. First up – the Boeing 787 Dreamliner. Despite the fact that all the controls are available on the seat-back screen, the controls for the lights, volume for the entertainment, and request for the attendant are duplicated in hardware on top of the armrest. Every time you try and shift your weight you end up inadvertently calling the attendant, changing your headset’s volume or turning on your neighbour's overhead light (or any combination).
That is nothing compared to the toilet. Apparently it was designed to make sure the lid stays down at all times when not in use, with the help of gravity. This means that standing up to pee is very difficult since you have to have one hand dedicated to keeping the seat and cover up at all times. This doesn’t stop men from trying though, with a resultant mess.
Oh but it gets much worse! The seat also slopes forward which is uncomfortable enough when you sit, but the lid rests on your back which is quite creepy and is almost as if to say hurry up! Before you even get seated though, you have to perform several antics that would be slapstick comedy if viewed by an audience. The designers provided a dispenser for paper seat covers for hygiene which the airline thoughtfully keeps filled. So you take one out and complete the perforations so that there is a gap where there needs to be. You now need one hand to lift the cover and a second to place a flimsy piece of paper in the right location on a sloping surface. A third hand would solve the problem. And now… you have to turn around – how exactly do you keep the paper in place and the cover up while you do that? Did you remember to unbuckle and drop your pants? No, that has to be done first. Start again. Next question – how do you only partially drop your pants so they don’t end up in the shmutz on the floor? A fourth hand would be well, really handy. (A Goon Show aficionado might suggest a second person!) Now to manage the turn around, keeping the paper in place and with your pants hitched, all you need is an eye in the back of your head.
Next time I will travel with adhesive tape- it would match the duct tape used to hold some wall panels down – no wait, that was the 767 I flew on!
For these and all the other indignities they have inflicted on us passengers I curse aircraft interior designers, their managers and airline executives to fly cattle-class for all eternity. Give my regards to the Flying Dutchman, and I don’t mean KLM.
Let me get off one soapbox and on to a more familiar one. I travel with an Apple iPad Pro and an LG G4 Vigor smartphone (using Android 5.1.1), both devices you would think were designed to operate in multiple locations. My mother has a 1GB download limit on her Internet access and some ridiculously slow data transfer rate – both limitations have been fairly common on all my travels especially a recent cruise. Four days into the trip, my iPad popped up with a notice that there was a 10GB download of the new operating system. Did I want to install? The next day – did I want to install? It took 5 days for it to figure out that maybe it should wait. Why isn’t there an option of “don’t bother me for N days” or only update when connected to a particular MAC address? At least in this case the software did stop nagging after a while.
Android updates for the different apps on my phone show up about 90 times a week, but at least it’s easy enough to ignore except for an app called WhatsApp. For those of you who don’t know, it’s an app that allows you to send messages and have conversations over the Internet. Overseas it seems to have supplanted regular SMS messages and Skype. WhatsApp doesn’t follow the Android update regimen even though the updates happen quite frequently. You only find out that there’s an update pending when you open the app. When I open the app I want to make a call, so I don’t want to update at that instant. I decline. But at the end of the call when I want to take the opportunity whilst I remember, there is no option anywhere that I can find to allow you to initiate the update. And so you have to try to remember to try and open the app at some other time in the hope that it will prompt for the update, because there is another kicker. At some point, WhatsApp won’t let you continue until you actually do update – and hopefully you have bandwidth at that time to do it. Grrrr.
Bundled with the Android on my smartphone is a widget called Agenda. I recently decided to join the 20th Century by porting my paper diary to the electronic medium. Imagine my surprise when I looked at an appointment scheduled for after my return and it was supposed to be happening at midnight. The app had shifted all my appointment times to South African time. I had set up an appointment whilst in SA for my return and that was set to SA times, so wrong on my return. There is a setting to lock the time to the default zone, but that means that setting an appointment for when I am in SA won’t work. Sigh! Oh and another thing, the app will send me an email ½ hour before an appointment That’s great, but the time it details in the email is in England’s time zone. I could understand using UTC, but English time? I can find no obvious method to change it to local time or any other time zone.
Let me stop here before I pass judgement on the Apple Pencil (which I will do as part of another blog) or iTunes. And don’t get me started on the features of Microsoft Word that don’t work properly (maybe another blog as well). This isn’t the first time I have expressed dissatisfaction with the design of others. Here are some more of my opinions where I don’t think the designers tried out their own products: Monkeys Got to My Cardio Machine, Monkeys Messed Up My HP Scanjet, Big Time, and Cable Box Causes Bigger Headache Than Daytime TV.
Do you have examples of where designers obviously haven’t tried out their own products?