Good and Bad Design: Everyday Things Edition

As Dan Norman wrote in “The Design of Everyday Things”, all artificial things are designed. One need not rifle through design magazines for things to admire or critique — everyday life offers plenty.

Below are three such things I’ve encountered this past week, with an example of bad design and good (or better) design for each.

Health Websites
Need a blood test? The internet can (probably) help.

This month, I’ll begin volunteering at Sibley Memorial Hospital’s Innovation Hub. Before I can interact with patients, I need to get a blood test called “varicella titer” to prove I’m immune to chicken pox. When I googled “DC varicella titer”, two sites that offered the test popped up:

  1. RequestATest.com

This site screams “I want your blood”, and not in a good way. (Is there ever a good way? There must be a less bad way.) I was immediately taken aback by the design of the site, and ultimately chose to go through another website (hint: see #2). Why?

  • The color red is too alarming — I was already jumpy about having a needle stuck in my arm, through a service I found on the internet.
  • The overall look and feel makes the site feel outdated, unprofessional and poorly maintained. Fair or not, I used the site as an approximation of how this company’s overall processes and customer service would be.

2. Accesalabs.com

I felt a little more comfortable trusting Accesa Labs to set up my blood test, based on the site alone, because:

  • It is simple, minimalist and uses color sparingly. (This evokes a soothing, sterile doctor’s office, as opposed to the shouts of “blood!” in the previous site”.)
  • It presents information clearly, listing out an easy three-step process and anticipating questions in an accessible FAQ format.

Suitcases
Surprise! Super-sleek isn’t always better.

  1. This is my go-to suitcase:

I chose it because it was sleek, lightweight, and most importantly, on sale. I think it’s well-designed, except one crucial detail: where’s the side handle? On my flight last week, I had a bit of trouble getting the suitcase off of the security line conveyer belt, the baggage claim, and the storage space on the shuttle to the metro. Without a side handle, I couldn’t get a firm grip with both hands, and had to elbow people nearby so I could position myself to grab the top handle alone.

2. This is the suitcase I would buy if I were to choose again:

There it is — the side handle! Also:

  • It includes a built-in battery to charge your devices. (Low batteries while I’m traveling has always been a problem. Solved!)
  • 360° spinning wheels — no more jerky movements or getting stuck
  • A removable laundry bag to separate clean clothes from dirty ones. (I used to just stuff the dirty ones in a pile near the corner.)

Notebooks/Planners
Pieces of paper bound together. So simple, yet…

  1. This is the notebook where I keep notes for my immersive course in User Experience Design.

After a couple days of normal use (no manhandling, I promise), the back cover of the notebook completely slipped out of the “spiral”. Why? Because the metal prongs didn’t actually interlock in the middle, leaving open space for my sneaky back cover to escape.

After protesting, “You had ONE job, notebook!”, I wove a string through the metal prongs to keep them together.

I think it’s safe to say that if a product requires adjustments like this in order to not fall apart/be used for its intended purpose, it was poorly designed.

2. This is a Passion Planner.

Besides having a cover and pages that will stay firmly glued to one another, it also:

  • Has a green (you can’t miss it!) ribbon as a bookmark so I can always find where I am
  • Has a storage pocket in the bag for those inevitable receipts, sticky notes, and business cards that come my way
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