Bad UX brought to a new level

Sometimes, it is very hard to comprehend the level of bad user experience that companies are capable of inflicting on their unsuspecting customers.

In IT, we keep talking about focusing on Jobs To Be Done, User Needs and User-Centric Design. We know it is hard and we know that we often get it wrong. Very, very wrong.

What is sometimes surprising is how bad companies outside the IT world can get user design too.

In this case, let me introduce you to this Whirlpool combined washer /dryer that is installed in the flat I have been using during my stay in Silicon Valley.

In my early years as a Web Developer, I read a great book by Steve Krug called “Don’t Make me Think!” (amazon.com link). I believe that that book has been ever-present in my work and help me build products that were a success with their intended users.

This concoction by Whirlpool is everything that Krug’s book suggested we needed to avoid if we wanted to provide a great customer experience.

Examples of bad user experience

Setting the machine on

To switch the dryer on you must push the black black button next to the main dial. This button has On and Off labels on it, but those labels are to set or unset an audio alarm at the end of the cycle.

Meanwhile, to switch the washer on you must pull the main dial.

Pull on one and push on the other? Really? This is the same machine and no one and Whirlpool noticed how inconsistent this was? Do they even run customer experience testing?

Selecting a programme

In the dryer, the main dial has a big white marker on it that easily shows which program is being selected.

Meanwhile, in the washer the same dial has no marker. After some careful inspection, it became obvious that a tiny black dot on the edge of the outer ring was the marker that showed which program was selected. Huh? In the case of the washer, the only purpose for the big dial is so that it can be pulled or pushed to start or stop the washer. The fact that this dial can rotate is, from a functional perspective, completely unnecessary.

Once again, really? How could they provide two completely different solutions for, basically, the same job-to-be-done (“select a program”)?

Stop! You are making me think…

And causing me confusion!

It’s beyond logic that this level of inconsistency and bad product user design could ever get to market. Even worse when it is in the same machine.

It tells very little of the attention and effort that this manufacturer appears to dedicate to provide a great user experience.

Companies that deliver great product design excel at simplifying the lives of customers. At helping them not having to think when doing jobs like these.

How about your products?

Hopefully, these are very clear examples of things gone bad in terms of user design. The question is, how many examples like these do we have in our own products and we haven’t noticed? Do we ever put enough time to identify these and ensure that we fix them? Or even better, how do we avoid creating them in the first instance?

In web products, I’ve seen countless examples of companies that keep introducing similar problems and where many user journeys require the user to learn different solutions to do similar jobs.

Hope these are useful examples! Feel free to contribute other examples that you have.