Very expensive hot water

The image above shows the cold/hot filtered water machine we use at work. You will be fine using it if all you want is cold water but if you want hot water then it will require you to make a very “expensive” effort to get it.

This the water machine (front and side views)

I usually like my water not too cold, so since there’s not an option to get “room temperature” water, I fill my cup with about 3/4 cold and 1/4 hot.

The cold water is easy, just press the cold water button (most likely using your thumb) and that’s it. Now, if you want hot water you’ll have to “suffer” a little bit to get it. So, let’s compare these 2 scenarios:

If you want cold water, you just have to:

  • Press the cold water button

If you want hot water you have to press 2 buttons:

  • The safety lock
  • The actual hot water button
This is how the buttons are laid out

The biggest obstacle here is the way the buttons have been positioned, vertically and on the side of the machine (parallel to your body).

Using only one hand, it is very uncomfortable having to push both buttons at the same time because the buttons were laid out without taking in consideration the physical characteristics of the human hand.

This is how I use my fingers to open the hot water valve using only my right hand

It seems that this machine design didn’t take into account how difficult will be for people to get hot water out of it, mainly because of the way that the controls are positioned parallel to your body

Usually, the fingers in our hands are of different lengths, so if you try to simultaneously press on 2 small areas parallel to your body (vertically or horizontally aligned) and on an almost flat surface the action you are required to make to activate the hot water feels physically wrong, forcing you to make an extra effort extending or retracting one of the 2 fingers in a very awkward way.

The verticality of the machine controls vs the different finger lengths (fingers vertically aligned)
The verticality of the machine controls vs the different finger lengths (fingers horizontally aligned)

I can assume that whoever created this machine did it under the premise that in order to get hot water you will have to use both hands (one to unlock and the other to open the hot water valve). If you think about it, this is the equivalent of saying you need 10 fingers to complete this task, and even so, what happens if you are holding something with one hand?

Also, it is likely that a person using 2 hands would use his/her thumbs to press these buttons; that at least will feel more natural but this creates another issue of the machine sliding to the back as you push because of it’s light weight and not being anchored to the countertop surface.

Here is what I think could make more sense in redesigning this machine:

  • Place the buttons at the top of the machine, that way it will be easier to press down the buttons as you do to while typing on a keyboard.
  • Maybe place the safety lock on the side (to be pressed by your thumb).
  • Combine the locking and open function into a single control (redesign the lock).
  • These controls not necessarily need to be buttons.
  • Include an option for “room temperature” water.
  • Make the water spout in an angle for larger containers that won’t necessarily fit under it.
  • Improve the use signals, color and descriptions (signifiers).

Of course I can see that this is probably a cheap machine, another made in China artifact but being cheap is not an excuse for poor design. We should always care about the people that’s going to use our products.

Thanks for making it this far

So there you have it, another design review of an everyday object. Stay tuned for more. Make sure to follow me to get notified when the next article goes live. You can also follow me on twitter here