Bad design

Ever been frustrated trying to file your taxes online?

Were you completely stumped the first time you used an Instapot?

How long did you sit there trying to figure out where the leftover screws go in the bookshelf you just built from Ikea?

Oddly enough, even the smartest among us can feel inept trying to figure out how these things work.

It’s easy to blame ourselves for not knowing, but, in fact, the opposite is true. The fault lies in bad design.

As Donald Norman has pointed out, bad design is everywhere.

Human beings spend an enormous amount of time designing systems to operate in. On top of that, we build security systems, backup plans, standard operating procedure manuals to insulate these systems. Then, we are confused when players misbehave in the system we have built.

We will not look at ourselves but blame the character of others. “If only they would just…”

Again, the fault doesn’t lie in poor character but in bad design choices.

The design should be laid in the simplest way so that anyone could walk up and understand it. But, too often, the signals we send are often misinterpreted. We don’t consider things like lock-in, natural mapping, discoverability, understanding…all things that must be decided beforehand.

If you are not getting the behavior you are seeking, build a better system. Make the guardrails more visible. Quit pretending that we are all rational actors and that everyone else should do it the way you see it.