User Notes Observations of a User

September 11, 2005

Stuck Drawer

Filed under: User Experiences — Chris Marshall @ 9:21 pm

I’m in a Tokyo hotel room, and there is a small chest of drawers. I usually open the drawer and put in my clothes if the stay will be more than one night. However, this drawer won’t budge. What’s the problem?

Open DrawerThe drawer has its handle on the top, as opposed to the bottom. This results in two face plants. The first is that we usually expect the handle (the opening affordance) to be on the bottom of the drawer. Since the groove is hidden when the drawer is closed, I did not see it until after I had tried to grip the drawer on the bottom. The second is that you need to press down in order to open the drawer. This causes it to press harder into the rails, and makes it more difficult to open.

Suggested Solutions:

Place the groove on the bottom of the drawer.

I’m not sure about this, but the drawer slider rail mechanism doesn’t seem to be very good. This may actually be damage done to it by months of being pressured.

September 4, 2005

Ring My Bell

Filed under: Vignettes — Chris Marshall @ 8:14 pm

At this building I go to, I am always hearing a brief elevator emergency bell ring. I had never thought about it. We have the same elevators at my job, and I never hear it there. One day, I decided to give the matter a little thought, and I figured it out. What are the differences between the elevators at work, and these ones?

  1. The doors close a lot more slowly on these ones. The ones at work close as soon as someone presses a floor button.
  2. The people only come here once a week, so they are not as familiar with the elevators as they would be at my office.

Now, couple that knowledge with the following (bad, I know, but I used my phone camera, which stinks) picture:

Elevator Buttons

Can you figure out why I keep hearing the elevator alarm bell ring?

Truck Tires

Filed under: User Experiences — Chris Marshall @ 7:48 pm

Last summer, they rebuilt the supermarket near my house. This involved knocking it all down, temporarily sending all the rodents over to my place, and then rebuilding a monster three times the size of the old one. This has been, for the most part, a rousing success, but I have noticed one sign of a rather poor planning process.

The loading docks are behind the supermarket, on the East side. Trucks generally come in off the main road that runs North of the supermarket, down a side road that runs East of the parking lot, into the East entrance. After that, they need to do a fair bit of jockeying to back into the loading bays. If anyone has ever seen an eighteen-wheeler back into a loading bay, they know that it is a pretty complex project, with many back-and-forth runs. They can also come in the West entrance, and come up behind the supermarket. In that case, this happens only when they leave.

Since the new supermarket is so huge, they had to substantially reduce the size of the parking lot. The trucks don’t have nearly the room to play with that they did with the previous lot. No problem. Truckers deal with this stuff all the time, you say. That’s why they get paid the big bucks.

Here’s the problem:

The Layout of the Parking Lot

The Layout of the Parking LotWhen they designed the parking lot, they underestimated the turning radius of the trucks, so the trucks are forced to go over the curb on the edge of the parking lot. This tears up the landscaping something fierce. After a good rain, the berm looks like a World War One battlefield (minus all the bodies). Those truck tires, and all that weight, are absolutely brutal. The problem, from this amatuer’s eye, seems to be that lampost island in the middle of the parking lot. It stands between the truck and the exit. It was obviously put there as part of a pattern. Maybe they were required to have these lights exactly that far apart by code, or maybe it was just a question of aesthetics. In either case, that torn-up grass is very ugly indeed.

Suggested Solutions:

Cut a “notch” out of the berm.

This is the easiest thing to do, but also the least effective. There would have to be a pretty big notch to accommodate all the trucks. You can bet that these drivers are going all out to avoid running over that landscaping, so you need more room than that represented by the tire tracks.

Reduce the width of the entire berm.

This would work, but it is likely to cause problems. For instance a big part of the job of that berm is to hide the loading bays from the houses across the street. If the same height was maintained for the berm, and it was made narrower, the chances are very good that it would erode.

Move the lampost further South, or further North.

As I said, there may be a town code or something that says the lamp needs to be a certain distance from the other lamps, but I’ll bet not. I think the designer just thought it looked good on his/her blueprints. To be fair, I don’t know if I would have figured this out, but I’m not a professional supermarket designer, and they are.

Remove the lampost island completely.

They could easily mount a floodlight on the building itself, or on a post further East.

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