Language Barrier

How to Escape From Spanish ModeI was shopping in a self-checkout at a Home Depot, when I accidentally entered Spanish Language Mode. I think the software had a bug, in that the button “hot spots” were too wide. Apparently, this was a pretty big problem, as this sign shows (The “Accept” button was near the “Spanish” button):

Apparently, it is an even bigger problem, as this story shows:

Man takes pry bar to self-check till

Machine whacked after speaking to him in Spanish

Well, let’s look at it this way: At least, this guy wasn’t buying a blowtorch.

But that age-old adage — that patience is a virtue — somehow slipped the mind of a man shopping at Home Depot on Utah Avenue South in Seattle on Thursday.

Read the Rest of the Story



I was just shopping, and used a Home Depot electronic cashier. The people who shepherd the customers through the registers obviously got sick of the inevitable by-products of the bad design of the register software.

Pin Pad Scribble

I burst out laughing when I saw this, and I had to take a picture with my phone. It is an expression of frustration. However, the end result is that the cashier looks less professional. It’s not a good idea to look unprofessional when you are dealing with someone’s money.

Can you see what happened? These electronic cashiers are arranged in a group of four, with a (usually bored teenage) cashier (“associate”) attending them. The instructions on the screen refer you to the “PIN Pad,” but most people know these as either “card readers,” or as “keypads.” The attendant obviously got sick of people asking “Where’s the PIN Pad?”, and wrote this up.

In this case, the bad design was in the terminology. The electronic cashier I wrote about earlier had the same problem.

Suggested Solution:

Rename the prompts to say “Card Reader” or even “Keypad” instead of “PIN Pad.”

Move the Card Reader to a more obvious area, as this is a “required face plant” that isn’t working properly.

Label the Card Reader more neatly and professionally.


The Spigot

The Label
The Spigot in Profile
Pulling Down the Spigot

Sometimes, you can look at something, and see a story. That is certainly the case with this spigot on a bathtub tap.

This is the story of a design mistake. That label says “We came up with this neato-wow design, and nobody ever figured out how to use it. Our customer support lines melted down, our resellers blacklisted us, we fired the designer, and stuck these labels onto our product as a mickey-mouse band-aid to the situation.”

As you can see, it is an interesting design. There is a “lip” on the business end of the spigot (you can see it in the second photo.) This has a shape that affords pulling. The user is supposed to pull this down to enable the shower head. It is clever. It probably has very few moving parts, and costs very little to manufacture. Pulling down on the spigot probably moves a baffle into place that blocks water flow through the tap, and forces the water to go up to the shower head.

Too bad they probably blew all their profit on damage control. Customer service is a very real, and often overlooked cost. Good designs require less customer support. Companies need to quantify the cost of support, and then factor that into their design priorities. In this case, they probably saved fifty cents per spigot, and spent a dollar per call. Not everyone who brought one of these would call, but most customers would chalk up the manufacturer as less-than-desireable, and would probably not get any products from that company again. They may also complain to the plumber that installed the system. The plumber might be a bulk customer of the taps, and the company may lose a thousand units as a result.

This is a common problem when designers live in their own world. In the world of bathroom plumbing fixture designers, this was probably an elegant and intuitive solution. I’ll bet that one of the biggest issues with bathroom fixtures is all the various knobs and gizmos. There is always a concerted effort to design “one turn” taps and fixtures. These have varying degrees of success. I have gotten into hotel showers that have frozen me half to death because I couldn’t figure out how to make the water hot, and I have used taps in sinks that force you to drip water all over the countertop because of their placement.

Suggested Solution:

There is no real solution for this without a complete redesign, which is certainly why that sticker is on the spigot.