User Interface Done Right

Advances in technology often make possible new, more efficient ways of doing things. This can certainly make our lives easier and more enjoyable. As with any change, however, there can be drawbacks. The operation of new devices is not always intuitive to users who have never seen it before. Novel devices should be designed with a naive user in mind: the device should teach the user how to use it — ideally, with little or no effort on the part of the user. This advice is especially relevant in situations when the use of new technology is forced upon users, such as in public restrooms. Infrared towel dispensers, which require the user to perform a kind of modern-day rain dance in order to obtain a towel, are increasingly prevalent. The benefit is that you don’t have to touch the dispenser to get your towel — but for someone who has never seen one before, they can be confusing at first. Sometimes, however, a small change in operation can make a device a lot more intuitive to use. A local community college recently installed touchless towel dispensers in its restrooms. These dispensers, however, extend a towel right away, replacing it immediately when it is taken. Even if a user hasn’t seen one of these before, they will probably understand that they are supposed to take the towel.  When they do so, the dispenser replaces it. Now the user knows how the process works, without ever having to figure anything out! 2014-08-07 17.32.55_sm

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