UI, as known in the web dev world, is about user interface, or how a user interacts with a web page/application.
Most users don’t give a damn about UI.
Until is sucks.
It’s the same in the real world—if the user interface works, we’re good and no one notices. If it doesn’t, we’re…Not. Happy.
Real World UI
The Light Switch
Some time ago, while renovating our first home, I walked into the bathroom project where Jim and his friend Lou were installing a new door and light switch. Drywall and door frame were in, sawsall was busy making switchbox hole. They were both proud of their progress, yet puzzled by the look on my face. (I find it difficult to be subtle.)
I waited. Looked at the switch hole. Looked at the door. Looked at the switch hole. Looked at the door. Subtle was NOT working…
Opened the door. Closed the door. Pantomimed reaching for a light switch with door partially opened…
Duohhhh! (They’d cut the switch hole to be behind the open door…inaccessible unless you were already in the room w/door closed.)
Fortunately, due to early user testing (by me) my handy husband and friend were able to patch, repair and relocate the switch to a much better spot. And no one ever noticed it again!
The Urinal to Toilet Switch
Just last week, we took our 18-yr-old daughter to university, moving her into the dorm. Jori’s dorm is pretty much standard—old as the hills, poorly lit, cramped and covered in years of accumulated paint layers.
I was pleased. She would not be spoiled.
Then I went to use & check out the bathroom facilities. I was. Not. Happy.
Understand, I don’t seek out confrontation. Most of the time I avoid such things. But when my family needs something…well…I’m a force to be reckoned with.
It’s an all girls floor with a single communal bathroom… stalls (4), bank of sinks (6), showers (4). The problem was with the stalls. I’m not talking dirty/yucky or backed-up. I’m talking ‘not’. As in 2 of 4 porcelain fixtures weren’t toilets. On a girls’ floor! 2 stalls were urinals—without even a toilet paper holder!
How’s that for some shitty user interface?
Wait, urinals aren’t even designed for #2, are they?
Long story short
This mad Mommy took the issue to the RA (a sweet male foreign exchange student who had never entered the girls’ bathroom). The RA sought assistance with a more experienced RA (female cheerleader type who tried to convice me that all the girls would learn to respect each others’ schedules…blah, blah, blah). She gave up on me, and passed me off the to the Resident Hall Director (nice man who wanted to please me, the students, etc. and didn’t want a graphic description about why women need toilets vs. paperless urinals!). The Director agreed that the floor needed another toilet and promised me that one urinal would be switched out for a toilet within the week. A 50% increase in available toilets…FTW!
Turns out that they switched both urinals to toilets the next week. (Oh my, the things of which I am proud!)
WTF Do Toilets Have to Do with UI?
Well…if the switchbox had been near the door opening, would I have noticed? If all 4 stalls in the girls’ bathroom had been equipped with toilets, would I have made a fuss?
And that would have been successful UI.