A featured deal on the Kobo eBook site looks like this (this is not clickable and the deal may have ended ten years ago by the time you see this, so apologies if this was your most-anticipated book ever and you can’t buy it at the price shown):
Seems fine, right? Now imagine if for some reason the site wasn’t rendering the image of the book properly. Here’s the same ad, with the book cover obscured:
No big deal, right? But let’s say you don’t have time to click the Learn more link when you see it, so you make a note to check later. But later the ad is no longer in rotation. Still no big deal, because you made a note of the title of the book–oh wait, you didn’t, because if the image doesn’t display, the text has no mention of the book title anywhere. Whoops. And this is applied inconsistently as well, as here’s another featured ad from the same page and it does mention the title in the last paragraph:
This isn’t world-ending bad design, of course, it’s really more of a nitpick. Still, an ad for a book should perhaps mention the book, no?
There are various issues with the location and design of stairs and escalators across the entire SkyTrain system and I have posted about issues specific to the Canada Line, but for this I am going to focus on the station closest to where I live, as it is a good example of bad design.
First, let me note that the Millennium Line, opened in 2000, is overall an improvement to the Expo Line and its stations. The Millennium Line stations are spacious, completely covered for inclement weather (important for an area that gets a lot of rain), glass-enclosed elevators for better security, and each station has its own unique look, getting away from the cooke-cutter design of the Expo Line.
One area in which they went cheap was escalators. A lot of stations follow the one staircase/one escalator rule, where there is an up escalator to get people up to the platform, and a staircase to get them down. As cost-cutting measures go, it’s not the worst, but they are moving away from it now, because crowded stations and stairs are inefficient for getting people in and out quickly (see Lougheed Town Centre station, which added a down escalator at the north end, around the same time its third platform opened for the Evergreen extension).
At Sapperton station, both sides feature the one staircase/one escalator design. The problem here is that designers did not anticipate how people act. A lot of people will—quite logically, you could argue—take the path of least resistance. In this case, when someone exist a train, they will veer toward the closest route that will get them off the platform and out. At Sapperton this is the staircase, as it is closer to the platform than the up escalator. The up escalator requires the person to cross over the platform.
Now, you could argue toe the logic of this design is that having the staircase closer to the platform is more important, because it makes it easier for people to board a train. And that’s true. However, by putting the staircase closer, you inevitably increase the number of people using it and ignoring the escalator, which is farther away.
The end result is you get people both going up and down the stairs. This impedes people trying to get to the train, the very thing the designers were presumably trying to avoid. It also creates cross-traffic on the platform itself, as people exiting a train and using the up escalator must cross in front of the stairs.
During busy times, it’s a bit of a mess.
Now, if the stairs and elevator were reversed, you’d encourage people to take the escalator to leave the platform, plus you’d keep them from getting directly in the path of people coming down to board. People coming down would have to move slightly farther to get to the staircase at the top, but this would almost always be more efficient than putting them into the direct path of people leaving the platform.
Unfortunately, this design will never get fixed in existing stations and really, it’s too expensive to be worth the improvement in traffic flow, as nice as it would be. More happily, as mentioned earlier, it appears Translink is largely scrapping the use of stairs. An example is the remodelled Metrotown station, which previously had a single staircase and escalator at its east end. It was a huge bottleneck. The remodel opened up the west end of the platform and now there are four escalators (two up, two down) at both ends, vastly improving the efficiency in getting people in and out of this often crowded station.
So this is a case of bad design, but bad design recognized. Thumbs up, I say.
The Canada Line is the ALRT that runs from downtown Vancouver to Richmond, splitting off to either the airport or central/”downtown” Richmond. It opened for service in 2009 and one of its intended functions was to help move people from the airport to Olympic venues during the 2010 Winter Olympics.
Obviously the construction of a subway is always going to be disruptive to the neighborhoods it goes through, but the Canada Line’s first bad design was the decision to use cut and cover tunnels for most of its route. Cambie Street is the main route the line follows and it literally follows it–being cut and cover, they dug up Cambie Street, keeping two of its six lanes open during construction–and laid down the subway route along the road, following the same route, including a prominent “bulge” around Queen Elizabeth park. Businesses sued over the construction, some went under or moved and in the end it was declared such a mess that the entire Millennium Line extension from VCC-Clark to Arbutus is going to be a bore tunnel.
But the construction was only the first tangible aspect of the bad design. Once open, the line revealed its other flaws to the public. Namely, it was built on the cheap and with no thought put into expansion.
The system only runs two-car trains, severely constraining capacity (it’s already maxed out at rush hour)
Stations are very small and often have multiple bottlenecks, leading to serious crowding issues
Fare gates are often too close to the platform, again because of the tiny size of the stations
The small stations means that even if they expanded trains to four cars–which they could do anytime–there would be no room for the trains at any of the current stations. They would literally have to dig out new space everywhere except for the above-ground stations in Richmond. Compare this to the Expo Line opened in 1986, where all platforms can accommodate six-car trains, even though they only ran four-car trains for many years.
Adding insult to injury, the Canada Line even started removing seats from some cars to allow more people to squeeze in, a terrible solution to overcrowding that will only drive (ho ho) people to seek alternatives. They fortunately stopped this after gutting a couple of cars, but the fact that they did it at all shows how inept the leadership is.
The terminus Brighouse station in Richmond is specifically not designed to accommodate any expansion of the system. When the train leaves the previous station, Lansdowne, it switches over to a single track. The Brighouse station is built specifically around that single track, meaning any expansion would require a massive and expensive retrofit. Compare this to the Millennium Line, which anticipated a future expansion to the Tri-Cities called the Evergreen Line, leading them to build the base infrastructure for a third platform at the Lougheed station, where they expected the Evergreen Line to hook up to the rest of the system. When funding finally got approved for Evergreen–more than a decade later–crews were able to build on and around the existing third platform, saving time and money.
The trains are seriously noisy when going around corners, the wheels shrieking like crazy. This does not happen to the same degree on the underground sections of other lines.
Even the choice to go with a Korean manufacturer was short-sighted, as it meant the system could not integrate with the two existing SkyTrain lines, perhaps saving money in the short term, but hobbling any overall integration in the long term.
Much of this can be laid at the feet of the former BC Liberal government, who wanted the line built cheap and fast. They got both of those, but what they didn’t get was the unspoken third part–good.
Fixing the Canada Line would be difficult and costly, but it will likely have to be done eventually, simply because it’s already reached its capacity. There’s no happy ending here.
Usually at lunch I walk the loop around the Langara Golf Course. It’s about 2.7 km total and is pleasant enough if the weather is decent. The path does not allow bicycles and there are a few signs to that effect at regular intervals.
Recently the point was made even clearer through the erecting of a pair of gates that are tricky for pedestrians to navigate, but downright hostile to cyclists. These are meant to discourage and turn back cyclists and in theory they should do just that.
Here’s one of the gates.
You can clearly see some people are winding their way through the gate. You can also clearly see enough people are walking around it to create two distinct side paths, one on each side. I am one of those people.
I have yet to see a cyclist navigate around this gate, but I’m reasonably confident that in time I will.
The other gate is up against a fence, so only one side can be passed on the outside, and it’s narrower, but people are working on it.
This is bad design.
These are probably prefab pieces or otherwise made to a standard size. But if the actual location they’re being used in makes them trivially easy to avoid (and it is trivial–in the one pictured above a jogger can deke around the gate without slowing down), there’s not much point, really. You’re just adding an inconvenience for all the people who walk the trail.
My preferred solution in this case would be to remove the gates. Unless there is a serious problem with constant crazed cyclists, there’s little value to be had in placing these obnoxious, easy-to-avoid barriers.
(Technically this is not paving, but pouring concrete.)
Here’s something you sometimes see in cities or any urban area that has decent foot traffic. For the most part people walk along sidewalks and stick to them because the alternatives are unattractive for varying reasons–trespassing in someone’s yard and getting eaten by a dog, walking into the street and being run over by a bus, and so on–but sometimes there are routes off a sidewalk people will take, when that route is more direct and without risk of dogs, buses or other obstacles.
This is the sidewalk in front of the Burnaby Public Library on Central Boulevard.
There are a pair of roundabouts here that bisect the sidewalk. Here’s an image from Google Maps that shows both of them (the one in the photo I took above is on the right):
A decision was made to have the sidewalk in front of the library not line up directly along the street, as would normally be the case. As you can see especially from the photo, people who come from either intersection, where the sidewalk does align next to the street, continue to walk in a straight line, ignoring the sidewalk directly in front of the library altogether.
The unnatural foot path (so to speak) becomes quite muddy and slick in winter, but it’s perfectly fine for most of the year, provided you’re not especially susceptible to tripping on small, exposed tree roots.
Anyone who understands human behavior should have anticipated the development of this foot path when looking at the plans for this block. Sidewalks that deliberately steer you away from getting from Point A to Point B are bad design. People will always take the shortest route if it’s easier and safe to do so.
The fix here would be to add a stretch of sidewalk where the existing foot path lies. The tree roots complicate things, so that may never happen, but the roots will eventually get ground down by the traffic on them, anyway.
Sometimes this bad design, while not anticipated, is still fixed later. Such is the case in Thornton Park in Vancouver. When the park was rehabilitated as part of the redesign of the nearby Main Street SkyTrain station, several pedestrian-made paths were converted into permanent sidewalks. It’s always nice to see recognition of real-life usage and adapting the environment to it where it makes sense.
In the interest of keeping to a complaint-free lifestyle, I’ll emphasize again for Bad Design I am doing a couple of things:
pointing out the bad design as a way to highlight how something should not be done, even if it seems logical or a popular way to go, in the hope that it encourages others not to repeat what I feel are mistakes in design
offering a solution or alternative design that addresses the flaws
And I only pick a lot on Apple because I own and use a lot of Apple products (which I will address in another post) and because as the world’s largest, richest company, they have the power to influence a lot of others (see Samsung and its weird and lawsuit-attracting tendency to follow Apple’s designs very closely).
And with that, I present:
The iMessage fireball
For those unfamiliar with Apple’s message app, it works like most text messaging apps and allows people to send and receive messages across Apple devices, including the iPhone, iPad, Watch and Mac. If you send a message to a non-Apple device, it shows in a green bubble as a regular text message. If you send a message to an Apple device, the bubble turns blue and it becomes an iMessage, sent through Apple’s servers.
With iOS 10 Apple revamped the Message app, expanding what you can send.
When you are in the Message app, tapping on the App Store icon presents a small black window that you can doodle and do other things in (it defaults to this, though tapping the icons to the left or right of the heart will allow you to use stickers from other apps, search for images and more):
By tapping on the horizontal gray line above the window it expands to give you more room and also exposes a small information icon in the lower-right corner that, if tapped, presents an explanation for the various actions you can perform:
The Heartbeat option only works if you are wearing an Apple Watch, as it includes a heart rate monitor.
The first option is Sketch and it seems pretty straightforward. Draw with one finger.
The next option is Tap. What is a tap? There is no explanation.
The fourth option, Kiss, puts a pair of lips in the window.
Let’s go back to the third option, Fireball. This puts an orange fireball-like blob in the window and as long as you keep pressing you can move it around. As soon as you release, the Fireball message sends.
Bad design #1:
Some actions send the message instantly, others require you to tap a send button to send it. This is inconsistent and can result in messages being sent prematurely.
Bad design #2:
There is no explanation for what a Tap is. The others are straightforward, but what is a Tap? It’s a ring that dissolves. If you do a bunch of taps in succession you can send multiple rings–er, taps–but if you pause too long the message auto-sends. I am unsure as to why anyone would ever want to send a Tap.
Bad design #3:
The Fireball and how it is invoked. Like the Tap, I’m not sure why you would send someone a Fireball. It looks more like a glowing orange ball than an actual fireball and it also auto-sends. The worst part, though, is that to invoke it you press your finger on the screen. You might think this is the same thing you do to make a Sketch, but there is a subtle difference. The difference is so subtle that you may find yourself sending off fireballs when you meant to start a sketch, and you may receive fireballs for the the same reason. In fact, since iOS 10 launched I have only sent two fireballs deliberately. The first was to see what it looked like, the second as a joke. Pressing the screen is a very basic gesture and it shouldn’t be tied to a fairly obscure action that few people would seemingly ever use.
Bad design #1: Require tapping the Send button for all actions before the message is sent. Give options to edit or cancel the message.
Bad design #2: Rename Tap to Rings. Change text to “Tap with one finger to place one or more rings.”
Alternate solution: Remove this option altogether if it is seldom-used.
Bad design #3: Change the action required to invoke the Fireball to something that is not likely to be used accidentally, like tapping with three fingers.
Alternate solution: Remove this option altogether.
My personal feeling is the Tap and Fireball options could be removed. I have no evidence to back this up, but based on anecdotes and my own experience, neither is used much at all and the Fireball is almost exclusively used unintentionally.
The newest Mark III SkyTrain cars feature a few nice improvements:
all four cars are joined together through an articulated “accordion” section, meaning you are free to move between all cars on the train. This also means there is more room overall for passengers
larger windows provide a better view and the lower frames work better as pseudo arm rests
better fittings all around mean the trains are quieter
roomier design all around, so there is less of a sardine can feeling, even when the train is full
But in among these improvements is another that doesn’t really work, and it’s not the fault of the designers. It’s more of a people problem.
The first and last car on each train has one of the middle sections of seats removed and in its place a single bar that runs underneath the window. This is a designated bike area. Making trains bike-friendly is definitely a nice move, as more people are commuting by bike.
However, there is a problem with the execution: it doesn’t take into account normal human behavior and the general likelihood of bikes being on the train at any given time. This leads to the following:
as the train fills, people move first into the seats
they next stand in the areas that are most open (not between seats), such as the doorways
conveniently the bike space is wide open, so it often fills up with standees before the rest of the train
a cyclist boarding the train at this point will find it impossible to park their bike in the already-occupied space. Even if people wanted to let them, it’s unlikely there is room for the people in the bike space to stand elsewhere; the cyclist typically props their bike in the doorway area, same as they would without a bike space on the train
Given that cyclists are still uncommon on the SkyTrain and that they have no better chance of boarding before anyone else, there is only a small chance they will actually get to use the designated space for their bikes. There’s also no way to keep other people out of the space (nor should there be).
Conclusion: the dedicated bike area is a well-intentioned idea that ultimately doesn’t work. It’s really just a standing room section that would be better serviced by putting the seats back in.
However, there is a better solution that, while still subject to the whims of the crowd on the train, at least doesn’t remove a bunch of seats. Some rail systems have hooks in the ceiling that bikes can be hung on. This works well for a couple of reasons:
the hooks aren’t likely to be used for something else, so they will almost always be free for cyclists to use
the bikes stand vertically as a result, taking up a lot less space on the train
the hook provides a solid anchor for the bike, reducing the chance of it hitting someone or getting away from its rider
I hold out hope that Translink will ultimately switch from the dedicated space to a hook system and am doing my part by suggesting it to them, not just here, but directly via email as well.
Until then, the bike space on the Mark III trains is likely to remain standees-only.
It is a well-established fact that I love donuts. I love all kinds of donuts, too–glazed, cake, jelly, pretty much any donut is good (except maple donuts. Maple and donuts just don’t work together for me. It’s like combining peanut butter and chocolate, but instead of peanut butter you use plaster and instead of chocolate you use motor oil).
However, this donut is wrong.
No, not the decadent but possibly decent Chocolate Cheesecake Donut on the left. I’m talking about the one on the right.
The Angel Cream Donut.
Tip: If your product is using the words “angel cream” you are very likely doing it wrong. The only thing that visually distinguishes this donut from a Boston Cream (mmm, Boston Cream…) is the white icing drizzled across the top. You know, the angel cream. Or maybe the angel cream is inside the donut and it is meant to simulate a pureed form of angel, whipped and blended into a horrifying but richly smooth cream-like substance.
I don’t know. I don’t want to know. The fact that the sign is handwritten suggests this could be a rogue donut named by capricious staff. More likely the official Angel Cream Donut signs haven’t arrived at the store yet because the person who is printing them keeps looking at the sample and going, “Ew!” and never prints anything.
The Dragon Naturally Speaking site has a Solutions section at the bottom of the site that seems to suggest that physicians are not people:
Then again, it does separate business and people, which makes sense, as people are not businesses.
The real problem, of course, is using “people” because no matter which version of Dragon Naturally Speaking is chosen, it’s a pretty safe assumption that it will be used by people rather than cats, robots or giant carnivorous plants.
The solution would be to replace “people” with something that more accurately reflects the product:
Speech recognition — for individuals
Speech recognition — for business
Speech recognition — for medical use
Note that I also changed “physicians” to “medical use” since you kind of need to be in medicine to be a physician and this better aligns with “business” being the other non-individual choice. Note also that the link for Speech recognition – for people actually leads to a page offering Dragon Professional Individual so I’m wondering why I even have to suggest this change in the first place.
Finally, note that there is no way to easily see a list of features to differentiate the many flavors of Dragon Naturally Speaking. What makes Home different than Premium, other than the latter costing $100 more? Premium obviously does more, but to find out what you have to read through a lot of material on the site, where a simple side-by-side comparison of features between versions, like this page showing the differences between Art Rage Lite and Art Rage 5 easily demonstrates what is or isn’t included.
The revised version of Staples’ iOS app lists products but no longer lets you know if a product is available both in-store and online or online-only. This matters when you use the app, find a product, then go to a store and are told, “lol, naw, we only have that online!”
To insure they are not wasting a trip to the store, a customer is forced to call ahead to check for stock, an inconvenience the app should eliminate, not create. This is bad design.
Best Buy’s app, on the other hand, not only tells you if a product is available in-store, it will provide a handy list of storers near you that have it in-stock. That’s good design.
Why am I picking on delicious jam, especially when I have just had a slice of homemade bread lovingly covered with said delicious jam?
Because Smucker’s has made their strawberry and raspberry jam jar designs so similar that it is easy to grab the wrong one, especially if stores shelve them beside each other, which they tend to do (this is also bad design on the part of stores like Save-On-Foods that do this, placing like-colored jams next to each other on a shelf, which is logical enough, but makes it more difficult to tell at a glance that you are looking at different products).
Note that the color difference in the labels is more subtle when you are actually looking at the jars in-person, anticipating their fruity goodness.
Smucker’s has gone with a standard design here, no doubt to reduce costs and provide uniformity, usually considered desirable for a brand. McDonald’s hasn’t messed around with the look of its Golden Arches for a reason.
However, the similarity extends well beyond what is needed for branding and into the sort of obsessive manipulation that is explained in horrifying detail in books like Brandwashed. The logo and typefaces are the same. That’s fine and expected, and Smucker’s certainly can’t be held culpable for both fruits ending in “berry.” But look at the placement of the fruit. Each jar has six pieces of fruit arrayed identically. Further, the size of the raspberries has been boosted to match the strawberries.
Here are some typical strawberries:
And some raspberries:
Raspberries are cute and small. Strawberries are cute and bigger. Strawberries are bigger than raspberries.
Unless they are on a Smucker’s label, then they have been made equals in the world of fruit.
What this means is it’s easy to grab the wrong jar if you’re distracted, in a hurry or if some other evil shopper has mixed the two types of jams together on the shelf.
It could be solved by simply making the picture on each label distinctive while keeping everything else about the label identical. The most obvious fix would be to scale the raspberries to be a bit smaller then slap more of them on the label to compensate. Make it a veritable cornucopia of raspberries. Have them in a cornucopia. Something.
There are, broadly speaking, two types of shirts: with buttons and without buttons.
Putting on a shirt without buttons is easy, you just pull the shirt over your head, stick your arms in the sleeves and you’re done. This can be complicated by having a huge head and the shirt having a tiny neck but it is generally trouble-free.
Putting on a shirt with buttons is not much more difficult, especially if you’re not falling-down-the-stairs drunk. You stick your arms in the sleeves, then button the shirt to the desired level (or sometimes not at all depending on taste/whim/current state of alcohol consumption).
But there is a subcategory of shirts with buttons that is, you guessed it…bad design.
This is a shirt with buttons on the back instead of the front:
Observe how your elbows bend. They bend forward. This is because your hands are made to be used in front of your body. Now imagine you are buttoning up the shirt above. Your hands are twisted around into an awkward position. They are bending the wrong way. It is difficult, perhaps even painful.
Why would someone design a shirt with buttons on the back? To have a clean, button-free look on the front. But there is a solution for this already. It’s called not putting buttons on the shirt.
But what if the buttons are somehow deemed essential to the design? Put them on the front! But what if the designer finds buttons to be hideous and gross? They’re just as hideous and gross on the back, plus they look stupid there. But if the designer absolutely must have buttons and insists that they are ugly, just include a giraffe tie with every shirt to help hide them. Who doesn’t like giraffes?