8 More Product Designs That Drive Me Crazy

I blew off some steam in this blog a few weeks ago talking about poor product design.  I tend to notice this stuff since our workplace communication company is in permanent design mode, so I’m hyper aware of all types of good – and bad – design.  Since that last blog I’ve been seeing many more examples all over the place, so time for a little more heat.

Here are 8 more product designs that drive me crazy:

1. Pump dispensers that don’t dispense all the product.  For example, hand lotion or shampoo pumps that always seem to leave about 15% of the product in the bottom. There’s got to be a better way… longer tubes diagonally-cut on the bottom perhaps?

2. “Cable tie” straps on packaging.  Last week I bought a garden tool that had the cardboard instructions fastened on the wooden handle with two thick plastic cable tie fasteners.  You can’t cut them off with scissors, can’t get a knife blade under them… they’re basically impossible to get off.  So they’re still on there and probably will be forever (the plastic will probably outlast the wood).  Did the product designer really want packaging fastenings on the tool forever?

3. Umbrellas where one or two tips come off ribs.  Almost every umbrella I’ve ever had eventually has at least one or two of those little tips come off, causing part of the fabric to flop down, draining water on me.  Seeing as how the umbrella dates back to 21 AD, you’d think civilization would have solved this design problem by now.

4. Belts that never fit exactly.  Is it just me, or am I the only one who’s waist measurement always seems to be exactly between belt holes.  One’s a little bit too big, the other a little too small.  Can’t someone design one that just always fits, even the morning after Thanksgiving?

5. Oven thermometers that tip over.  Every one that I’ve ever had tips over in the oven when I try to move it.  Or it falls to the bottom of the oven.  Of course, with the oven at 300-500 degrees, this poses a problem.  Try to fix it by grabbing it with a potholder?  Impossible!  For me at least.

6. Bed sheets & blankets that are too narrow.  My wife and I sleep in a king-size bed.  With the bed made, the sheets and blankets cover the surface very nicely.  But with two humans in there, the sheets and blankets come just to the edges, causing a back-and-forth tug of war that’s been going on for decades.  Hey linen manufacturers:  how about adding 3-4” to the width of your goods?  You can charge extra – it’s a small price to pay for a happy marriage.

6a. Related to #6 above: Fitted sheets that pop off the corners of the mattress, usually at 2 am.  I think the problem is related to the one above, that being the designers just need to add a bit more fabric.

7. CD cases that break. Ok, I know it dates me, but who designed those labels that are nearly impossible to get off a new CD?  Yeah, I know they’re for security, but they’re difficult to get off and leave a mess.  And shouldn’t user experience trump security? And who devised those two little tabs near the hinge that always break off.  And why didn’t they ever fix it?  I still use CDs sometimes but unfortunately about a quarter of them have cracked or broken cases.

8. Alarm systems that always go off by mistake. If you have an alarm at your home or business, I’ll bet you’ve had several false alarms because someone entered the code wrong, didn’t do it fast enough or closed the door incorrectly. As a typical example, the City of Cincinnati says 80% of the alarms they respond to are false.  They even have an ‘Alarm School’ where you can go to learn how to get better at preventing them!  To me, this screams out for better design.

That’s it for now. Comments – or other design problems you can think of?

Frank Kenna III
May 12, 2015

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