Design for Context Part II – A real-world example

“Bad design cannot be patched up with labels, instructions manuals, or training courses.” – Donald A. Norman, The Design of Everyday Things A couple of weeks ago, my wife and I ventured to Home Depot for a couple of items we needed in the midst of renovating our master bathroom. What started as a simple job of laying porcelain tile where once there were carpet pieces and linoleum has turned into a complete repainting of the walls, new tile on the counter, new fixtures, etc. That is a story for another day, though. Our purchase from Home Depot was a typical case of “Going back after the initial trip to get the things you either forgot or didn’t think you actually needed.” So we didn’t have a large number of items, maybe 4 or 5 things. When I make a trip like that, I tend to use the self checkout that Home Depot offers. It’s a staple of any grocery shopping experience for us, so I usually gravitate there at Home Depot if I’m purchasing a small number of items. On the evening in question that my wife and I were there buying 4 or 5 items, we encountered the following:

  • We waited 2 times for human visual verification of items.
  • The system told us 3 times to replace an item in the bags that it felt we had removed when, in fact, we had not removed anything. Human intervention was required to “reset” the system so that we could continue.
  • One item would not scan and required the self-checkout employee to take the item back to her station, scan it for us and then bring the item back.

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