How usability can save the world?

How usability can save the world?

I know it is bit stretched claim (saving the world, similar to any Hollywood flick) but let me show you my logic about this in following article

As a product owner one of our principle responsibility is to make product ‘Useable’ for end-users, this is usually achieved by keeping  important usability principles in mind while designing something, one of which being ‘learnability’, which means.

‘How easy is it for end-users to complete his goals the first time they encounter the product? ‘

While this is true but sometimes we product owner/manager miss the 2nd important goals which we want to achieve (saving the world: P)

Let me share with you one of my observation in real world about how usability can save the world.

See below the water tap design below.

How usability can save the world

How usability can save the world

What do you think is the primary goal of this product is?

You guessed it correctly (allow you wash your hands/face by pressing the button, simple enough), let’s go bit deeper and show some empathy towards nature.

Refined Goal: To allow you to wash your hands/face by utilizing as little water as possible.

So problem here is that when you press the button, water flow remains on for 10 sec while most of the users use 5sec water flow.

Now tell me, how can you achieve this (remember there is no sensor here, it is a physical button)



It occurs to me(accidentally) that company in fact had thought of this and implemented the solution in this tap, but people were not using this feature (including me) because it was not at all obvious.

What was the solution in existing tap design: the pressure control: if you press it gently it will release small amount of water for 3 sec, if you give more pressure it gives you more water for 5 sec, if you press It till the end it gives you the maximum water 10 sec, and guess what people were doing they were pressing it till the end, not because they wanted MAX amount of water but because they don’t know how the tap works.

Who is to blame: Users? Not at all

Engineers: Not at all, they have worked out a perfect solution which works, and I think they must have put lots of efforts on this.

Product manager: ahhhh… sorry to say but yes….because it is a usability problem it’s our/product manager’s responsibility to make sure all the features are obvious to the end-users: product should learnable on first use.

Now I do not want to go to details of numbers here but we all can guess how much water is being wasted every day because of this poor usability issue.

Now coming to solution: what could be the best solution without increasing the cost or changing the current design.

Simplest is to just put up an instruction sheet besides Tap (which shows how to use this TAP)

Ideally there should have been three buttons for each level (like we have on our Toilet water box: two button)

So product folks that’s how you can save the world by creating usable products and saving precious resources like water.

Interestingly they have shown their concern toward environment by putting up a poster (which actually puts all the blame on end-users)


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1 Response

  1. RAKESH DUTTA says:

    Excellent article on usability issues with Real world examples

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