Thursday, May 25, 2006

salient design

As I checked into my hotel to attend the IIE conference last week, I was struck by their use of Human Factors in selecting a white bedspread. I am sure that most of you have heard the nightmare stories of how disgusting hotel bedspreads are and the variety of bodily fluids that they find in stains.

So how does a white bedspread help, and why do I consider it a Human Factors application?

1. If the bedspread is white, it provides a visibly salient cue that the bedspread is clean, unlike those stories.

2. They assume that this is important to people, which implies a domain knowledge that includes those stories.

3. There is a semantic link between a clean bedspread and a holistic impression that the hotel cares about cleanliness in general, and therefore even other linens, carpets, etc may be assumed to be clean as well.

Thus, the money spent on cleaning the bedspreads, rather than hiding the stains in colorful patterns, may be worth the investment, but only if it is made clear to the user - which can be done elegantly with a white bedspread. Much better than a sign above the bed declaring that they are clean, which would just call out attention to the kinds of stains that could be present elsewhere.

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