Friday, November 14, 2014

Studio Journal Episode 16 - Lean Living

I have discovered another constraint of my small living space that brings me back to my former life as an Industrial Engineer.  I have limited space in a variety of places such as my fridge, freezer, closet, etc. So I have developed a lean process to handle my inventory and use pull scheduling rather than push.

Let me explain for those of you not ingrained in the IE/lean mentality.

Like many people, I buy beer by the 12-pack.  When I had a full sized fridge, the whole thing would go in.  This is a push schedule.  When I bought the beer, it entered the system.  Now, I have room for one bottle, or maybe two in an emergency.  So I have one in inventory.  When I need a beer, I take it out and another comes out of the cabinet and goes into the fridge.  It is only on demand (needing a beer), not supply (buying the beer), that it enters my inventory (fridge).  If I know in advance that I will need two (Patriots/Broncos football game) I can update the schedule and double my inventory.  I need enough advanced notice for the processing time (getting it cold).

A similar thing happens with vegetables.  I like having something different every day.  Since I live alone, that meant having half full bags and plastic containers of different kinds in the fridge with leftovers.  Over the course of a week or so, I could rotate my choices depending on what I was in the mood for.  But now I have room for just one or two.  So I have to buy in smaller batch sizes, rotate between a smaller variety of SKUs, and only after the inventory is depleted can I switch to a new variety.

A slightly different process happens with jackets.  I have room for one jacket hanging on the front door ready for the next day and another draped over the stack of storage bins along the wall in case my plans change.  During the spring I had my jean jacket on the door and rain jacket on the bins or vice versa when it rained.   Now in the winter, my every day winter jacket is on the door and my dress overcoat is ready for events like my conference tomorrow.  When the weather changed, I opened the bin, put the light jackets inside and took the warm ones out.  The problem was when the weather was fluctuating daily.  I had to keep going into the bin.  Jean jacket in, leather jacket out.  Leather jacket in, winter coat out.  Winter coat in, rain jacket out. 

With my dress shirts, it is based on mood.  I have room for three weeks’ worth of shirts in my closet.  I have a storage bin with another three weeks’ worth and an under-the-bed bin with another three weeks’.  So I rotate among my closet shirts and then at some point when I get bored I pack the whole lot up and take out a new group.  I have to guess what I might be in the mood for that month.  But on the positive side, I am sometimes pleasant surprised.  “Oh, I forgot about that shirt!  It will be fun to have that back in the rotation for a while.” 

OK, so I am geeking out a bit with this explanation.  But it is true.

Design for the Clueless

I like the attitude that Baratunde Thurston brings to his column in the November Fast Company.  It is a full out rant about clueless users  I know this is going to be anathema to many in the UX field, so please don’t bite off my head until you read to the end  Or bite Baratunde’s head off instead. 

Our instincts as HF designers is to prevent the negative user experiences that are caused by errors.  Our first instinct is error prevention and error recovery and error mitigation.  We want to keep our users from having negative emotional reactions, productivity lapses, system failures, or any other negative performance resulting from errors on the system. Black hat designers might intentionally do this, but that was another post

It might be that they are simply novices with the system.  They could be deliberately indifferent or inattentive, multitasking with three other devices at the same time. Or they could simply be clueless.  Do we design our systems so that they can’t make mistakes in any of these cases? How far should we go to protect users from their own failures? 

The example that Baratunde focuses on is Facebook’s proposal to tag joke posts with the label “Satire.”  Think of articles from The  Onion.  If you are not paying close attention, will you realize that the headline did not really happen?  Aliens did not really land on the moon?  But if users can’t figure this out for themselves, perhaps the embarrassment that may result will be good for long term performance, even as it is devastating to them in the short term.  Won’t they ever learn?  Isn’t this like an overprotective parent that prevents their children from growing up responsibly and aware? 

And if they don’t learn from their mistakes, isn’t a little social Darwinism a good thing?  Perhaps the Congressman who was incensed when he found out that Planned Parenthood was opening an $8 Billion Abortionplex and posted his outrage on his Facebook page for all his constituents to see deserved to lose his next election. 

And of course there is another benefit of leaving the clueless user to his or her own devices.  The laughs that we get.  One person’s pain can now become amusement to millions of other people on Facebook and Twitter.  Shouldn’t we include this outcome in our user experience modeling?