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Common Questions and Answers

Following are some of the most common questions that have been asked about the Bad Designs Web site.

Q. Does the Bad Designs web site accept submissions?

A. No, not at this time.

Q. Can I use a few examples from the Bad Designs web site in my class, presentation, magazine article or book?

A.Yes, but give credit to the Bad Designs web site by placing the following statement at the bottom of each photo caption: "Photograph courtesy of Baddesigns.Com". The Bad Designs web site can be referenced as:
Darnell, M. J. (2006). Bad Human Factors Designs. Baddesigns.Com

Q. Who are you?

A. I am a usability engineer at Microsoft TV. Prior to joining Microsoft, I was a usability engineer at Netscape Communications Corporation and at IBM, working on software usability and design. In 1983, I earned a Ph.D. in Cognitive Psychology from New Mexico State University.

Q. What is the purpose of the Bad Designs web site?

A. The purpose of the web site is to provide a variety of examples of bad designs - everyday things that cause people to become confused, to make mistakes or to have other difficulties with their use. I hope these examples will help students and others understand how to design things so that they are more easily used and that the examples are also somewhat entertaining.

Q. What are you, stupid? These things aren't bad designs! You're just too dumb to figure out how to use them! You have no common sense. You're too lazy to read instructions.

A. Things designed for common use should not require that people have an above average intelligence and should not require them to expend a lot of mental energy or time learning, problem solving or reading instructions. These requirements are obstacles that dramatically decrease the number of potential users. If designers want their products to be widely used, they are well-advised to design them so that they are easy to use.

Q. Why don't you have examples of "real" human factors problems like Three Mile Island or airplane crashes?

A. The Bad Designs web site has examples of bad designs that can be easily understood. Incidents like Three Mile Island and airplane crashes are complicated and require lengthy explanations. Most people are not interested in reading lengthy explanations.

Q. Why don't you have examples of bad design in computer interfaces?

A. Many people aren't familiar with computer interfaces. Thus, problems with the design of computers would require lengthy explanations and not be very interesting to many people. There are many web sites that discuss the design of user interfaces of computer systems.

Q. Why don't you have examples of good designs?

A. Most things have good workable designs. We do not notice them because they make using a product relatively easy. Bad designs, however, call attention to themselves by causing unnecessary difficulty and confusion. Therefore, it seems more important to give examples of bad designs and to identify the characteristics that make it a bad design.

Q. How can I make sure the product I am working on is easy to use?

A. First, determine who is going to be using your product - for example, the group's age and experience level. Determine what features are going to be used most often and what basic tasks people will perform with the product. Build a prototype of your product that allows people to perform the tasks - at least to some degree. Higher fidelity prototypes are better, but good feedback can be obtained from low fidelity prototypes.

Next, find some people who are like the ones who will be using your product and have them perform some typical tasks with the prototype. Observe the people to see what confused them, where they make mistakes or are inefficient. Then modify the prototype to reduce or eliminate these problems. Repeat this process until you have eliminated the problems.

You can perform this kind of work yourself. There are many good books on the topic. See the Recommended Books section on the next page. Also, professionals can be employed to do this kind of work for you. See the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society web site.

Q. I really need to get a hold of you. How can I do so?


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