I like to think that I’m a ‘glass half full’ kind of girl and typically focus on the good in life. But at least once a day I encounter a product that is so poorly designed that I want to take it out to a field and destroy it “Office Space” style.
I’m sure you’ve been there too. You know, the blow dryer that has a button that turns it off when you were just trying to turn up the heat? Or the shower knob at the hotel that takes two intelligent adults at least three tries each to figure out how to turn it on?
Is it you? Are you crazy?
You may be a crazy…I can’t be sure since I haven’t met you…but chances are you are just having an interaction with a product that was ‘duh’signed instead of designed by people who couldn’t be bothered to worry about how their product would frustrate anyone who had the misfortune of using it.
There’s a wonderful book about this exact subject called The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman. (Or at least I think it’s wonderful, I haven’t actually read it but my husband has and has shared many examples from it over the years so I feel like I have read it.)
I think of this book every time that I walk into a building that has doors with handles which are clearly designed for ‘pulling’ but actually ‘push’ open, making you (and about a thousand other people over the course of the day) look like a big dork.
It is these poorly ‘duh’signed products that have inspired my new series: “The ‘Duh’sign of Everyday Things.”
Today’s edition: Pro-Tech 7035 Carbon Monoxide Alarm with LCD Display
It all started yesterday morning. It’s Spring Break, so the kids were home from school watching TV while my husband and I enjoyed a leisurely morning of sleeping in until……..BEEEP!………….(1 minute)…………BEEEEP!………….(30 seconds)…………..BEEP!
“What was that?” we asked each other, playing a little bit of sleep-chicken to see who was going to be the first one to get out of bed and check it out.
We had just installed a bunch of new smoke detectors and a new carbon monoxide detector a month or so ago, so it shouldn’t be the batteries.
The main challenge was trying to determine which of the 3 detectors within a 10 square foot area was doing all the beeping.
The first step involved yanking a smoke detector out of the wall only to then discover that it was hard wired into said wall…wooopsie…….
Through the process of elimination, my husband discovered that it was the carbon monoxide alarm that was making all the noise.
That’s not good.
So he looked at the code on the alarm and it said “End” right above the red light that said “Move to Fresh Air/Call 911.”
As in “This is the End?”
As in “Your life is about to End?”
As calmly as possible, my husband asked the kids to go get dressed and play outside for a while and started opening all the doors and windows. He then had the great idea to grab the new carbon monoxide detector from upstairs and bring it down as a double check.
Is it because we opened all the windows? Should we close all the windows and let the gas fumes build back up in the interest of having a fair A/B test of alarms?
I’m a little bit of a paranoid hypochondriac so I was pretty sure we were all goners but somehow had the good sense to suggest that we should check the manual online to see if it gives a more detailed description of what End means.
So we Googled the manual for our detector online, scrolling along looking for our code only to see the more detailed version of End is……
“End of Life”
Holy sh*t, we are all gonna die!
Here’s the actual section of the manual on Alarm Signals:
My main complaint is not that the unit becomes completely useless after 5 years and will now face its own END cluttering a landfill (although that does seem a little strange.)
My problem is that aside from the word DIE, the word END is about the worst combination of three letters possible to associate with any alarm going off in your home. Even more, given the unlimited text space of their online manual, why would they then elaborate on ‘End’ by calling it ‘End of Life‘?
Perhaps instead edit that last bullet to not even mention the words end or life:
- End: This code means that you need to buy a new unit because they expire every 5 years so that you have to buy a new one to pay for our CEO’s third yacht.
Better yet, let’s come up with a new 3 letter code to replace “End”…..As previously mentioned, except for “Die”, literally any 3 letter combination would be better than what they are currently using.
- ME! – As in, “It’s me, not you” who is at my end of life
- $$$ – Get ready to cough up $50 for a new carbon monoxide detector.
- FYU – That’s what you’ll say when you realize your $50 carbon monoxide detector only lasts 5 years.
- AWW – Awwwww….we’re so sorry we woke you up on your one day to sleep in.
- AXE – You might as well take an ax to me like in the Office Space gif above.
- BOO – Oh, that didn’t scare you? How about if I tell you today is your ‘End of Life?’
- FUN – While you’re at Lowe’s buying your new carbon monoxide detector your 5 year old can ride in the little race car shopping cart! That’s ‘FUN’ right?
- HMM – As in, Hmmm, why is it that carbon monoxide detectors END their life after 5 years?
- MEW – Mad I woke you up so early? MEW…It was the cat!
- RUN – Oh wait, that’s almost as bad as END
I would like to conclude this story with a much needed introduction:
Pro Tech Carbon Monoxide Alarm, meet The Design of Everyday Things. Now read up, and for the love of god, try a focus group or two before you introduce any new products.
If you would like to read The Design of Everyday Things, you can find it here. This is not an affiliate link because Amazon kicked me out of the program for not driving any sales with my previous link to The Shell Collector (awwwwww). I provide this link, free of charge, because I care about you….and protecting us all from the ‘duh’sign of every day things.
In the next edition: My $#% lamp timer.
Hi, I’m Susanne. I used to be a Senior Account Director at an advertising agency working for two of the top brands in the world. Nine years ago, I traded in my corporate life for a life as a stay at home mom, raising two of the best kids in the world. I started my blog, The Dusty Parachute as a way to dust off my online advertising skills and begin my job search. Instead, I now use it as a way to spend lots of time on the computer so my kids think that mommy has a job.
You can find my stories in Scary Mommy, BonBon Break and Redbook and also in the books, It’s Really 10 Months, Special Delivery and Martinis & Motherhood – Tales of Wonder Woe & WTF?!