Design of Everyday Things: Water Dispenser

1 Mar

We have a nice water dispenser in our office.  There are two silver buttons and three LEDs on the machine. Pressing the buttons dispenses water. The lights are mostly green, but sometimes turn red when the dispenser doesn’t work.


There is a star in the glass below the left button. What does it signify? I have no idea. Is it cold water or hot water? It turns out that the left button is for normal temperature water and the right button is for cold water. In the absence of a standard convention, why not just label the buttons “Normal” and “Cold”?


There are three LEDs but only two are always lit green. Again, nobody knows why there are three LEDs and what they tell us, the regular users. I went to the manufacturer’s Web site and found this “ION LED Guide“. I do not have any issues with the manual. It is useful for the maintenance personnel. But why do these lights prominently appear on the front of the machine?


Good design doesn’t force the users to think before interacting with a physical device or a Web site. This water dispenser is a useful machine. It looks beautiful. However, the poor design of the buttons and the LDEs makes people think and yet, they cannot figure out the logic. And that, in my opinion, is poor design.

Update (3/12/2012): I’d written this post on 3/1/2012. On the morning of 3/12/2012, I found this message taped to the water dispenser. Funny?

Recommended readings:
The Design of Everyday Things

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One Response to “Design of Everyday Things: Water Dispenser”

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