It is the little differences between the US and the UK that really interest me.
I was out in Berkeley visiting a friend, it was late and we were sharing a few beers in his apartment before we retired.
On thing I notice is that Americans, contrasted with much of the rest of the world, seem to have much more faith in technology than most. I’m not sure what it is, perhaps just a symptom of the infectious American optimism and the idea that all technology is fundamentally a positive and infallible force.
Perhaps it was the beer.
Anyway, in a moment of inspiration I realised this sort of bathroom lock (pictured) – which I’ve not seen anywhere outside of America – may be the perfect example of this sort of optimistic faith in technology.
When in the bathroom, you push the central button in order to lock the door from the outside. A twist of the handle springs the lock and opens the door.
What was interesting to me was that there was no feedback as to whether the lock was actually engaged. You pushed the button, and that was it.
There is no way to test it since twisting the handle would automatically disengage the lock. In other words, you had to trust that the mechanism was working as it should… which to my European software engineer’s mind left me with nagging doubts as to whether or not I would be interrupted while in the middle of something, so to speak.
This is to my mind a very good example of how an attempt to create a simple interface unintentionally creates a poor user experience.
Perhaps its just a cultural difference (which is nonetheless an important consideration), but I think many would find feedback comforting in this sort of situation.