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Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Bad Boxes

I was opening a box of cookies tonight, and I noticed that one end says "Open Other End," as usual. Ever since I started trying to figure out which end of a Junior Mints box to open in a darkened theater, this has been a major pet peeve of mine. It is absolutely horrible user interface design.

Think about it. There are only two possible user actions: open one end or open the other. It is completely within the power of the box designer to make both of these options equally correct, and the added expense would be minimal. It would also be possible to make a box that could only be opened from one end. Instead, they give us a small, inconspicuous label telling us to open the other end.

In fact, Junior Mints are even worse. Both ends are labeled, one with "Open This End" and the other with "Open Other End." Care to guess how distinct those two labels are in the middle of a movie trailer while holding a coke in one hand and balancing popcorn on your knees? Right.

User Interface Theorem: Whenever possible, make sure that all available actions are correct.

Corollary 1: Whenever possible, make incorrect actions impossible.
Corollary 2: When prevention is impossible, make sure the actions are easily differentiable under all likely conditions.

In other topics, Heather Marie is gone to the big city of Smackover for the rest of the week, so it's just me and Magaidh. I've got a couple of household projects on my to-do list, but I have serious doubts as to whether or not I'll get to them. As long as I get the floors vacuumed, swept, and mopped, I'll feel like I'm doing pretty well.

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