Thursday, April 23, 2009

Bad design leads us to blame ourselves or others for errors

You might be wondering a bit about the title of this blog post. What is this doing on a mommy blog? It's probably more suitable for a design blog. I was inspired to write this post because of a comment I received when I wrote the post about our car seat drama at the mall. A visitor thought I was a bit harsh when I called Daddy a dummy for attaching and jamming the car seat adapter on the wrong side of the car seat. I can see how I may have sounded a bit harsh. Obviously, I was mad when it happened and when I sat down to blog about it, I didn't think I overreacted at the time. I didn't want to appear as though I was yelling at Daddy too much so I did have him read it. He approved it and it got published. Note, I'm hoping Tristan will want to read this blog one day too so I do have to be careful of what I write.

In the car seat drama post, I concluded by explaining what went wrong. Ok, Daddy is not a dummy. Mommy was just upset. It could have happened to anyone. This is a good example of us blaming ourselves when it should be the design at fault. The design should not have allowed the mistake to occur in the first place. Because the car seat adapters looked identical, they should have been built in such a way that it should not be possible to insert them in if they were inserted incorrectly. In other words, there should have been resistance when we tried to insert them in the wrong side. When asked at the time, Daddy claimed that there was no noticeable resistance and everything did look correct at first glance. An example we can relate to is the old fashion floppy disk. The floppy disk was designed in a way that it had to be in only one orientation to fit into the disk drive.

I'm surprised at the design flaw since the Bugaboo Frog stroller and Maxi Cosi system is a high-end product. The people that designed the car seat adapters tried to prevent this error from occurring by indicating an L and an R on the otherwise identical looking adapters. The letters were barely visible. That was their first potential mistake. That wasn't the problem for us though. We mistakenly applied the L and R to the stroller instead of the car seat. There wasn't enough resistance to inform us that we were inserting the adapter in the wrong side of the car seat. That was the second problem. Then once the mistake occurred, we couldn't easily undo. That was the third problem. Three of us tried very hard but apparently we needed someone with lots of muscle :)

It's possible that if the Bugaboo travel system we bought was designed and manufactured by the same people, this design flaw may not have been present. We had to buy all 3 separately: stroller, car seat adapters, and car seat. I can see others making the same mistake, which is why I wanted to blog about it.


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