Tag Archives: design

Human Proof Design

Human proof design is design that prevents people from successful using the item.

cover of book, Design of Everyday Things

It is similar to mistake proofing except instead of prevent mistakes it prevents people from using it.

When you see human proof design you will often see signs to tell people how to use the device that has been human proofed. Common instances of this are hotels that have shower designs so opaque they need instructions on how to use a device most people have no problem using if they are not human proofed.

Human proof design is often created by a subset of designers that care about how something looks more than how it is used.

Most people prefer designs that are beautiful without being human proofed. The Design of Everyday Things is a great book on designing beautifully with customer focus.

A sign your design is human proofed is that a sign or manual is needed for people to use it.

Most human proof design can be identified very simply by having regular people try to use the item. Watch what they do and when they struggle to use it, many problems will be very obvious. You can’t use people in this effort that are significantly different from the normal users.

In several areas I see these failures quite often. Hotel rooms are a common source of problems. The light switches are often very odd and I have to search all over to find out how to turn on or off different lights.

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Visual Management and Mistake-Proofing for Prescription Pills

Good ideas often just require some sensible thought to think of an improved approach. Management concepts can help guide such thinking, such as mistake-proofing and visual management.

To apply visual management requires giving a bit of thought to how to make visually obvious what is important for people to know. Mistake proofing is often really mistake-making-more-difficult (for some reason this term of mine hasn’t caught on).

prescription pills packaged together

Image from PillPack, they provide a service to deliver packages based on your prescriptions.

I believe mistake-proofing should put barriers in the process that make a mistake hard. Often what is called mistake-proofing doesn’t really fit that definition. The pill package shown above for example, doesn’t prevent you from continuing past the time on the package (Monday at 8AM) without taking the pills.

To call it mistake-proofing I would like to see something that makes it harder to make the mistake of failing to take the pills: something that blocks progress beyond that time without taking the pills.

Even something as simple as an alert to your smart phone that gets your attention and doesn’t allow the smart phone to be used without indicating you have taken the pills would reach the “mistake-proofing” level in my opinion (for someone that has their phone with them at all times). The Apple Watch could be a good tool to use in this case. Even so those wouldn’t make mistakes impossible (you can say you took the pills even if you didn’t, the phone/watch may lose power…). It would depend on the situation; this smart phone/watch solution is not going to be good for some people.

Another idea is that these pill packages should be tied to the room (in a hospital) and at home if a home care nurse (or even family or others) are responsible for assuring the pills are taken with a big display that perhaps 30 minutes before the pill is due posts a message that says “pills to be taken at 8 AM” and once that time is past it could become more obvious, perhaps after 15 minutes it produces an audio alert. The actual solutions are going to be better from those that know the actual situation than someone like me just thinking up stuff as I type.

But the idea is pretty simple: when you have processes that are important and at risk of failure, design processes with elements to make mistakes hard (and ideas such as mistake-proofing and visual management can help you guide your mind to ways to create better processes).

The entire process needs to be considered. The pill packages are nice, because even in failure modes they provide good feedback: you may still fail to take them at the right time, but you can look at the location where the pill packages are kept and see
if any have a time before right now (in which case you can follow the medical guidance – take the pills right now, contact the doctor, or whatever that advice is). Of course even that isn’t foolproof, you could have put the package into your purse and it is still sitting in their but you forgot.

Still the pill packages seem like a good mistake-making-more-difficult solution. And it seems to me that process has room to make mistakes even more difficult (using a smartphone addition, for example).

Continual improvement requires a continual focus on the process and the end user for ways to increase reliability and value. Each process in question should have engaged people with the proper skills and freedom to act using their knowledge to address weakness in the current process that are most critical.

Failure to take prescriptions as directed in a common problem in health care. Knowing this should make those involved in the process think of how they can use concepts, such as mistake-proofing, to improve the results of the system.

Too often to much focus is on making better pills compared to the effort is put into how to improve results with simple concepts such as visual management and mistake-proofing.

Each small improvement contributes to creating a more robust and effective process. And engaged people should continually access how the containing systems, new processes and new capabilities may allow more small steps to provide value to those relying on your products and services.

Related: Great Visual Instruction Example for Taking PillsVisual Management with Brown M&MsQuick Mistake Proofing Ideas for Preventing Date Entry Error

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No Customer Focus

John Battelle writes the excellent searchblog. A recent post, Rant: The Comcast HD DVR Is Simply, Terribly Awful, provides another example of a company lacking customer focus. See the comments for even more confirmation of the lack of customer focus.

The interface is simply abominable. Unintuitive and careless, it copies the major features of Tivo’s approach but fails at every single detail – and in UI design, everything is in the details. No surprisingly, it utterly misses the core purpose of a DVR: to treat television as a conversation instead of a dictation. Without a doubt, this is an interface built either by Machiavelli’s cohorts, or by graceless bureaucrats, or both. No, wait, it’s worse.

Not to mention, the damn thing is slow – beyond unresponsive. There’s no way you can accurately predict where and when the thing might stop and start when you are fast forwarding or rewinding. The Tivo is like an Audi, but the Comcast drives like a 1972 Gran Torino Station wagon.

But that’s not where the crappiness ends. No, not by a long shot. Turns out, the ####### Comcast HD DVR *does not have a hard drive.* That’s right, when the power goes out, the ####### box loses ALL OF THE SAVED PROGRAMS!!!!

Related: posts on customer focus (including doing it right)Usability FailuresCustomer Focus at the RitzCEO Flight AttendantCompanies in Need of Customer FocusDell, Reddit and Customer Focus

Management Consulting – Web Site Evidence

In, How Wipro Adapted the Toyota Production System to IT Work [the broken link was removed], Jon Miller highlights several keys to adopting lean thinking: involve everyone, learn and then do, and learn together.

In Wipro’s case they should also take advantage of what is available on lean IT thinking such as: Lean Software Development.

As I have mentioned before a look at Wipro’s web site does not provide me much confidence in their commitment. Read their overview of IT services offered [the broken link was removed – I am not at all surprised they didn’t even follow basic web guidelines to avoid breaking urls] – just the standard language, nothing that provides details on their lean thinking. The web site of management consulting firms provides a great way to judge what they actually value. Maybe you shouldn’t judge a consulting firm by its web site but it seems like a pretty good indicator to me (even small firms can posts thoughts on a blog or a couple articles).

Related: IT related blog postsToyota IT OverviewIndian Firms Learning From ToyotaIf Tech Companies Made Sudoku

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Designing In Errors

TiVo’s “self-destruct button” destructs [the broken link was removed]

In so doing, they’ve created a bunch of potential failures in which the user is locked out of her own equipment.

It’s like those movies where an accident or a bad guy triggers the “self-destruct button” on a spaceship. Often the self-destruct button is locked away behind plexiglas and padlocks for safety, but wouldn’t it be safer not to include a single command that blows up the whole space-ship?

You know that is a pretty good explanation of the reasoning behind mistake proofing: eliminate as many possibilities for errors as possible. When you design products that create more possibilities for more errors you create products that will in fact fail more often.

Related: Usability FailuresDell, Reddit and Customer FocusComplicating SimplicityManagement Improvement Dictionary

Complicating Simplicity

Complicating simplicity:

Gah! Trying to read about the “Simplicity: The Art of Complexity” (er, what?) conference. But the description at the conference site is the exact opposite of simple, clear writing:

An investigation of the essence of simplicity must necessarily get involved with the psychology of human-machine interaction. Why do we display such a strong proclivity to regarding technology as an externally imposed authority, to condemning or venerating it?…If we merely equate simplicity with simplification and reduction, simply let the technology become “invisible”, we not only manifest our inability to even recognize the type and extent of the technological deployment

This post on the excellent signal vs. noise blog illustrates how one can lose their way when trying to simplify. Lean and other management improvement folks can learn a lot about eliminating non-value added steps, clean design, simplifying systems to improve performance… from this blog. The examples are mainly relating to software development from a true understanding of lean thinking (though I don’t have any evidence they are familiar with the Toyota Production System or lean tools/concepts).
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Health Care Pictographs

health pictograms from Japan

New pharmaceutical pictograms

The Risk/Benefit Assessment of Drugs-Analysis and Response (RAD-AR [the broken link was removed]) Council of Japan has released a new batch of pictograms for use on pharmaceutical packaging. No more deciphering complicated dosage directions and warnings — a glance is all it takes now.

See all the pictographs [the broken link was removed]

I don’t understand all the pictographs. If these are helpful in Japan, (assuming others in the USA see it the way I do) it might be an example of how a good idea would has to be modified to apply elsewhere. It also might be that at first we need to develop localized version but it would be helpful to move toward a universal system of pictographs to the extent possible.

Orignal article (in Japanese) [the broken link was removed]

Previous healthcare post: using design to reduce medical errors.

Great Charts

Karl Hartig displays some excellent charts that he created (for the Wall Street Journal) on his web site. The charts seem very similar to what would result from applying Edward Tufte’s ideas. Rarely do I see charts that do such a good job of visually displaying data. The lack of such effective visual display of information is another example of how much improvement could be made just by applying ideas that are already published.

The Energy production consumption chart is especially well done I think – pdf version of the energy chart.

Via, The best charts I’ve ever seen [the broken link was removed].

Edward Tufte’s books are great:

An Interview with Edward R. Tufte by Mark Zachry and Charlotte Thralls
Edward Tufte’s web site