Small Design Flaws Make a Big Difference

The products we buy benefit from some brilliant design work, but occasionally something draws my attention as being less than ideal.

Recently, I was advised by my physiotherapist to buy a stress ball to use several times a day to improve the flexibility in my hand and wrist. The one I bought had a well-known brand name attached to it, but it wasn’t until I tried to use it that I realized it was scratching my fingers. The ball is closed at the neck with a staple. The staple does a good job of keeping the sandy contents inside the plastic-rubbery sac, but why didn’t they use something non-metallic? Did they do any product testing with ordinary people? Did they not anticipate that it might be used for muscle strengthening instead of stress? I have so many questions.

Here’s another one. Why do some stand-up toothpaste tubes dribble toothpaste into the cap? I have one that has become so clogged that I can no longer close the cap and I take the toothpaste from there instead of the tube.  It looked fine when it was new, but it didn’t take long to become awkward and ugly. I think I’ll throw it out.

While I’m on this tack, who on earth thought it would be a good idea to make child car seats so unwieldy that parents struggle to carry them out of the car and into the house or the shops or wherever they are going?

How to carry a child car seat the right way from

I often see parents wrestling with these things and it doesn’t surprise me to learn that people sometimes leave the child in the car while they pop out to do some small errand. Obviously, this is not what the designers intended, but what were they were thinking? Did they think people would have a secondary, more practical, child-carrying device that they would use instead of the car seat? Maybe they thought parents would just carry the child on their hips. Whatever they were thinking, it didn’t involve parents with packages and more than one child.

Too Tall Mattress
Too Tall Mattress from

Now that you’ve got me going, I have to point out another design that is a head-scratcher.  Beds used to be lower. About twelve inches lower. Somehow, someone, somewhere decided that mattresses needed to be much higher, and we had no choice but to buy these thicker mattresses. That required buying new sheets to fit over the thicker mattresses, so I have a hunch I know who led this parade.  Anyway, we all now have beds that short people need a stepstool to get into. Thanks, guys.

Perhaps these designers were going for looks over function, or perhaps their bosses couldn’t afford extensive product-testing, or perhaps I’m just too fussy. I am grateful for a lot of new product designs like front-loading washing machines and fridges with freezers on the bottom. But sometimes, designers, you need to go back to the drawing board.

Oh, and please don’t ever ask me to sit on a bar stool in a restaurant. Just sayin’.

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