Sunday, June 13, 2010

Designing a thing can't be THAT hard.

Over the past few years, I've often thought to myself that for my next career move, I need to work for a company that makes an actual THING you can hold in your hand. Okay, so that goal went by the wayside with my new career in the financial industry (and no, I don't work directly with cash, so that doesn't count), however I have to say I sometimes wonder how much better I could make things than the people out there who actually do it. Have you ever come across a product with a flaw so completely and utterly stupid it makes you wonder why the designer wasn't burned at the stake by company stockholders?

Take, for example, the air mattress I just attempted to inflate for my daughter's sleepover with her friend. This mattress, made by Coleman, comes with a handy-dandy inflator that blows up the mattress in less than two minutes. It's great when it works. However, the designers of this gadget demonstrated their idiocy by missing one important characteristic of the inflator.

Let's think for a often does one typically use an inflatable mattress? A couple times a year? When the in-laws come to visit? During flu season when the spouse bans you from the master bedroom due to excess phlegm? So that means for about 360 out of 365 days each year, this cordless inflator sits idle in the closet with a dead battery. That dead battery takes eight hours to fully charge, by plugging the inflator itself into the wall. AND, when the inflator is plugged in, it CANNOT BE USED. I'm sure most inflatable mattress users. like myself, never think to charge the inflator a day in advance before pulling the mattress out of the closet. And, if you're like me, you then end up rigging up your bike pump to do the job you'd originally bought the inflator to do. I'd really like to know what idiot allowed this through testing.

Next let's take a look at my new printer, a Kodak ESP5250. This is actually an excellent printer. It's one of those that Kodak is touting to have the lowest replacement ink cost in the industry, and it appears to be true. It prints well, scans well, and runs virtually flawlessly. Except if you move it.

The power cord on this printer resembles that of a laptop cord, with a "brick" that rests on the floor between two pieces of cord. The adapter that plugs into the back of the printer is so loose that if you move the printer a half inch, it sheds itself of the power cord completely. Really? No one noticed that in testing?

Finally, let's look at this alarm clock and iPod charger/player I bought for my daughter. It seemed simple and functional enough. It works as a clock, and it allows Thing #1 to fill her bedroom with the sounds of Hannah Montana blaring from her Nano any time she wants. However, it cannot actually be used as an alarm clock, despite the product description. You see, for some ridiculous reason when the alarm sounds, it always sounds with the volume at it's HIGHEST LEVEL. It even says in the directions, "after the alarm sounds you may adjust the volume to a lower setting." Seriously? Someone not only tested this "feature" but didn't feel the need to question the design? Way to go, tech writers. I'd like to know if the quality assurance team that tested this device actually tested it on small children, only to watch them launch through the ceiling when the alarm goes off with the music volume set past eleven. Morons.

Unfortunately my daughter wants to keep the clock radio, because it has cool changeable designs. At least the designers had their priorities straight.

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