Good Design, Bad Design

Good design? My son and I had the good fortune to go to Costa Rica recently. In one of the lodges, the shower started hot and then slowly cooled. After a reasonable shower time, the water would be pretty tepid at best. As the father of a teenager who had no sense of the passage of time when she is in the shower, I think this is really good design (if, indeed, it was by design and not a happy defect) for saving water and energy.

Bad design? As I was getting ready for the trip, I pulled some cash from the local cash machine (dollars work well in Costa Rica). After you take your money, the ATM asks you:


My first thought was that this is horrible design. It is easy to walk away without noticing this screen. Then all the person behind you waiting to use the ATM has to do is press Yes and then withdraw up to your daily limit.

Next time through I tapped the Yes button out of curiosity, and the ATM does the right thing, which is to ask you to re-input your PIN, so my security concern is taken care of. However, it brings up the point of whether the design itself is flawed not because of security concerns, but because it invites the perception of a flaw. In other words, I walked away from the machine the first time with a bad feeling about the interface; great design is not only functional, but feels good to use. Creating doubt is bad design. Which is too bad here because the UI designers were clearly trying to keep people who want to do multiple transactions from having to insert their cards multiple times.

(Oh, but bonus good design: I needed to break down the money from the cash machine into smaller bills, but my understanding is that banks no longer have to make change for non-customers, so I wasn’t sure what to do. I walked to Wells Fargo, where I’m not a customer, and they happily broke the money down into any denominations I wanted. Kudos to them.)


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