How about Make Things Easier Day?

Marketplace Staff Nov 14, 2006

KAI RYSSDAL: Life’s complicated. There’s family and job stuff to deal with all the time. And then there are the everyday things that are just harder to figure out than they ought to be. If you’re someone who prefers the simple life…this is the day for you. It’s officially called World Usability Day. Design engineers came up with the idea. To promote our right to ask for things that work better. Commentator Tim Bedore ponders what today means to him.


TIM BEDORE: Leave it to engineering people to come up with a handle like World Usability Day.

The goal of World Usability Day is, according to its sponsors, “Making life easier.” And when I read that I said, even “Making Life Easier Day” would be an improvement over World Usability Day, which doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue. But I love the concept behind this day, described best by an engineer who once said: “If you walk up to a door and push it only to find it’s a pull-to-open door, that’s a poorly designed door.” To which I would add, unless you’re drunk or really stupid. But it’s so true. Which way a door opens should be obvious just from your being in its presence.

And you shouldn’t have to do a research project to figure out which way to swipe your credit card. Automatic flush toilets in airports should not automatically flush while you’re still sitting on them because that’s an inadvertent bidet. Can’t someone make a bird feeder that foils those evil squirrels, and a voting machine that easily lets you vote for who you wanted to vote for and proves it with a receipt?

And I’m no engineer but shouldn’t hotels print the Do Not Disturb sign in the language the maid speaks? These World Usability Day guys are so right. Everything engineered should make life easier not harder.

So, let’s support World Usability Day. I’m not saying that in a Wikipedia sense where you go to a public building, take off and flip a door around just because you don’t like the direction it opens. That would be, well, vandalism.

But if we consumers demand better-designed products from industry, we might get them. And America will be smarter because we’re thinking and projecting and then, because of that, maybe, just maybe, we won’t build bridges to nowhere or museums where dinosaurs have saddles on them to prove Darwin was wrong and the Bible was right.

So let’s all support the concepts and goals behind World Usability Day and make it as popular as Mothers Day. Of course, we’ll need a better name like Mothers Day, which, by the way, was originally called Emotional Recognition of Female Birth Parent Day until someone, not an engineer, came up with its current, more user-friendly name.

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