I’m often asked what a user experience designer does, and I usually answer with a job description. But it might be more accurate to say that I go around thinking about why things are working well for their users—or why they’re not.
For example, why are the seats on the commuter train designed to make you slide into a backbreaking slouch no matter how hard you try to sit up straight? Why do restrooms have trash bins under the automatic towel dispensers, so that you accidentally dispense another towel when you throw your used one away? Why is the cruise control for my car located where the driver is forever turning it on by accident?
Everyone notices bad design, even if they don’t realize they’re thinking about design at all. But let’s talk about good design, which is invisible if you aren’t looking for it.
Today’s example is a genius toilet paper roller that solves approximately every single toilet paper roller problem ever.
We all know that the most annoying person in the house is the person who uses up the toilet paper but doesn’t put a new one on the roller—probably because it’s no fun to work the spring roller out and then try to reassemble and reattach it with the fat, puffy, fresh roll getting in the way. (Imagine trying to use those things with any sort of dexterity problems.) With the roller shown above, you just slide the old core off and slide the new roll on.
Do members of your household argue about whether the paper should roll from under or over the roll? You should get one of these immediately! Each user can easily flip the roll to his or her preferred orientation, leaving you all more time to argue about whether to squeeze the toothpaste tube in the middle or from the bottom.
The slight angle means that the paper rolls normally but the roll doesn’t slide off and land on the floor when you tug a little too enthusiastically. And the new roll isn’t sardined into a space where it doesn’t really fit and can’t actually roll until several users have diminished its volume, one annoying, raggedly torn square at a time.
This is one of my favorite kinds of solutions to a user problem. The roller shown above is much simpler than the usual household fixture. By taking away the moving parts and replacing the whole thing with a single, elegant shape, you solve four or five problems at once. Genius!