Afterthought design

Stickers with instructions; you see them literally everywhere. A lot of the machines, screens and buttons are accompanied by a small remark on a post-it or a sticker, added by a user, explaining how you are supposed to use it. I don't mean labels, icons or text that were designed to be there; this is about the user-additions. Coffee machines, printers, subway ticket machines, elevator interfaces, door handles; they are all around us. Often these add-on intructions are put up after numerous "mis-uses" of the interface, or mis-interpretations" of the process; probably the second day after the machine was installed.

The afterthought solutions can be seen as "ugly" or even "dumb", but the intention is purely to counter the contra-intuitive behavior that the original interface apparently triggered. It's a user-hack for something that was badly designed. I can't help thinking why a product was implemented despite such a huge design-flaw. Why it wasn't tested and adjusted based on the learnings. I guess the reality is that the ideal interface doesn't exist, but I keep being surprised about how many interfaces are not designed with the user in mind.

This reminds me on the "Bad doors are everywhere"-video where Donald Norman is interview on the topic of bad design of doors.

Just like the other aftertought examples, the "discoverability" of this door-interface is lacking; the system does provide sufficient feed-forward that inform the user on how to interact with the interface. Additional signs, stickers and laminated sheets are the temporary/permanent solution.

Although the various user generated solutions have a certain estetic, I hope that products will be tested to make sure the interface has sufficiently discoverae and that we don't need any more afterthought-stickers.