Friday, March 11, 2005

Pop can tops--notoriously unusable

Pop can top (current design)Who hasn't had trouble opening a pop can top? Unless you have strong, claw-like fingernails, opening a can of pop can be unnecessarily difficult. Sure, sometimes you just happen to get your finger underneath the tab, but invariably the task is way more difficult than it has to be.

Pop can top (with added indentation)So, here's my proposed solution. Simply "extend" the groove that runs around the circumference of the top of the can so that it goes underneath the tab, thereby allowing the user ample room to get their finger underneath the tab. Sure, this may introduce some manufacturing complexities, but I can't imagine it's not possible.

Interestingly, Norman's four crietria for usable designs don't really tell the whole story, though: For the current design, we can observe the following:
  • Conceptual model - good; the "perforated" edges of the tab over part that gets opened lets users know that this part is meant to be opened)
  • Visibility - good; you can see everything you need to open the can easily
  • Feedback - good; you know when you're [not] opening the can
  • Mapping - good; nothing too tricky here
Even if we look at Norman's affordances, we still don't get a good explanation for why the pop can top is unusable. After all, the tab clearly affords to be's just too hard to get underneath it with your fingers.

So, in the sense that the pop can behaves without any surprises, the design is usable; it behaves as we expect. But in the sense that we can't open the can, it's clearly unusable overall.

I'm tired.

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