Saturday, November 22, 2008

When designers don't consider the user's needs

No, I haven't forgotten the apostrophe rule! Perish the thought. I have deliberately used the singular, because each user is an individual.

As those of you who are my Facebook friends will know, I recently had to get new glasses. One of the (many) curses of middle age.

Because of the dramatic change to my eyes over the past two years, my needs have become more complex. Instead of just the reading specs you see me sporting in my profile photo, I now need three different prescriptions: one for close work like reading, knitting and so on, one for detail-in-the-middle-distance like working on my desktop computer screen and watching telly, and a third for distance vision, like driving - that last one came as a total surprise to me!

Initially I got two pairs of varifocals: one clear and one tinted for outdoor use. But varifocals didn't suit me. Everything kept moving. The abundance of striped shirts being sported by men these days had me almost reaching for the barf bucket as the stripes heaved and ho-ed and flatly refused to stand still. Any printed matter I tried to read changed shape continually. Driving was a nightmare, as nothing would come into focus quickly enough to allow for competent navigation of traffic. Working on my deskop was just as bad - I had a keyhole sized area of perfect vision, with a blur of motion around it. And, as some of you will know, the stairs refused to behave - resulting in a painful injury to my neck and both shoulders.

So back we went to try to find an alternative arrangement. This time I asked for a single vision pair of glasses with photoreactive lenses for distance. And a pair of 'office glasses' - graded to cover my near vision and middle distance requirements - also with photosensitive lenses.

Er no.

There is no problem with the first of those, but it seems that 'office glasses' don't come in photosenstive lenses. Whyever not? Well, because they are meant for indoor use, you see. Hence the name 'office glasses'.


So they presume to tell me I may not take my crossword puzzle out into the garden. I may not read a map in the car the next time my husband and I go on a roadtrip. Never again may I demonstrate my geekishness be reading Judith Bell on the beach in Spain. And I may certainly not decamp my office to my patio! These are not the behaviours of a bespectacled office worker, it seems.

Says who?

Who designed these lenses, anyway? And who was their target market? Thanks to their bright spark ideas, I will now have to wear two pairs of glasses when carrying out close work outdoors - one to correct my vision and one to deal with the glare.


Pretty poor market research, I'd say.

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