Identifying Trash Cans

I was recently in an airport in Mexico when I saw this set of trash cans with no text, just an icon of a hand dropping what looks like a cup.

two brown trash cans with a hand icon dropping a cup
Trash can with icon instead of test

I think this is a good example of UX in the real world, especially for a multi-cultural area like an airport where people might not know the word for “trash” in the local language.

(Not to mention, some places use the name of container like “bin” instead of identifying what goes into it.)

Icons have notorious usability issues because universal icons are rare. But I think in this context, an icon used on the physical object is clearer than using text.

I think the silliest thing to label trash cans with is “Thank You” because it doesn’t give you an indication of what the container is for, yet this is rampant here in the US. I wonder how that got started?

trash can that says "Thank You" on its door
Photo Credit: Lauren Brown

Welcome to Fishy UX

I decided to start this blog as a place to document and discuss some of the usability issues I encounter in the world, both online and offline. While I work primarily with digital user interfaces, it’s important to remember that much of those affordances are inspired by real world functionality.

The technical term for this skeuomorph /ˈskjuːɵmɔrf/ which is a derivative object that retains ornamental design cues from structures that were necessary in the original.

The blog is for me to improve my critical thinking about interfaces and to flex my design muscle outside of everyday work, rather than simply for pointing out potential design flaws or failings.

With that, I wanted to post a link a submission I made back in 2007 to the now defunct ThisIsBroken.com.

Broken: Self-serve ice bag freezer warning

At my local Wal-Mart, there is an interesting sign on one of the self-serve ice bag freezers.

The sign warns: “Caution!!! Ice bag will drop from machine ceiling without notice!”

picture of an ice freezer