User-centered design: a serious lapse

And now, from the murky past, a serious lapse in designing for the intended user…Toddler on Bench

When my son was a toddler, many years ago, he had this habit of going into my den in my absence, climbing onto the lab bench and wreaking havoc (here, I once captured him on film reaching for a hammer).

Well, I had to protect kid and gear, and I had this idea to build an anti-toddler alarm system that would raise an alert if the kid went into the den without an accompanying adult. My design had two infrared beams crossing the door at different heights, and a control box complete with a cackle generator (to issue a sound like an angry hen when the alarm was triggered). When it was finished, I painstakingly built four lens assemblies for the IR beams, rigged them around the door frame, and prepared to have some fun. Cool, huh?…

Yah. The thing lasted for less than a day. As soon as the kid (did I say he’s very smart?) went on the prowl he spied the interesting new things on the door frame, decided they were worth studying, and tore them off the door to facilitate examination. I wasn’t in the mood to devise hardened housings, so that was the end of the project.

We tend to think of User-centered design as making life easy for the user. Evidently, you also have to ensure the system can survive its intended users!

3 Responses to “User-centered design: a serious lapse”


  1. 1 Jen

    I like the hen cackle part! Guess who got the last laugh. 🙂

  2. 2 Nathan Zeldes

    Hey, Jen, you shoulda seen the egg timer I’d packaged into a plastic egg (which is what I’d developed the cackle generator for, originally) 🙂

  3. 3 Adi Kaizer

    🙂 Funny story. I heard the story from Amir long time ago and he mentioned the fact that there’s a picture documenting him in action. nice to see it.

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