I was pleasantly surprised when I went to pay my most recent credit card bill. Not only was it relatively small for a change, but the BarclayCard website has been revamped, with that most unusual of results: a markedly better user experience!

They now show a coloured bar meter indicating your total credit limit (the whole length of the bar) with your last statement and current total outstanding clearly marked as coloured portions of it. It's a really great way to graphically show the balance. They've clearly paid attention to every aspect of user interaction, with the flow being very straightforward and very clearly guided at all times, but not onerous.

Perhaps the very best change is the return of the option to pay off your last statement in full. For the last year or so they had things set up so the options when paying were: minimum amount, whole balance (including new transactions since last statement) or custom amount. To pay off your last statement in full you had to manually read off the amount and type it into the custom field. This was very cheeky of them, clearly trying to steer the punters into taking less advantage of the free credit grace period (by paying more than their last statement amount) or paying less than their last statement amount and so accruing expensive interest. I'm glad to see this cynical move has been reversed.

When is a Dishwasher door not a dishwasher door? When it's a jar.

That's a joke by the way. It's especially a joke if you have a Siemens dishwasher who's door is not designed to be left ajar. You can have it fully open, or fully closed, but it won't rest in any position in-between unless you prop it open, e.g. with a cork or other handy item that you may have to hand, as per my picture below.

Why would I want to prop it open? Because after it's finished, if you open the door for 15 minutes then the residual heat dries the contents just nicely, as long as the steam can escape. If you don't open the door, you can look forward to plates and glasses that still need the attention of a tea towel, even several hours after the machine finishes its cycle. Leaving the door fully open is asking for a kitchen accident of course, so that's not really an option. This door ajar approach is standard practice with any dishwasher, no? Maybe I'm alone in this, but every other dishwasher I've come across neatly sits open a few inches to facilitate my whim, and it's got to be trivially easy to manufacture into the door mechanism. Certainly my posh Siemens dishwasher would look a lot better without the cork.

DishwasherCork

I saw this and smiled. What a delightfully simple design for a clock with easy daylight savings adjustment. Only one downside – accidentally knock it without realising, or more likely have a mischievous friend knock it deliberately - and you'll be an hour out. So I'd be tempted to add "Summer" and "Winter" or some neat icons along the flat edges to make it obvious what setting it's currently on. That also solves the problem of knowing what position it's supposed to start off in when you get it.

Oraillegale
The theory is good with the new buttonless MacBook trackpads, but in practice I think it’s flawed. The whole very large surface clicks down when pushed, though it’s hinged at the far side, so it works best at the side closest to the user. So you ought to be able to use your thumb to click exactly where the button used to be, and be no worse off than before. Problem is, the button was raised up a bit above the palmrest, whereas the tracking surface is a shade below it. So now your thumb has to reach down and over the lip to click, which is a bit uncomfortable. It’s a subtle difference but I think an important one.

I’ve only had a play in the shop, so maybe I’d get used to it and maybe even change my clicking habits entirely, but it put me right off.

I do quite a lot of futzing around developing web apps, and as a result I'm often needing to choose colours to use in them, and I want those colours in HTML hex form – e.g. #ff0000 (bright red). The standard Mac OS X colour picker is a pretty reasonable colour picker, with all the features I want: colour wheel, RGB sliders, HSB sliders etc. but it lacks the most crucial feature – easy output of HTML hex codes! This is clearly a criminal omission, and it meant I'd frequently have to convert from RGB 0-255 numbers down to hex, which is tedious in the extreme.

Hence I was muchly pleased when I found Hex Colour Picker, which adds exactly this missing feature to the standard Mac colour picker panel. Perfect. Now I just open TextEdit, hit cmd-shift-c to bring up the colour panel and I have everything I need for web colour picking.
Britain loses, which is why I'd rather take the stairs.

Britain

In this country all lifts are programmed to sap the living souls of their occupants. You get into the lift and then wait an eternity, jabbing at the buttons in the forlorn hope that they might be connected to something. Eventually it realises it's a lift rather than a walk-in wardrobe and shuts the doors. Your captor now waits a while, pondering the endless infinity of space. Some time later, maybe a week, maybe a month, the slow voyage begins. I hope you brought a packed lunch, we're going three floors here! Just us your pension matures you arrive a few tens of feet higher than you started when you were a sprightly young thing. But let us rest a while, there's no hurry! Why open the doors immediately when there are so many fun things to do in the lift? The grim reaper circles as the sands of time run out and finally the lift lets you go back out into the world. Then it sits there with its mouth open, like the 'special' kid at school, if only you could remember that far back.

The Rest of the World

Press button in lobby – the doors open a fraction of a second before you thought you touched the button. Step inside and the doors close, patting you on the bottom as you enter. In the time it takes you to turn around, you've arrived at your destination floor, simply by thinking about where you want it to take you. The doors open whilst the lift is still moving and your foot hits the carpet outside at the exact same moment that the lift stops. Your face creases into a grimace as you think back to Blighty and wonder why Messrs Otis and Schindler send us the factory seconds.

But seriously, why are lifts in the UK so utterly terrible?

Another quick photo from my trip to Waddesdon Manor. This is the Rubber Tree, constructed entirely from old rubber tyres. Nice concept!

RubberTree

Every day I notice examples of infuriatingly bad design, often in places where it simply boggles the mind. Cash machines for example. Around for decades now and used by millions of people every day you’d think they would have evolved into the ultimate example of efficient usability. Yet many of them seem to have been created and installed without even the slightest common sense being brought into the equation.

As a person of about average height, when I stand in front of a cash machine I am convinced of man’s inhumanity to man as all I can see is the brickwork in front of my face. I contort myself into an undignified squat with my arse sticking out, in order to be able to see the machine. This makes it that much harder to conceal my actions with my body. Even in this position, the angle and deep inset of the screen is such that the buttons along the edge are visually misaligned so that they appear to match up with the option below the one I intend. Some banks solve this parallax error with lines running from the buttons to the plane of the screen. Hooray for them! They’ve probably got a patent on this bit of common sense to prevent the rest of the world from benefiting. Boo to them!

I appreciate that short and disabled people must be accommodated, but I struggle to believe that there’s no decent solution that doesn’t wreck the experience for the other 90%. Do those responsible possess enough awareness of the world around them to realise their folly once they have committed it? Presumably not otherwise they’d fix it the next time and we’d have had decent cash machines since about 1975. So, I offer my services as a “common sense consultant”, ready to look on any problem with eyes wide open and a big dollop of common sense and competency. And thus will the world become a nicer place and I will become rich. But alas, I may have to consider that Plan B.