Giving a shit

Sturgeon’s law states that “90% of everything is crap”. He was probably an optimist. Here are some recent examples of the sort of crap I come across day to day:

The school selection website

My wife and I had to select which secondary school we want out son to go to, an important decision for our family. We had to do this via a website created on behalf of Swindon council. I won’t bore you with all the painful details, but only an impressive combination of incompetence and apathy could have produced something so egregiously awful. At the end of the process we got an error message and the promised confirmation email never arrived. We were left feeling confused and angry. Every other parent we spoke to had a similar experience.


Feast your eyes on my local ATM:


Yes, that’s right, the buttons aren’t correctly aligned with the screen, so they have added some shonky visual cues in a feeble attempt to compensate for it. They failed – I have pressed the wrong button more than once. If they couldn’t move the buttons, why didn’t they just change the text positions in the software? I would like to know what sort of horrific set of bad decisions and sloppy planning led to this laughably bad design.

The in-flight meal

Check out this British Airways in-flight meal I was served:


Behold, the cutlery is in a sealed plastic bag in the pasta. To get at your cutlery you have to open a slippery plastic bag covered in sauce with your fingers, which are now also covered in sauce. Who could have possibly have thought this was a good experience? You might as well just eat the pasta with your fingers. Or stick your face in the plate. Maybe the subliminal message is: if you won’t pay for business class we are going to make you eat like an animal.

You don’t have to look very hard to find crappy design. Badly designed parking buildings, confusing ticket machines, painful to use Sat Navs, packaging that is almost impossible to open, web forms that won’t let you use a space or a dash in a telephone number. I could go on, but I’m sure you could come up with plenty of examples from your own life. The most frustrating thing is that these issues could have been avoided with a little bit of thought and care. I doubt it would have added more than an extra 1% more effort or cost to get them right.

Crappy products and services make everyone’s life worse. Hold yourself to a higher standard. Take pride in your work. Do usability tests. Get feedback from your users. Fix things that are broken. Keep improving. Above all, give a shit.

10 thoughts on “Giving a shit

  1. Richie Hindle

    And wherever possible, Eat Your Own Dogfood – literally, by the looks of that BA meal. :-)

  2. gravelld

    Andy, I think your most important paragraph is your last. We need to realise that good product is not a result of divine inspiration or “world class” (I hate that term) talent; it’s the result of shipping, testing, iterating and improving.

  3. Richie Hindle

    (Point of order: “give a shit” is not the opposite of “couldn’t give a shit”. “I would sacrifice this worthless and offensive thing that I don’t want anyway” is just as negative as “I wouldn’t even sacrifice this worthless and offensive thing that I don’t want anyway.”

    In the spirit of “I doubt it would have added more than an extra 1% more effort or cost to get them right”, how about “Going the extra foot”? :-) )

  4. Mark Littlewood (@MarkLittlewood)

    Ooooh, thought you were going to rant about the other thing I hate about ATMs.

    MASSIVE: Free
    VERY BIG: Cash withdrawals
    Small: We won’t charge you for cash withdrawals when you use your personal debit card*
    Tiny: excludes business accounts

    This could be rewritten…

    We always charge you to access your money unless you use your personal debit card

  5. aleksandar

    I wouldn’t mind eating with my fingers were it something that looked nice, but meal itself looks like a …well…its disgusting to say at least…

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