Good/Bad Design 2: Ceiling Fan

Ceiling Fan
Ceiling fans. Two chains: one for the light, the other for the fan. I’m pretty sure at one time or another, we’ve all wondered, “Which chain do I pull?” The fact that we have to think about it demonstrates it’s poor design.

When designing controls, the controls should differentiate from one another in some way. Not only should they look different, but they should reflect their function. As we just learned from Cooper (2007), designers should design to represent the mental model or vision of the user. There may only be two controls, but it doesn’t mean that product designers should just assume that users will remember the function of each. Perhaps one should end with a light and the other with a fan, to reflect their uses.

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5 thoughts on “Good/Bad Design 2: Ceiling Fan

  1. Quincy Clark says:

    Good one. I have pulled the wrong strong so many times that pulling the right string has become a game. Well actually I noticed that one string is longer than the other ( just slightly). Still, the design of the controls are bad.

  2. eddyzhuo says:

    Thank you so much, well said. I rather put a new sets of control on my wall than go and pull the chains. The new button design like this one is easy to use no confusion.

  3. Mihaela says:

    GREAT example – issue with mapping.

    I’ve tied a blue string to one of the chains (well, I couldn’t reach it, anyway) and this should help differentiate them, but it’s still a bad solution, because there’s no inherent mapping between the string and the light or fan, so now I don’t remember if the blue string operates the light or the fan!

  4. Geovon says:

    Ha! Also, why are the chains fragile? Second design flaw: requiring users to pull a (broken) chain that’s an inch from the spinning blades.

  5. wjciv says:

    At least with some versions, the light one goes into the light dome and is a different length than the fan one which comes down from the side. Another approach I saw to address this was to put pictures of a lightbulb or fan on those little gripper knobs at the end of the chain. Beyond the problem of not being able to see this in the dark, when one might presumably want to turn on a light, the pictures were so unimposing that I didn’t notice them until after they had been installed – backwards.

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