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Am I washing my clothes or going to space?

The reading by Norman was quite entertaining. There are so many things I use in my every day life, especially technologies, that get me extremely frustrated with their complexity. However, when thinking of an item to capture for this post and relate to Norman’s essay I kept coming back to one in particular, the washing machine. My problem with this household appliance stems from Norman’s thought that, “Devices in the home have developed some related problems: functions and more functions, controls and more controls. I do not think that simple home appliances-stoves, washing machines, audio and television sets-should look like Hollywood’s idea of a spaceship control room.”

As you can tell by the photo, my washing machine has more knobs than I know what to do with, and whenever I have an especially tricky item of clothing I need to wash I usually go running to my mother complaining that this thing might as well be a spaceship. I can usually figure it out but I am reminded of when I was in high school and admittedly my mom still did my laundry for me. When it came time for me to finally do the task for myself I literally blacked out every time I needed to wash my clothes. My mom told me how to use the washing machine EVER TIME I did laundry, and when she wasn’t home she even left instructions for me (I know pathetic but I’m sorry, SPACE SHIP!) It still took me a good year to get it down. Until I moved to college and had a whole new space …err washing machine to learn how to use.

I know my washing machine might not be as complicated as some other peoples and that thought just makes me feel sorry for them. However, it just makes one of Norman’s last thoughts ring true, “The paradox of technology should never be used as an excuse for poor design. It is true that as the number of options and capabilities of any device increases, so too must the number and complexity of the controls. But the principles of good design can make complexity manageable.”

For those of us that just want to wash our clothes and not go to the moon, less is more. Its lucky I don’t shrink more clothes or turn them pink.




Hahahaha this is so true. This is my first time living alone and trust me, house appliances are taking over me. Norman states: “A device is easy to use when there is visibility to the set of possible actions”. In this case, there are may possible actions in your washing machine!


My washing machine, in addition to singing me a lovely song when the cycle is complete, has way more settings than any person needs. In fact, it has some kind of “nanotechnology” and releases silver ions (what!?!) into the wash cycle. As the article states, perhaps there’s too many functions and too many controls. I can honestly say that I don’t think I NEED silver ions in there …


hey that looks just like mine, I just so happen to be doing my laundry right now. Although there is a lot of button and knobs and what not, I like having the extra options and features. Its not to hard to read the labels and figure out what each one does.


I like your paragraphs because I can identify to them a lot. Washing machines should be simpler if all it does is wash clothes. I know that they are trying to make things simpler but they are really not. They are complicating us. Making us think too much what the buttons mean or trying to look at the manual and identify what every button is for. I like things simple and with the visual mapping as clear as water.


I agree with what you wrote. Washing machines definitely should not be so complicated. I am a third year now, and I still get confused and forget what goes with hot, cold, and whites. I still have to text my mom most of the time and ask her! They should be simplified, however all of the extra features on the washing machines are nice, such as steam and quicker washes.


Doesn’t it seem that every washing machine is like this? Why so complicated? You have to read a manual just to get your clothes done. We should all get together and come up with a user-friendly washing machine. Another class project!


It literally took me a week to figure out how to use the washer and dryer at my new apartment. I finally had to have my roommate help me with my laundry. A simple task that I would have hoped to have grasped by grad school.


I almost took a picture of my washing machine too because my roommates get confused sometimes about what to pick! It seems this tends to be a universally unintuitive appliance! :)

Scott Howard

This image resonated with me as well. I really think this model could be simplified to having a few different buttons that were used for the different clothing materials, as the cold, warm, etc. does not always help me understand.

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