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Japanese UX: Everything Works a Little Better

Normally when we discuss user experience design on TechHui we are talking about web or mobile apps, but UX design is a much broader field. Wikipedia defines UXD as, "Creation of the architecture and interaction models that affect user experience of a device or system."

During my time in Japan over the past two weeks I've been struck by how much attention is paid to UX for everyday things ranging from bathrooms to ketchup dispensers. Lets start with bathrooms. When I walk into the bathroom the light comes on. When I leave it goes off. When I get into the shower I can control flow and temperature independently and precisely with clearly labelled controls. Why do western showers always have some mysterious unlabelled handle that controls two unrelated concerns - flow and temperature?

If I want to shave after my shower I can because a small heater behind the mirror prevents it from fogging. When I use the toilet the controls for the bidet and flush options are in front of me on a panel next to the toilet paper. Why make people reach backwards to flush?

Now on to another trivial but illustrative example. When I buy a food item that normally goes with ketchup and mustard it comes with a dispenser that allows me to apply both condiments at once just by pinching - no tearing of messy little packets with your teeth.

Then there are the vending machines. They use machine vision to make recommendations on beverages based on assumed age, gender and time of day (and for me at least, they are usually spot on.) They are always full because they call home when they are low on an item. I can pay with my phone. I could write paragraphs more on Japanese vending machines, but you get the idea.

This all begs the question, why is so much more attention paid to user experience design in Japan?

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Comment by Rod Hinman on February 10, 2012 at 3:35pm

I usually shave before I shower.  That way, I don't have to wash the shaving cream off my face.  Now if I could just figure out how to comb my hair before washing it, I would not have any desire for that mirror heater.

Comment by Daniel Leuck on January 27, 2012 at 8:58am

Thank you Gus. The mirror heaters in Japan are great. Why can't we get our act together! :-)

Its good to hear from you. I hope all is well in Texas.

Comment by Gus Higuera on January 27, 2012 at 8:32am

I love these examples Dan. Need to get that heater for my bathroom mirror.

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