UX

Minimum Viable Kitchen


In the last two weeks I have gone to Nashville to give a talk to PhD history students; wrangled interviews for several jobs (I’m looking, by the way); and moved. Though I’d like to write about any and all of these things, eventually, I’m only going to write about the last one, because a) it’s not done and b) I have to go the Diversity Hackathon in a little while.

Yesterday on Twitter I announced I’d achieved “Minimum Viable Kitchen” but I was only half joking — the kitchen is now usable. It’s usable because I organized it based on use case; there are things that I know have to be at hand for ease of cooking (or coffee-making as the case may be). You could make some eggs, at least, though maybe not an elaborate baking thing, yet.

And the information architecture has been the most amusing part of the moving process; yes, there are the equivalent of topic pages, where you label boxes for the kitchen or bedroom or whatever. But then it gets more interesting — you have to start categorizing kitchen stuff into categories like “Kitchen things I know I reach for pretty much every day” and “cooking things I don’t mind fetching from the pantry occasionally.” Same with books; this time around, I gave up on traditional topic categories and basically packed according to what I’d save in a fire first. That’s a single box, and I called it “Books – Principia”. ┬áThen there are a lot of boxes that I’m tempted to not unpack at all. I may label them as such.

The least amusing part of the move has been my confidence in my knowledge of user experience. This house is an unreconstructed oldish house, where the soap holder is going to be at the perfect height to bang your elbow, because that’s the right place to put it, dammit, and to question it would be un-American. So the bathroom is a living bruise waiting to happen, an unfortunate acoustic center point is created by having the bedroom, kitchen, and hallway entrances converge, the kitchen setup is frankly baffling, and there’s simply not enough storage space for the square footage of the hosue. It’s an immaculately kept house — the equivalent of a solid website with a beautiful color palette and no UX whatsoever — but it brings out my inner Tim Gunn, and I want to tell someone (I don’t know who) to make it work. Like, really work, and not just look pretty. But, as I said, this is a pre-usability-era house.

And that’s when I realize (again) that I’ve become one of them, one of the engineers or usability experts or both as the case may be. I’d rather have a less immaculate house that serves its purpose better. I’m tired of poor shelf depth, and silly cupboards, and pretty but useless large rooms. I’m thinking of my friend, an engineer, who is the best person to have at a party because they immediately cut of the tops of chip bags and carefully tear off box flaps in order to insure maximum accessibility for snacks. Maybe I’ll call them and tell them to make this house work.