Today's design lesson comes to us from the local grocery store. Let's start with a photo, shall we? Who can tell me what this is a photo of?
A gold star to anyone who said "an example of terrible design." Other acceptable answers include "the worst location in the world for a cup holder" and "a Customer Inconvenience Device that blocks placement of certain grocery items." Minus ten points for anyone who even thought the word "innovative."
Now, it may be a bit hard to tell from this photo, but that is indeed a cup holder. It is awkwardly far from the part of the cart you push to make the cart go forward. As in, it's so far away that the handle doesn't even show up in the photo. I promise, it's well out of reach if you're standing behind the cart. And while you can't tell from my photo, that thing definitely gets in the way as your cart fills up.
Personally, I usually manage to survive a trip to the grocery store without needing caffeine, but for those who do appreciate a cup of joe while strolling the aisles, this device offers no assistance at all. I've got to wonder what people were thinking when they designed, sold, bought and installed it. I suspect somewhere along the way they congratulated themselves for being innovative ("It's a cup holder! On a shopping cart! We're so clever!") From experience, I know what people are thinking when they use it: "Hey, I can't reach my coffee from way over here," and "Dang, this thing is in the way of my groceries."
This is not an example of innovation - it's an example of superficially satisfying the requirements. Somewhere along the line, someone said "Hey, wouldn't it be nice if our shopping carts had cup holders?" Someone else said "Hey, great idea!" But insufficient thought was put into answering questions like "Um, where should we put the cup holder? Does it need to be accessible from the typical cart-pushing position? Does it matter if it blocks the groceries?"
It's not like they don't have options. The photo below shows a very simple cup holder from a different store.
This one is positioned perfectly for the convenience of someone who's actually pushing the cart. Now, it's also within reach of any toddlers who happen to be riding along and are interested in splashing themselves or others with hot coffee, but that's a topic for another post. For now, I'd better go put my groceries away.