Shopping Cart Design

Recently, for some reason I’ve been paying more attention to the user experience (UX) of everyday things. This might be due to a very user-focused former colleague of mine, who imparted some of her design sharpness and increased my general awareness of UX issues. Generally, I’ve heard UX described in terms of web or mobile technology applications — does the user get frustrated with the site, how many clicks does it take to get to Y page, is the app confusing, etc. But the idea also translates into general product design (technology-enabled or not). I feel like posting some of my experiences, and thus starts a new UX thread of my blog.

A month or so ago our local Whole Foods switched to all-plastic shopping carts and got rid of the traditional, metal shopping carts. The new ones are nice — they roll around well and are easy to maneuver. However, I have one UX / design issue where I believe they are worse than traditional metal carts. Here is a picture of one of the new carts (original image courtesy of Plastics News Europe … hand-drawn annotations mine):

Plastic shopping cart with annotations showing seat folding upwards and to the right

I’ve drawn in how the “child seat” (or purse seat, dog seat, whatever you put there) folds up — to the right. This means that when the carts are stacked up outdoors, the sitting surfaces face upwards. So when it rains or snows, the sitting surfaces get all wet. Contrast this with traditional metal carts, shown below (original image courtesy Versacart … again, bad hand-drawn annotations mine):

Metal wire shopping cart with annotations showing seat folding up and to the left

With the metal carts, the seat flips up to the left, and when carts are stacked up, the sitting surfaces face downwards. Which means that you can just plop a child / bag / dog into the seat, even if the cart has been outside in bad weather because at least the seat itself is dry. I’m sure it’s a corner-case that doesn’t affect many folks regularly, but it would be nice for places that use carts with this design (Target, Whole Foods) to put paper towels near the entrances to dry off the seats.

Working Remotely — Reality Check

I recently started a new position, working remotely 100% for the DXtera Institute, a non-profit startup. While this position offers me a great opportunity to learn (a ton of) new things and tackle new challenges, I was also very interested in the work-remote aspect. Before I took the position, I had been reading up about the challenges and benefits of remote work, and I wasn’t quite sure how I would manage not being in an office. As many have said in other blogs and articles, at first glance it seems wonderful, but the reality can be different, especially in the long-term. Here is what I’ve noticed in the first month:

  • Project management with a remote team is difficult — I have the utmost respect for our PMs. It’s difficult to have team meetings without a whiteboard, and when some folks connect via phone or can’t see a screenshare, not everyone is on the same page. Plus, Internet connections still drop sometimes.
  • I’ve been working on campus, and it’s nice to at least see other people. I may start working from home more frequently, but I’m not sure if I will feel too isolated. I do see my manager face-to-face once a week, which is great.
  • It’s nice to have an office where you can drop off your stuff, lunch, etc. It’s weird having to pack up all of my “office stuff” when I just need to use the bathroom.
  • Similarly, the ergonomics on laptops are horrible, especially with standard desk and chair heights. Computer-specific office setups are much better. I’ve been using a portable laptop stand / mouse / keyboard, which are amazing.
  • I do feel more productive and in control of my time, though it’s still too early for me to tell how much my “productivity” helps the bottom line.

I’m curious to see how working remotely feels as I do it for a longer period of time. Right now just enjoying it while ramping up on Java and other new technologies!