June 16th, 2006
Lately, I’ve been using the act of storing drinking glasses in a kitchen cabinet as an analogy for large information spaces. I use lots of analogies to explain design concepts, but this one has generated more comments than usual.
In the letter for yesterday’s UIEtips, I wrote the following analogy:
“There are few things more frustrating in life than trying to get a drinking glass in someone else’s kitchen. You have to open every cabinet door to figure out where they put the empty glasses. For a few moments, we feel like we’re invading a very private space, searching for something innocuous by opening every nook and cranny.
“It’s an interesting phenomena, since, in our own house, we have a cabinet with glasses. Chances are the glasses are in a cabinet near the kitchen sink. Yet, when we’re in unfamiliar territory, we’re on a search and rescue mission of immense proportions.
“In the 21st century, innovation has finally arrived. Cabinet manufacturers have come up with an amazing invention: windows. Yes, they now put windows in the cabinets so you see the glasses without opening every door. Simply brilliant. I wish I’d thought of it.”
to which I got a response from Steve (male):
“What a great analogy!
“I’d take it one step further — when you start redesigning a site, it’s like moving in with someone. ‘What do you mean the glasses go in THAT cabinet. They should go in THIS one!’”
and this response from Robin (female):
Very bad analogy.
- At least 3/4 of women would not search all over. We would look around the kitchen and say “I would put the glasses near the fridge” (if there is a water dispenser on the fridge) or “I would put the glasses between the sink and the dishwasher”. and lo and behold, most of the time we are right. So I don’t think of myself doing this. I gather this doesn’t come naturally for the male of the species.
- Windows aren’t a new invention, you just discovered them I can show you pictures of 50s kitchens that have them. They are rare because they have a lot of downsides. Ignoring what happens in the earthquake (oh, you didn’t think of that….), they expose one’s internal messiness and they are a bitch to keep clean. I’d trade off getting rid of those problems against my guests doing a bit more hunting any day (and I don’t need the glass door to find the glasses, though I’ll bet my husband would still benefit from them
Next time, feel free to run your domestic metaphors by me.
Feels like gender perspectives to me. (Having two data points gives me 100% correlation on this inference.)
My old friend, Barbara, added her two cents:
Hmmm, my glasses are never in the cabinet near the sink–well maybe a few. Then, there’s a couple in my office, a couple in my bedroom, one on the living room table, a few in the dishwasher and some more in the sink. Oh, you meant clean glasses. I wouldn’t know where to find them….
I don’t know if all this attention to the analogy means the message is getting through or it’s getting lost.Tweet