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