I’ve just got to Shanghai for the first time, and despite working through what passed for night in China and in the UK, I found myself bright-eyed, bushy-tailed and full of beans. Having been ensconced in design strategy papers for a good few days, I think I’m looking at everything through “design” eyes, and trying to make sure I’m not jaundiced in any way.
The first thing that made me feel good was the socket (or what I used to call a “plug-point” in India). At the hotel here, they have sockets that look like this:
Wikipedia (which is where I got that illustration, by the way) tells me that this is a Type G (British 3 Pin) plug and socket, conforming to BS 1363. Which means I didn’t need an adaptor for once, a nice feeling. Strange, that I have to come all the way to China to get that feeling. Incidentally, just take a look at this map, available from Wikimedia Commons:
What the map does is set out the plug type in use in a given region, and it’s interesting to see some sort of colonial history laid out in the process. We’d probably get something similar if we looked at rail gauges, I guess, and I can’t help worrying that there’s an internet variant just waiting for us, a 21st century map of standards and protocols that reflect colonies of lock-in.
Enough worrying. There are so many things in this hotel room that make me feel good, that make me realise that someone’s applied thought to the design of the room, that someone’s actually considered what the customer may want.
There’s the ethernet point just where you would look for one, built subtly into the desk and covered with a little removable leather pad; there’s the cups and saucers and tea bags loudly signalling the existence of a kettle somewhere, and the kettle turns out to be where you would look for it, and the socket turns out to be where you would look for it. And the tea bags included a selection of green tea and jasmine. Something I guess you would expect in China, like the torch thoughtfully placed in the wardrobe almost at eye level.
Lots of little things that show that someone thought about what people want. My favourite is the wardrobe itself. It’s in the usual place, to my right as I enter the room, along the passageway to the area where the bed and desk are. What makes it special is what they’ve done to the back of the wardrobe. Sliding doors, accessible from the bathroom. Now that is useful. And simple.
Putting things where people would intuitively look for things. Looking at, and catering for, all possible uses when designing something. Using open standards wherever possible. Building things with the customer in mind, actually thinking about how the customer would use something. Precisely how. Thinking about where a customer’s eye would fall, what his reach would be.
When we design systems, there is much we can learn from people who take customer service seriously. Like the hotel in Shanghai I happen to be staying in.