Lessons From the Barstool

These stools. These metal barstools, that you find in all the hip new restaurants in the fancy areas of your cities. Those fancy restaurants, the ones with the dim edison bulbs and the reclaimed wood walls, the expensive food served on troughs or whatever, and of course, these stools. There’s even memes made about them.
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While you may have your own opinions about these aforementioned fancy restaurants, one thing everyone agrees with, is the fact that these stools aren’t very good for sitting. Which is the one thing they are supposed to be good at.

But as all things in life, it all depends on your perspective. These may be slow torture devices for the people who are unfortunate enough to have to sit on them for extended periods of time, but for the restaurant owners, these make perfect sense. How is that? Well, long story short, the design of these stools make perfect business sense.

  • They are affordable and easy to replace
  • They are lightweight and can be moved around easily
  • They can be stacked on top of each other for storage
  • They have a hole in the middle of the seating part where you can grab them and move them around
  • They’re made of metal so they are durable and can withstand damage
  • They come in different colors and you can customize them to suit your branding- they can be plain or colorful, they can be pristine or dinged up, they can look modern or rustic- whatever the ambience of your restaurant, you can make them suit that style.

All in all, one can say that these stools provide the features that their CUSTOMERS want. However, the customers that purchase these stools, are not the end users of these stools. Herein lies a key point to remember when it comes to human centered design- when you are gathering requirements and trying to understand the domain where your proposed solution will lie, it’s important to note all the different people who the design will impact. In many cases, the customers who will purchase your design or your services, are not the users who will end up using and interacting with what you have created. These stools are a perfect example of this. While the customer gets all that they want (affordability, portability, customizability), the user does not get the single most important thing that they want, and perhaps the only thing that they need, and that is comfort.

So the next time you are creating something, please remember these stools- and how your customer is not necessarily your user.

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