Vegetable Peelers, Door Knobs, and Optimizely

Remember how vegetable peelers used to be thin metal things,



but now they all look like this?



The new model was designed because people with arthritis struggled to use the old model. But it turns out that those big rubber grips make life easier for everyone, not just for folks with arthritis. And that’s why they’re everywhere now. Round door knobs being replaced with door handles? Same story.

The old models worked for 90% of people, and designing new versions around the left-out 10% made the products better for everyone.  And the same is true of Optimizely or WordPress or innumerable software libraries; a tool explicitly designed for unserved users can make a task much more efficient for even the original users. Maybe Optimizely takes tools previously accessible to 1% of people and makes them available to 15%, but the takeaway is similar: even if your only goal was to build a better tool for existing users, there’s value to be had in considering the needs of people who can’t even use the existing tools.


Discussion on Hacker News

Note: The vegetable peeler story comes from Don Norman’s amazing book, Design of Everyday Things.

Plug: Statwing takes the statistical tools that 1% of people can use, and makes them usable by the next 15%. And if you have an app that produces or collects data for your users, you can use our API to build an Export to Statwing link so your users can get more value out of their data.


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