On Cupholders and Feature After Thoughts

Since I turned sixteen I have had three cars, all of which were European. My first car a 1991 BMW 525i had no cup holders to be found, the next car a 1998 Land Rover Range Rover 4.6HSE had four terrible cup holders in the center console – they only were able to hold a pop can reliably. My current car a 2004 BMW 545i has two pop out cup holders in the dash, they are to say the least, horrid pieces of crap.

BMW and Land Rover added cup holders as an after thought, europeans simply don’t indulge in food and beverage in their cars like we crass Americans do. So when they started to add cup holders it seems as if they designed the entire car, got it ready for production when an American ex-pat stumbled by and said, where is the cup holder? BMW then scramble to shove a cup holder in wherever they could, resulting in a craptastic after thought of a cup holder.

Case in Point

Take a good look at the above cup holder, now forget about the fact that there is no way in hell you are putting a super-sized anything in it and look at where the air vent is in relation to the cup holder. They are positioned in such a way that when you have a drink in the cup holder, the drink gets all the air. Now this poses two problems, first the occupant does not get either A/C or heat depending on the weather – they mostly sit there in an uncomfortable state. The second problem, a much more dire one, is that the drink is getting all that air blown on it, resulting in a beverage constantly being warmed or cooled depending on the circumstances.

Indeed these cup holders were an afterthought.

Afterthoughts are Every Where

I see design and feature afterthoughts daily, we all do. When a company adds a feature last minute shows like a bright red pimple – we all see it, but try not to say anything about it. We need to stop and truly ask companies to either delay a product to properly design a forgotten feature, or instead leave it out until they can properly work it in.

After all I am really glad this BMW has cup holders, but it is almost worse than if it didn’t have any. The cup holders that BMW provided are so poor, that I would much rather have a pop-out iPod dock than a cup holder that makes me worry my drink will flip out with every turn I take.

Examples

I see this all the time, so here are some examples of things that feel as if they were forced into a product at the last minute and not designed into the product from the very beginning.

  • The To-Do list in Apple’s iCal (what a terrible mess that is).
  • Adobe’s Camera Raw for Photoshop (actually on second thought just put down adobegripes.tumblr.com and you can see this problem very clearly).
  • Safari Extensions, though a nice feature, does anybody think it feels truly native?
  • Send to Instapaper in NetNewsWire just looks a feels added on, why can’t I keep reading, why do I have to stop and wait for you to send it to Instapaper?
  • iOS notifications; does anybody think these are as polished as the rest of the OS?
  • MySpace.com, no really the entire site.
  • The YouTube.com homepage, take a look at it, what a confusing cluster fuck that is.
  • Safari’s ‘Top Sites’ view, who uses this?
  • Flickr’s lack of upload buttons. Let me explain: if you are a Flickr user have you noticed that once you leave the homepage (Flickr.com) there are no obvious upload buttons? Instead you have to click on the ‘You’ drop down and then click upload. This is a photo sharing site, put an upload link on every damned page!

There are so many more, but it just gets to depressing to keep listing them off.

Advice

Take the time to do it right the first time, if you forgot something do not try to squeeze it in at the last minute, make a plan and polish it later.

Originally posted for members on: August 24, 2010
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