Enter the maze

Wake Up! Fix it!

She owns a chain of very posh hotels. She is not happy. You are going to fix it though aren't you. Well aren't you?

Luxury hotel room

The problem is nothing is actually broken. Everything works just as intended. So what's the problem? The guests keep complaining. One missed her breakfast. Another was late for a meeting. Another was woken in the middle of the night. A salesman missed his keynote talk. They all had one thing in common. They all tried to use the new hotel alarm clocks...and failed. A whole bunch of other people keep just asking the receptionist to do it for them, which would be fine except he is already massively busy. It is not that anything is broken, just too hard to use.

That is why you've been called in. You are a Usability Expert and she has had enough. She founded the hotel chain on "total customer care" - everything perfect. Stress-free. No hassle. The gadgets were supposed to help not hinder. She wants a new design.

You are the expert. You are going to fix it.

So you have to create a new design. Not of the inner workings, just of the interface - the buttons and displays. It has to be not just easy to use, but obviously easy to use. Noone should look at it and immediately decide to phone the receptionist. Noone should look at it and think to themselves "I can't use technology". They should just happily get on with setting the alarm. They should find that easy to do and once done they should be sure they have done it properly... sure it will wake them at the right time.

So what do you do?

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The wake-up. Fix it! series of cs4fn articles is based on a Science Week activity organised by the Department of Computer Science at Queen Mary, University of London, with support from the Research Councils UK.