Getting Design Details Right

Guests are coming and my wife decided that today is the day to change vacuum cleaner bags. I had to deal with three different machines. And in the process got reacquainted with the art and craft of the machine-human interface.

All the detachable bags had the same annoying attachment feature -- a piece of cardboard stiffening on the bag along with a hole lined with rubber where the duct of the machine inserts. These are hard to deal with when it comes to actually making the insertion; a certain amount of aligning, pushing, fiddling with the alignment, pushing again -- with success usually coming after two or three tries. Since I'm asked to do this chore only a few times a year, I have no real learning curve to rely on.

I'm sure better bag attachments are possible, but the arrangement I found on three different brands of cleaners suggests that price of replacement bags was the most important consideration, so the arrangement was the cheapest one that would function passably well.

Hoover Portable Canister Cleaner

The little Hoover shown above had the best bag-changing design features. Even though the bag itself had the now-classical cardboard stiffener plus rubber-surrounded hole arrangement, the change operation worked smoothly -- almost.

It has a plastic connector piece where the cardboard could be slid on. Then all one needs to do is set the connector-plus-attached bag into a recess of the machine and close a hatch that has the waste hose attached -- it's aligned so that the hose connector inserts into the bag with no fuss.

But fuss there was. Not having the manual handy, I tried inserting the hose connection into the bag before shutting the hatch. The hatch refused to close. Repeatedly. Until I finally realized that the insertion was related to the closing of the hatch.

Ideally, a piece of equipment should be designed so that no manual should be needed, where everything should fit together only one possible way. That little Hoover comes very close to that ideal and is very nifty once one understands that final step. What's probably needed is a short message molded on the attachment plate stating that it and the bag should be placed in the bag compartment before closing the hatch. Perhaps newer versions than our three-year-old model fixed this detail.

[Cross-posted at 2 Blowhards.]