Have you ever spilled coffee?

Reading Time: 3 mins approx.

Spilling your coffee isn’t nice. Especially the embarrassment you experience after the incident. None of us like to be caught in such a situation but it would have happened to most of you. Well just like you all I too had to go through this awful situation. Getting crushed in front of thousands of people!

The worst part, it was a 7-day programme where reputed professionals all over India had gathered for a talk and I was fortunate enough to compère the event. In fact, I was extremely excited when I was briefed about the occasion and my responsibilities for the event. Being a perfectionist, I took all necessary steps to ensure nothing went wrong on the day of the event which included my presentation script. I took all possible preparations for the day. And finally, on the first day of the event, I did extremely well and everything was well organized and coordinated. At 12 we decided to break for tea. All of them moved towards the back of the hall to grab their coffees and teas. They seemed to have an interesting discussion so I gradually joined them after getting a cup of tea. Just like usual conferences, they served tea and coffee without sugar and people could add them if needed. Which is perfect as you are respecting people’s choices and you are giving them an option. Well, that’s really a good thing to do. But the hard part is managing to hold your coffee in one hand and adding sugar to it with your other hand.

Not yet over. You need to stir it! And this was such a terrific thing to do especially for someone like me who has shaky hands. I could not balance the spoon and the cup on the saucer and finally spilled it over my clothes. And you can imagine how dense one would feel in such a situation where everybody stares at you. I was left with an egg on my face. And this little incident deterred me from having tea/coffee for the next 6 days of the event. The bad experience influenced my brain to hate what I loved the most as we humans are wired to remember the unpleasant moments in our life – Negativity Bias.

Now, this may sound inconsequential to most people as carefully holding a cup isn’t a big deal. And that’s what my point is. Things that may seem very little to us would mean a lot to many others. When it comes to user experience it is always said “Rule #1: Know thy user for they are not you”. We try to create a seamless experience for all our users and not just for average users. There isn’t a concept of average user. If you are designing for an average user then you end up designing for no one. Hence always try to design for all – Accessibility. If designers had designed the cup for all kinds of users and not just for the average users many people including me and people suffering even worse tremors like cerebral palsy wouldn’t have found it difficult to use these crockeries on their own.

Designing for accessibility is not something that can be achieved very easily. It requires a lot of skills – research, empathize, observation, active listening and so on. Many of us still consider it less important because they are unaware of the huge impact a minority group can bring in with your design. Creating a positive experience to all may be a difficult task to achieve but is not impossible and once it is done it gives a huge satisfaction to us as a designer – being able to do fair play to all.