Confusing Coffee Consumers in offices across the world: Coffee Machine UI

Share with others

We have this really obnoxious coffee machine at our office.  We were already well-acquainted with one another, having encountered each other at a previous office. When I first used it, I really had to scrutinize its menu to figure out how to simply get it to spit out a drink.  Thankfully, I’m mostly a tea-drinker in need of hot water so it keeps my experience relatively simple, but occasionally I backslide into coffee.  And everytime I choose to venture into the land of coffee-making buttons, I shake my head.


Things I really dislike about this machine:

#1. I am ashamed to say that it took me over a year (and two jobs) to figure out that I could actually get a decaf latte. Nowhere does it offer a “decaf” option in all its vast buttonery.  The only way I figured this out was one day I got curious about what Coffee 1, 2 & 3 was – I always thought they were types of mystery coffee drinks, not types of beans.  On this occasion, I must have been procrastinating or something because I happened to look up.  Being height-challenged, I never noticed that there was a rotating bean wheel above the machine.  As I hopped up and down, I could then see that there were three compartments (or three types of beans) which seemed to correspond to  Coffee 1, 2 &3, one of which was labelled “Decaf.”  Of course, I had to experiment (and pour out) two beverages until I figured out how to select Decaf + Latte.  Now whenever I want a decaf, I have to jump to see which number to choose.

#2. The buttons are seemingly haphazardly placed. There is no “flow” or sequence to any of it.

#3. Some of the coffees seem redundant.  WTH is the difference between a coffee that is “Vanilla Moka” and a “Vanilla Moka Coffee”?  Likewise, some of the names are unconventional, to say the least.  What is a 50/50?  What is a Hot Shot Blend Coffee Whip?  I’ve never figured it out.

#4. What is this “Gourmet Menu”?  It’s called out, but why?  Why does “Long Espresso” get a massive button and a cursive font?  Really bizarre.

#5. Small but irritating to a snob like me.  It’s mocha, not “moka.”  “Moka” makes me crazy.

#6. There are two instruction panels.  One “Brewing Instructions” lists in text the 6 steps to make the machine work (my favorite, step #1: “Place your cup”).  The other is an 80s-looking digital display (reminds me of the Speak and Spell) that tells you to make your selection (which is step #2 in the text Brewing Instructions).

I won’t exhaust you by talking about each and every minor flaw in the system, but let’s just say they have lots of room for improvement in terms of information design and hardware/product design.

So in 30 minutes, I reorganized the whole thing.  Slapped some information architecture and workflow on that baby!  I took the liberty of renaming the coffee that is Vanilla Moka-flavored.  Oh, and I changed the spelling of “moka” too.

I also gave it some hopefully intelligent defaults, indicated by the green lights.  I made the assumption that stronger drip coffee made from Bean #1 would be the most consumed beverage by software developers.  Naturally, some surveying could help inform that, but hey, this was 30 minutes we’re talking about. 

I also gave Coffee 1, 2, & 3 proper labels so shorties like me do not have to jump to see them.  Lastly, I separated the non-coffee drinks so they are no longer buried, and so that users realize that they do not have to wade through all the coffee-related options to get either a hot chocolate or hot water.

I tried not to get too involved with visual design or color, but do think that that could help cluster/organize the information better.

So here we go…


(btw, Avalon Gourmet manufacturer, either you don’t want people to find you, or you should rethink your SEO).


Share with others