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Inspired by the Uninspired

Inspired by the Uninspired

August 08, 2008 0 Comments

Overly complicating things is not an accomplishment, no matter how hard it appears someone's worked to complicate the simplest things.

Take grocery shopping. Simple, right? Pick food, get in line, pay at register. Doesn't get much easier.

Except at Whole Foods.

At Whole Foods you have to pick one of several lines, each color coded. Then, register numbers appear on a screen with three colored vertical lines and you have to match the color in your line (which is only displayed where you enter the line, not where you stand on line) to the color on the screen. If the register number displays on the color of your line, you get to pay for your groceries.

I swear, at my Whole Foods the colors of the lines don't match the colors on the screens. Is the product manager color blind? Were there two different unions involved? Didn't they check before they installed it? When I asked a worker in the store, he laughed and said "Yeah, I know. But, look, it's not one of the other two colors, so it must be the color of your line." For real.

So, the simple process (get in line, pay) involves six lines, seven if you count the express line (don't ask me how that works), two TV screens, three colors repeated each twice, and 24 registers (numbered, but not color coded). To heck with queuing theory, we have colors!

I want to meet the guy (or gal) that designed this system! I would pat him on the back and with admiration in my eye be like "you are one creative dude."

And I bet if I took him out for a drink, he'd explain each and every feature of the checkout line and each corner case it was designed for. I'm sure he'd apologize for the mismatched colors, but... hey things happen. In checkout line 2.0, the colors'll match.

SOA What? Well, I think this guy got too wrapped up in the art of checkout lines and got a little (OK, A LOT!) carried away. But, we all do that. Humans are a creative and proud lot... even the dumb ones.

What does this mean to your SOA infrastructure? Well, take a step back and look at your infrastructure (SOA or otherwise). Ask your users where it's too complicated - they'll be happy to tell you. And if you're lucky, like checkout line guy, they may even buy you a drink while they do.

What does it mean to me? Well, I have to be satisfied that my adventure in queuing-theory-less shopping was much more exciting than Giles' adventure in boardroom statistics.

david bressler

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