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Monday, May 08, 2006


This is my wallet:

Here's the inside:

You can see some bills sticking up from the pocket on the right. The left pocket contains change. Behind each of these pockets, there is some space for credit cards, etc.

This design has some nice aspects to it. It's very convenient in some respects - it's slim and allows me to quickly flash ID because of the clear pocket. The material is also pretty good. Canvas is inexpensive, but still looks fine and is fairly light and durable.

Such a simple design is appealing, but turns out to not really meet my needs. The basic issue here is access to the stuff in the wallet: whether it's bills, coins, credit cards, or ID, everything in the wallet is severely crammed together and hard to access. I have to really work to get into the pocket sometimes, and because everything is all packed together I have to rifle through everything in the wallet to find what I want. The upside of this, if you like, is that it encourages users to carry less junk in their wallet – which is a known problem with some people, whose wallets balloon to dangerous sizes with reciepts, photos, etc. (I prefer to put these other objects in my pocket and then forget about them, picking them out of the laundry weeks later.) But this is a rather hostile attitude for a designer to take. Nielsen argues that design should accomodate advanced users, but be accessible to everyone, and forcing users to conform to a standard of wallet organization doesn't follow that principle.

There's a less philosophical problem with the simple design, too:

Note the emerging coins. When you turn the wallet the wrong way, stuff in the pockets (for instance, money) is likely to fall out. This has led to some embarrassing situations for me, so I've basically learned to carry the wallet the right way up. But there's no indication to anyone else that handling it the wrong way will spill change all over the floor. Sacrificing a modicum of simplcity by adding a zipper or even a couple snap buttons for a change pocket would make this wallet a lot less of a hassle. Of course, I'm too cheap to get a new one.