Bitter Grounds Magazine

espresso fueled ramblings

Written by catpaw

October 29, 2020

Irritating Swiffer vacuum user-design flaw

Each time I use a Swiffer vacuum, I get annoyed. It has a user-design flaw that is obvious, I’m surprised it wasn’t spotted on the drafting board. It’s funny, people rarely think about the process of taking an idea from concept to market as design. Making something work isn’t enough. Asking the big question “can be used without a hassle” is equally important.  The human usability factor is a crucial step in any product design. We don’t think about it until we’re faced with a product that becomes irritating to do the simplest things, like turning it on and off.

The Swiffer Vacuum

The Swiffer Vacuum has one flaw that drives me up a wall every single time I use it. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a good lightweight vacuum. We bought it a few years back for my Mom when the arthritis in her hands made using a heavy vacuum difficult. It’s easy to maneuver, and efficient at picking up fluff and grit. What more do we need in a vacuum, right?

Basic design flaw in the Swiffer vac

What is the flaw? The button placement is wrong.

Photo of a Swiffer vacuum handle

On/off switch for a Swiffer vacuum

Swiffer calls the handle “Easy Grip – It’s easy, trust us.” Not so fast sparky!  Yes, it’s easy to grab, but the button placement is wrong. The on/off switch is placed where the average user rests their thumb. If you look at it in isolation, it looks fine. But, using it highlights an elementary problem. The designers didn’t take into consideration how people grab the handle.

Photo of a Swiffer Vacuum handle showing how thumb always rests on it

Silly spot for an off switch

Theoretically, I could grip it from the upper portion only but that isn’t efficient. Without placing a thumb on the arc of the handle where the switch rests, the Swiffer Vacuum is harder to maneuver. The thumb stabilizes the vacuum and makes it easier to guide under tables. This flaw pops up every time the vacuum is turned on an angle. The placing means the vacuum is constantly shut off when in use.

Thoughts on why the button is badly placed

Perhaps if my hands were larger this may not be an issue. I tend to lean more towards the notion that enough thought wasn’t given to how people grip the handle. Holding it along the grip only is inefficient, hence the reason the thumb drifts down the handle to the button. Regardless, the on/off should have been moved approx. 1/2″ lower. It’s simply too high.

The Swiffer Vacuum isn’t a bad machine. On the contrary, it’s handy and efficient, especially for people who have difficulties because of limited hand motion. Also, the super lightweight means it’s easy to move around and get under spaces.  This single issue is frustrating every time I chase dust bunnies and I find myself swearing at the vacuum quite a bit.

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