Velcro Wall Socket - good intentions, but no results...

This concept, from designers Kwei Shan & Tao Yuan, on Yanko Design and through Gizmodo, is to affix unplugged wall warts to a Velcro border around the power socket. The goal , as stated by the designers, is to make it more convenient to unplug wall warts when not in use - thereby encouraging users to do just that, in turn saving energy. But man oh man, is there a mighty chasm between the design and the goal! Let's look at the problems here:

Unplugging a device is the least convenient way to turn it off. Power buttons on the devices themselves are usually sufficient (except for power vampires, a species which should be nearing extinction in the next few years), and when they're not, a switch-controlled power socket (ooh, turn-of-the-20th-century technology here!) definitely does the trick. But pulling a plug... it's just not pleasant. Sometimes they stick too much, sometimes they're too loose. There's often that unnerving little spark that reminds you of the danger of the electricity involved. It would take a lot to convince users to do this on a regular basis.

The "suggestion" is lost, because the socket is hidden. The power to make users change their behavior comes not just from increased convenience, but from the design suggesting the behavior to the user. (For more on this concept, check out previous post The Cues We Use - and for an example of a well-executed convenience-and-suggestion double whammy see The House-Off Switch, which is also probably the best solution to this same problem!) But sockets are usually hidden, behind furniture or appliances - and if not actually hidden, they're at least below our plane of awareness. Not many people are looking down at the floorboards to check out power sockets. In any case, if you're looking to suggest a behavior to users, power sockets are about the least effective location you can find!

Um, sticking the plug to the wall isn't any more convenient than just dropping the darn thing on the floor!
Yeah, look at that image of the design. How is having the plug stuck to the socket any better than having it resting five inches away on the floor? I've got nothin.


Anonymous said...

It is a nice concept but I can´t see any advantages of using it.
In fact, it´s a terrible solution for those who have dogs or cats at home.
Can you imagine how much fur, hair and dust would be stucked there after a month?
I really would not enjoy cleaning those kind of sockets.

Dave Gustafson said...

Good call, Rafael. After a few months in the real world, very few designs look as clean and shiny as they do in ID renderings - especially those with cosmetically exposed Velcro!