Friday, June 20, 2014

Why the World Needs a Better Butter Tray

Around this time last year, when the two of us set up house together, we bought a butter dish.

What’s important about a butter dish?

Actually, the butter dish are very important, along with salt-and-pepper shakers and candle holders. The butter dish may be the one thing we use every day, apart from the fridge and the oven, of

When I was growing up, butter was important for my family. We used it in the morning to fry our eggs. We used it in the evening to butter muffins.

My family had a couple different butter trays, but the main one was a beige plastic tub. It had a flat tray with a semi-rough texture for us to set the stick of butter on, and it had a flat-topped cover that snapped over the tray.

Why am I even thinking about this?

Last year, I married a UX designer. UX designer means user-experience designer, or someone who tries to make sure people can use the product the way it’s meant to be used—without tearing their hair out in agony. The term applies mainly to programs IT people use, but someone out there is responsible for designing butter dishes.

Over the years, my family dumped the butter on the floor several times—both with and without the cover on. Sometimes the cover kept the butter from making a mess. We washed the greasy butter off the tray countless times. We tried not to get it messy, but the lid usually stuck a bit. Most of the time, as we pried the lid off, one corner would bump into the butter. It the butter was soft, the lid got especially greasy, and we’d have to wash it even more frequently, soaping away the butter and crumbs, before unwrapping a fresh stick of butter and setting it carefully in the center of the tray.

So last year, my husband and I made a special point of getting a butter tray. We even picked out a glass one. We picked out one without a snap-on lid, thinking it would be a nice tray for every day and special use, easy to use, easy to clean, and easy to keep clean.

We were wrong.

The lid doesn’t snap on, but it doesn’t have a handle either. We can’t lift it straight up and down, so to use it, we have to slide the lid until we get a solid grip and lift it off.

The bigger problem, though, is the tray’s size. With something designed specifically for butter, you might expect the tray’s designer or manufacturer to find a stick of butter and measure it to make sure it actually fit into the tray’s proto-type.

One brand of butter does fit okay, because it’s a longer, thinner stick of butter. Most butter, though, comes in short, stubby sticks. The lid on our butter tray is about a millimeter too short for those brands of butter.

I refuse to buy a different brand of butter just to get a stick of butter that fits into the butter tray. I’m also not going to shave the top millimeter off every stick of butter I put into the tray. So, our butter tray will inevitably have a thin streak of butter across the top of the lid.

Someone out there failed, and because I married a UX designer, I now notice things like that.

I also notice little things about websites, like the site that has its log-in box only on the front page, in a small sidebar of the front page, and the other sites where you can’t log out—you can only click the little tab meant for “if you’re not the person who’s claiming to be logged in.”

Good design is important, and the world will build a path to the door of the designer who builds a better butter tray.

I guess you can say it's been a good year, though, if that's all I can find to complain about.

(Also, it’s true that you should choose your friends wisely…because the people you hang out with will affect you, sooner or later.)


BerlinerinPoet said...

Reminds me....we need a butter tray...

Audrey Sauble said...

They are a lot easier than keeping butter on a plate--just make sure you find one with a handle!

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