This Is All Your App Is: a Collection of Tiny Details

Fair warning: this is a blog post about automated cat feeders. Sort of. But bear with me, because I'm also trying to make a point about software. If you have a sudden urge to click the back button on your browser now, I don't blame you. I don't often talk about cats, but when I do, I make it count.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original blog entry at:

I have to ask: why do your cats observe DST?

The DST is bugging me as well. I understand this makes sense when you are feeding your pet manually, but what difference does it make if a dispenser does it for you? Apart from producing very annoyed cats, twice a year, of course.

First photo: duct tape WIN!

Having just finished Alan Cooper’s “The Inmates are Running the Asylum”, it’s not JUST the details, but getting the right details correct. This sounds like a great example of design from the user’s perspective and I’d have loved to be inside that company when they were planning Cat Feeder - CF2.

1 Like

I couldn’t agree more!

This is exactly why I started

1 Like

I am surprised the bowls are side by side. I don’t know much about cats but I’d have thought that a dominant cat would scare off the other and eat both rations. I’ve seen this happen with dogs

On this I can finally agree, Jeff. It’s a very good post too.

Doug also brings up a good point that in a way you left out. Identifying the right details to be dealt with in our software is of primary importance.

The sad thing is that in most cases you’re going to be completely unaware of the little details that annoy your users.

It’s only in the cases like StackOverflow in which you’re reaching a huge audience that you’ll actually receive sufficient feedback. So it helps to have UX experts on your team. I haven’t done this yet, but it should also help to conduct some usability testing as Steve Krug demonstrates here…

My roommate sees your automated cat feeder and raises you a self-cleaning litter box. (I’m not positive it’s this one - - but it looks close).

At this point the cat isn’t really a pet, so much as a roommate who doesn’t pay her share of the rent. :slight_smile:

1 Like
1 Like

Good read. On living with cats: take a look at

Your cats will love you for it.

If you’re going to go down the automatic litterbox route (which you should, unless the cats can go outdoors for that) there is really only one choice: The Litter Robot. I did the CatGenie, the Littermaid, and the ScoopFree and they all pretty much suck. Various problems with each. The CatGenie is probably the worst because it stays on for like 20 minutes every time the clean cycle starts. Massive energy hog. The others are super noisy and need to be cleaned a lot.

I’ve had the Litter Robot for about a year now and haven’t even cleaned it once. It’s the best.

Also, note that when I built my house, I had put a cat closet in there specially plumbed for the CatGenie, so I REALLY wanted it to work. Massive disappointment.

I’m still waiting on the Stackover feature that allows me to add questions to my queue/favorites so I can find them later.

Sometimes there are good posts that I’d like to bookmark.


StackOverflow already has favorites. Just click the little star next to a question.

I kid you not, I was reading this in the trusty Google Reader, and the VERY next item in my reader was the following Dilbert cartoon:

Jeff, please rephrase “the final solution” in this post.
It’s still not appropriate outside WW2 history contexts, in my opinion.

Hi Jeff, thank you for an informative post.

It’s important to note that positive examples can be a lot more powerful in conveying the message than a negative ones.

case in point.

I wonder if Jeff has the same effect as Stephen. Will the PetMate Le Bistro get the “Atwood Bump”?

Curious: Why do you think you waited five years to replace a device that you felt had so many “downright terrible” design details?