"Occasionally, I would get the munchies and stroll down to the vending machine. I'd plunk in my quarters, press 4 and then 5 on the selection keypad, and watch in horror as the machine spit out jalapeno-flavored bubble gum instead of the Grandma's Peanut Butter Cookie I thought I'd asked for. Of course, the machine was right and I was wrong -- number 45 was the gum. A quick look at the little sign by the cookie would always verify my mistake: No.21,45.
"That candy machine always infuriated me because if the engineers had spent an extra 30 seconds thinking about their design, they could have saved me, and I'm sure countless others, from getting something they didn't want. If one of the engineers had thought, 'Hmmm. People are going to turn to the keypad and mistakenly enter the price instead of the selection number. To prevent that from happening, we should use an alphabetic keypad instead of a numeric one.'
"The machine wouldn't have cost any more to make, and the improvement wouldn't have changed the design in any appreciable way, but every time I turned to the keypad to punch in 45, I would find I couldn't and so be reminded to punch in the letter code. The interface design would have led people to do the right thing.
"When you design function interfaces, you face similar problems. Unfortunately, programmers aren't often trained to think about how other programmers will use their functions, but as with the candy machine, a trivial difference in design can either cause bugs or prevent them."