Observation Study


Theme Focus: Straining

I created a very informal focus group with some friends. I made it like a discussion and had them build off each others thoughts and stories. I used the following questions as prompts to encourage discussion.

  • Tell a story you have about using a strainer
  • Explain 2 pros and 2 cons about strainers
  • Describe the strainer you own
  • Comment on the storage of your strainer
  • What would you do if you did not own a strainer?

Sample Responses-

  • I once set a strainer on the stove and the hot air vent melted the plastic. Now the holes are not all the same size.
  • My strainer holes are too big. When I make spaghetti, the noodles fall through.
  • I have very small holes in my strainer, but they get clogged a lot. It would be nice to have multiple layers that would filter big pieces and small pieces.
  • I have one strainer that folds flat to store, but its really hard to clean because food gets stuck in the folding grooves.
  • I can never find a good place to store my strainer because it is so bulky.

I looked at different models of strainers and watched 2 of my friends while they used them (I tried my best to observe without interfering)

The first person was straining spaghetti and got burnt by the hot steam. The strainer had feet to sit in the bottom of the sink, but the sink was full of dishes so it could not be used as intended. The handles on the strainer were part of the rim and forced his hand to be right next to the steaming hot water while he poured.


The second person I watched was filtering grains and hops from wort (beer mixture) . The strainer he used had a small metal grid with a long handle. Due to the small holes, the grains continued to clog the strainer and forced him to clean it out every several minutes. This seemed very frustrating for him and took a lot of time.


I made a storyboard of straining pasta. This allowed me to think through my experiences with strainers and how I interact with them.


I also performed the storyboard chain of events to remind me of all the problems that occur when straining. I personally hate using strainers because they are a huge pain to wash and get clean. As an alternative, I use a grated spoon to prevent the noodles from escaping. Recently, I lost half of my pasta to the dirty sink because of this method. I need a better option, but still can't convince myself to deal with using a strainer.


Areas for Improvement:
The three major problems I found are listed below.

  1. Hole size is never right
  2. Cleaning strainers is too difficult
  3. Strainer storage is a pain (including drying rack storage)


I have a gigantic strainer and can totally sympathize with this post. Cleaning that thing is such a pain...

My parents have a really awesome strainer, it came with their pasta pot. It fits right into the pot, has handles, when the pasta is done you just pull it out and can strain the noodles without double handling anything. I always get scared I'm gonna drop a pot full of boiling water when I make the walk from the stove to the sink.

But back to your blog - could you make a strainer that folds up and adjusts the size of the holes depending on how stretched out it is? Although having any moving parts would make it way harder to clean.

Also - good idea of having people tell stories together, thinking of something by yourself is kind of hard, but when other people start telling stories it helps you remember things you've noticed.

You should collaborate with Brittany; different topics, but still very similar.

I would agree with all the problems of strainers that you found, but perhaps you might have found more by getting a little more detailed on the storyboard, namely the cleaning part of it. I'd be interested in the types of things people do to try and clean it. Do they try and blast it with water pressure, use a hose extension thing, stab at it with a brush, scrub vigorously, etc. ?

I think you followed the flow of events well though, and hopefully, I'd imagine, many people remember the last time they used a strainer.

Perhaps you could also think of the essence of what is going on... like "separating a liquid from a solid" and find other ways this is done. I could envision processes from chemistry to road construction. Maybe there is some really cool way of centrifuging that could reduce the amount of cleaning needed afterwards.

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This page contains a single entry by gilbe503 published on September 25, 2011 1:59 PM.

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