Gadgets Are Too Confusing
from the what-does-this-button-do? dept
A few months back I finally got a digital camera. It’s a nice model with lots and lots of features. I have no idea how to use 95% of them. It took me forever just to figure out how to take a basic picture – and even then it’s not always completely clear what I’m doing. And I’m someone who loves playing around with gadgets. It seems this problem is getting worse as gadget makers are infected with featuritis. They add all sorts of features because features sell products – but the products become unusable. Most of the features are ignored, and most consumers have trouble figuring out the most basic operations (the article gives the example of trying to program your favorite radio station in a new BMW). I’m wondering if these gadget makers have any usability people on staff at all.
Comments on “Gadgets Are Too Confusing”
No Subject Given
Just curious – What camera did you get?
Re: No Subject Given
It’s an Olympus C-700. Relatively small. Has an amazing 10x optical zoom (one feature that I could figure out). I do like it quite a bit, now that I’ve figured out the basic stuff. I figure that over time I’ll figure out some of the other features.
Re: Re: Cool
Cool! I was seriously tempted by the C700, that 10x zoom looks awesome! Ended up with the Canon Powershot S100, I can fit that one in my pocket.
And I don’t understand at least 75% of it’s features either 🙂
a couple different ways to look at this.
You can look at from the geek point of view which means:
One cool thing (I mean not as cool as documenting features) is that a lot of gadget company websites host web boards to let users help each other out. This is probably advantageous for all parties involved. The usual method of putting people on the phones with a copy of the same manual that you get with the product and calling this support seems to be the usual modus operandi.
The Sony digital camera we got at xmas had to pass the “Michelle” test before we bought it. They (and I’m sure some other companies) have figured out that most people use 5% of the features, so when the camera is in the “big green point and shoot icon” mode, it does all the work for you — just point and click.
XP makes digital photography very easy, too; it automatically recognizes that we’ve stuck a memory stick in the mouse, and asks what we’d like to do with the images.
Now, I like to play with those other 95% of features (sepia filter, 3 exposure burst, auto-bracketing, aperature priority, etc.), but Michelle has zero interest, so the camera usually stays in “big green icon” mode.
I think Sony did it right, but for a pretty penny — the cost per mega pixel is higher than others. For us, it was the only way to get simplicity and quality.
Need we look any further than software for a fine example of this epidemic? And for a change, notice I’m not saying “Microsoft.” (Although MS is certainly far from innocent – no pun intended – beginning with what they’re calling an “operating system” these days.) Even the once-upon-a-time elegant for its simplicity Intuit’s Quicken has become a bloated mess of “features,” many of which confuse “user friendly” with dumbed down. If I wanted a game of managing finances I’d play Monopoly.
Just because today’s hardware has the horsepower (and the disk space), must we use every little bit of it? I understand that added “features” equals something for marketing to sell us – heaven forbid obsolescence be enough – but enough already! Perhaps the pendulum will swing, and the next wave of stuff will be “New! Improved! Simpler! Less confusing!”
Grow into it
I found my camera (Canon A-20) confusing when I first got it but found that many of the features were ones I needed once I found a situation they worked in. (say didn’t the manual say I could…..)