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.

Rate this comment as insightful
Rate this comment as funny
You have rated this comment as insightful
You have rated this comment as funny
Flag this comment as abusive/trolling/spam
You have flagged this comment
The first word has already been claimed
The last word has already been claimed
Insightful Lightbulb icon Funny Laughing icon Abusive/trolling/spam Flag icon Insightful badge Lightbulb icon Funny badge Laughing icon Comments icon

Comments on “Gadgets Are Too Confusing”

Subscribe: RSS Leave a comment
goneaway (user link) says:

a couple different ways to look at this.

You can look at from the geek point of view which means:

  1. Try to read the documentation. This is becoming more difficult all the time as manuals,handbooks seem to be shrinking at the same rate as the actual gadgets. More often than not the manual you get is tersely written and all but useless.
  2. Google. I’m always amazed at how effective it is just to literally type a question into a Google search. More than half the time I get at least one useful link back from the query.
  3. Pound on the thing until it breaks or works. This would probably be the first method in the geeky methodology. The buttons must do something right? Poke. Poke.

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.

todd says:

agreed, but...

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.

The Misanthrope (user link) says:


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!”

Add Your Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Have a Techdirt Account? Sign in now. Want one? Register here

Comment Options:

Make this the or (get credits or sign in to see balance) what's this?

What's this?

Techdirt community members with Techdirt Credits can spotlight a comment as either the "First Word" or "Last Word" on a particular comment thread. Credits can be purchased at the Techdirt Insider Shop »

Follow Techdirt

Techdirt Daily Newsletter

Techdirt Deals
Techdirt Insider Discord
The latest chatter on the Techdirt Insider Discord channel...