Might Have Kept That VCR If It Stopped Blinking 12:00

from the product-design-for-the-masses dept

We've all seen various gadgets with the worst interfaces imaginable -- and wondered who in the world designed them. While many readers of this site are likely to be technology-oriented, and more willing to put up with bad user interface design, that's not so true for many other people. A new study has found that the inability to figure out how a device works in about 20 minutes leads to approximately half of all returns blamed on the product "malfunctioning." In other words, in the minds of many consumers, the fact that they can't figure out the gadget (and the 600 page, poorly written, manual doesn't help matters) means that the gadget is malfunctioning. Maybe instead of spending so much time looking for ways to allow things like our mobile phones to control our toaster ovens, some of these companies should put a little effort into a better user experience. There have been some stories about more emphasis on user interface, but it would appear there's still a long way to go.
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  • identicon
    Jim D., 6 Mar 2006 @ 11:17am

    I actually

    FIRST POST!! (had to say it, I never got in quick enough before...)

    I actually enjoy the challenge...but thats me and I'm a geek...

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    dorpus, 6 Mar 2006 @ 11:37am

    Alarm Clock

    Will there ever be an alarm clock where you don't have to scroll through 23 hours, if you want to set the alarm an hour earlier?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Mar 2006 @ 12:08pm

      Re: Alarm Clock

      What about an alarm clock that lets you set a separate alarm for each day of the week?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Compujas, 6 Mar 2006 @ 12:20pm

        Re: Alarm Clock

        Actually, alarm clocks do exist that have back/forward buttons for setting the time so you don't have to scroll through 23 hours. Of course they aren't the most common, but I have seen/used them. My own alarm clock actually has a dial that you turn either way to set the time (it's VERY old, probably close to 15 years old and it still works, Dual Alarm even, leading to my next point). There are alarms that are at least dual-alarm capable, and I believe I may have once seen a clock with an alarm for each day, but I can't confirm that for sure.

        As for the point at hand, all the fun is in learning how to use your new gadget(s). That's how you know when you need to buy something new: once you've learned it, all the fun is gone and it's time for a new one to learn. Digital cameras are and endless source of learning "wtf does this button do." Home theater systems too. So many settings.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        PodissRT, 6 Mar 2006 @ 12:42pm

        Re: Alarm Clock

        A little searching turns up this 7-day programmable alarm clock. http://www.thinkgeek.com/homeoffice/lights/788e/

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        JustDave, 6 Mar 2006 @ 2:02pm

        Re:7 Day Alarm Clock

        7 Day alarm Clock I have one, it is great!

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 6 Mar 2006 @ 7:19pm

        Re: Alarm Clock

        >What about an alarm clock that lets you set a< br>>separate alarm for each day of the week?

        http://www.thinkgeek.com/homeoffice/lights/788e/

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      JR, 6 Mar 2006 @ 12:16pm

      Re: Alarm Clock

      How about an alarm clock that doesn't have a tiny little switch to turn it off, and a huge snooze button for the losers and layabouts?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        stu, 6 Mar 2006 @ 12:21pm

        Re: Alarm Clock

        well, fiddling for that useless small switch means you have to think, therefore you'll be waking up. the snooze is big for a reason. you dont want to reach out and turn your alarm off when you want a few more mins kip do you?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          anon, 6 Mar 2006 @ 12:58pm

          Re: Alarm Clock

          I'm guessing that kip is slang for sleep. Where does the word kip originate from?

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Pleh, 7 Mar 2006 @ 2:03am

            Re: Alarm Clock

            "I'm guessing that kip is slang for sleep. Where does the word kip originate from?"

            Kip translates to chicken is Dutch.
            I don't see a connection though :)

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        asnoozer, 6 Mar 2006 @ 12:22pm

        Re: Alarm Clock

        well, I have an alartm clock that automatically sets its time off the home electrical wires (dotn know the name for this technology, but it works great). It has seperate alarm modes for weekday and weekend ahd na huge snooze button. IMHO, the best alarm clakc I've owned.

        URL is attached.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 6 Mar 2006 @ 1:58pm

      Re: Alarm Clock

      Yes, I have one. Next?

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Logicbomb, 6 Mar 2006 @ 2:24pm

        Re: Alarm Clock

        bunk.

        its a combination of lack of common sense, stupidity, and poor attention span. to blame this problem entirely on poor UI design is shortsighted and ignorant of other contributing factors.

        face it - we are accustomed to wanting everything right now, from email to cellphones. that, combined with the fact that for some reason electronics companies are obsessed with compressing 14 different devices into something that can fit into your pocket, is a recipe for... well, study findings like this

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • identicon
          JoshS, 6 Mar 2006 @ 3:31pm

          Re: Alarm Clock

          It is designers with attitudes like Logicbomb that lead us into these cases of poor usability.
          In a very real sense, if a device cannot be used by the average user, it *is* malfunctioning--it's just that it's a design error rather than a failure to properly implement a technical specification.
          You can't always just blame the user when your technology is too difficult to actually use when it's needed. The writings of Don Norman enlightening on this subject. For example, using the term "pilot error" to refer to many cases where the technology was so poorly designed that even well-trained professionals didn't catch the tech-related problems.
          The bias against the user is formidable, and I view this research as the users (the important people) waking up and realizing that they are not at fault for bad design.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Avitarx, 6 Mar 2006 @ 5:01pm

      Re: Alarm Clock

      Will there ever be an alarm clock where you don't have to scroll through 23 hours, if you want to set the alarm an hour earlier?
      My cellphone is a great alarm clock, Auto updates the time, 72 hour battery backup, really loud and annoying tone, and I just hit 7 buttons to set it to any time (menu 4 1 xx:xx (time in 24 hour format) OK).
      The only problem it has is the button marked snooze is ajasent to the turn off alarm button, fortunatly any key on the keypad snoozes too. It is the best alarm clock I have ever had (though in hotels I also use a wake-up call).

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    BigTeebo, 6 Mar 2006 @ 12:25pm

    time displays

    Here's a bright idea: Most vcrs have a numeric keypad remote: why not just let me punch in the right time? No more up/down. heck, not even TIVO lets you do that with time setting to record a program.

    Yes, I had an old clock radio with an old-fashioned display, with the flipping cards(like the countdown timer in LOST). Setting that 1 hour behind was fun. 23 hours of scrolling fun.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Gan-San, 6 Mar 2006 @ 12:30pm

    Ya.... If only...

    If only people would stop being n00bs and try a little harder. :)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Jon, 6 Mar 2006 @ 12:32pm

    Are geeks dumb?

    As a geek, I think I'm less likely to put up with bad UI. I KNOW it can be done so that the UI is intuitive and helpful. If the company that made the gadget decided not to give me a good UI, why should I give them my money?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Mousky, 6 Mar 2006 @ 12:49pm

    Aim for the lowest common denominator

    A good UI and good manual goes a long way. I gave my mom a Samsung Combo VCR/DVD for Christmas. Setting it up was straightfoward. The menu system was logical and easy to use. It helped that there were not tons of options. One day the power went out and the clock reset. My mother got the manual out and was able to set the clock her self, not bad for a 63 year old Polish lady. The manual was well written as well. It uses a graphic of the remote to show you which buttons to press.

    I recently purchased a cordless phone system by Panasonic. The manual is well written and logically organized. The box inlcuded a graphic of how to repack everything should have to return the phones. Amazing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Seth, 6 Mar 2006 @ 1:31pm

    Good UI is the most important function

    Good UI design is what prompted me to choose an iPod over an IRIVER HD120 last year. I bought the iRiver first, but was frustrated by all the crappy little buttons everywhere and the complex menu system. Then I looked first-hand at an iPod, and was immediately sold. Simple menu, elegant controls, and it's soft on my skin. :)

    Sure, the iRiver cost less, had more storage space, and more features (FM radio, line in). But, when it comes down to it, what's more important? Features, or the interaction experience? To me, and probably most people, the experience is the most important thing of all.
    That said, nowadays I pretty much never use my iPod. Why? I've got XM in my car and iTunes radio at work. No playlists to juggle, nothing to plug in, nothing extra to shop for, a single button (ON) and I'm set.
    I'm all for learning the ins and outs of a new device, but lately I've been questioning the value of all this multi-functionality. If you have to hit more than two buttons to get something to work, it's just not worth it. Basically, give me one gadget for each function (music, games, phone, food) and put a big green "GO" button on each one, and I'd be all set. Just make them small enough so I can fit all of them in one pocket, please.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      John Creasy, 6 Mar 2006 @ 8:08pm

      Re: Good UI is the most important function

      Products for dummies is just encouraging the dumbing down of America. If you can't figure it out then try learning it. If you can't learn it then you don't need it.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    xdcds, 6 Mar 2006 @ 1:53pm

    Best Alarm Clock

    Any PDA (ever since the first PALMS) will serve as GREAT alarm clocks. I now have one with Windows Pocket PC, and just using the calendar, and adding a new appointment at the time you want to wake up will do wonders. You can set it to occur only on weekdays, and you can snooze, you can set custom tones, even mp3s as your wake up call.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Dosquatch, 6 Mar 2006 @ 1:53pm

    No Subject Given

    and the 600 page, poorly written, manual doesn't help

    Seriously, what's the last product you purchased that had a manual even a fraction this big? The biggest manual I've seen recently was about 40 pages long - 4 languages, 10 pages per language. My car owner's manual isn't even this big. In fact, most of the electronics I've purchased recently don't have written manuals at all, they have fold-out pictorial posters that show how to hook the device up (a practice I believe was started by HP with their printers)

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      BigBooks, 6 Mar 2006 @ 2:45pm

      Re: No Subject Given

      I purchased an mp3 player that came with two manuals. One for the device itself 142 pages (half french and english, and a second manual for the program to put things on the device that is 104 pages (again half french and english). I also have a digital camera whose manual is 150 pages. So manuals larger than 40 pages do exist.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Mike (profile), 6 Mar 2006 @ 4:39pm

      Re: No Subject Given

      Seriously, what's the last product you purchased that had a manual even a fraction this big?

      Apparently I forgot the sarcasm tags.

      However, a phone that I got did have a manual that was about 300 pages.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    GeorgeGiraffe, 6 Mar 2006 @ 2:24pm

    Apple...

    ...is the perfect example of how a positive "user experience" can make all the difference (and dollars).

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    ?, 6 Mar 2006 @ 2:38pm

    You may be onto something here.

    Even as a geek, I find myself frustrated by poor UI. Afterall, the UI is there to help increase productivity. If the UI is clumsy, then it is worthless to me.

    Case in point, Fedora Core 2, Command line interface . useradd -p [pw] [user] doesn't work! Why not? Instead of adding a user with one simple string, I have to use two different strings. While this doesn't add too much time to my day, it did take some time for me to figure out that the -p flag is worthless in this distro of Linux, and it is slightly frustrating that the people developers allowed a stupid bug like that got past their quality control department.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      ?, 6 Mar 2006 @ 2:40pm

      Re: You may be onto something here.

      When I say useradd -p [pw] [user] doesn't work, I mean the -p doesn't seem to be functional. Meaning, that I have to go through two different scripts to add a password to a users account.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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