Tuesday, January 28, 2003

Bad Designs: Turn Down the TV

Bad Designs: Turn Down the TV
[人因工程 ]

Bad Designs: Turn Down the TV

You are sitting in front of the TV, and want to turn down the sound. You grab the remote control, scan for the button with the down-arrow and push it. The TV gets louder! You pushed the up-arrow button instead of the down-arrow button. Why?

The letter "V" for volume is on the two volume control buttons. Although the buttons are shaped like up- and down-arrows for increasing and decreasing the volume, the letter "V" looks like a down-arrow. When you are scanning the remote control for a down-arrow, you see the "V" as a down-arrow, and press it. Unfortunately, the first "V" you see is on the up-arrow!

Design Recommendations:

Instead of the large "V" as a label on the volume control buttons, "Vol" in smaller letters could be used. In general, a control's features such as placement, shape, labeling, size, etc. need to work together to convey how to use the control. In this example, the shape and label convey conflicting information.

Editor's Comments:

The non-intuitive layout of the remote control mentioned above is unfortunately quite common. When the factory remote that came with one of the TV sets in my own household finally wore out after almost a decade of hard use, I searched for a replacement. Because the set was so old -- by today's standards, even the manufacturer's official repair station in Taipei was unable to supply me with a factory original duplicate. They sold me an aftermarket clone instead, which turned out to be electronically incompatible with my set and had to be returned. I had little choice but to go to Kuang Hua Computer Market in search of a replacement. Aftermarket replacements were plentiful, I discovered. One shop specializing in electronic accessories had about 30 different makes of aftermarket remotes on display. The problem was not quantity, but quality. None were going to win any awards for excellence in product design, and all exhibited at least one major human factors engineering defect. One cost NT$300, looked reasonably well made on the exterior, but its membrane keyboard stopped working after only 3 months. The out of production factory original cost NT$1000 and lasted 9 years. The aftermarket substitute cost NT$300, but lasted only 3 months. It was no bargain. If you were expecting a happy ending to this story, I'm sorry to have to disappoint you. Well designed, well made products in this category are nowhere to be found.

-- Bevin Chu

Explanation: Bad Designs: Turn Down the TV
Illustration: Turn Down the TV
Author: Michael J. Darnell
Affiliation: Bad Human Factors Designs
Source: www.baddesigns.com
Publication Date: 1998-1999
Original Language: English
Editor: Bevin Chu, Registered Architect

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