Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Imagine the perfect microwave, iPhone and iPod

Examine a tool you frequently use. How would you reinvent it so it is a lot easier to operate?

My microwave has the following command panel. To warm up my favourite snack I press the keys [power], [3], [8], and [start]. It takes four commands to warm up my snack for 38 seconds at full power.

When you look at the control panel can you figure out which button to press first? Why not entering the time first? It does not work. You must know - or randomly try. If the microwave is in a public place for everyone to use you'd want any person to rapidly warm up their lunch box. Some microwaves are so absurdly designed we clip a paper with instructions. If you randomly tried you would set the time, date and everything you did not want - but you would not figure out how to heat up your lunch...

Now how would you design your own command panel so it fits your typical use of the machine?
  1. I'd put the [power] key at the top. User should expect to use commands from top to bottom. I have never used [defrost] anyway.

  2. If the user directly enters numbers to set the duration, assume maximal power setting. Don't require the user to press [power] first in this common case.

  3. Add some physical marks to the keys so the fingers can recognize them even if you are in the dark or visually impaired. Something the cell phone Nokia 2125i does very well - and something totally missing from the latest iPhone and iPod Touch.

And we now have my perfect microwave. Nothing complicated or expensive. How would be yours? What about your perfect cell phone, mp3 player, remote control, alarm clock, etc. ? And how do they differ from popular products such as iPhone, iPod?

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