December 22, 2006
My latest UI gripe: physical buttons that change their function when you press and hold, versus just pressing. Three case studies as of late:
- One grey lining to the silver cloud of the Wii's innovative controller schemes is that they've ditched the traditional "start" button, and while every game seems to respect the "home" button that takes you to a system menu and offers to totally reset the game (almost like power-cycling), there doesn't seem to be a single convention for an "in game pause menu" that might offer to, say, end the current match and return to the previous menu. The Plus button seems to be a non-universal standard for it, but games like "Super Monkey Ball" ignored it. Or seemed to... through trial and much error I finally figured out it's press and hold of the Plus button. That's irritating! The button serves no other use during the game, and it's not in place where it's likely to be pressed accidentally. So why do that? What possible benefit is there in making people think "this button does nothing"? Is the needed prolonged hold a way of expressing the sincerity of our desire to stop the game?
- My car radio's tuning feature. By default, pressing up or down adjusts the tuning .2 degrees on FM or whatever. Like most modern cars, it has a "seek" function, which kicks in after a second or two after pressing and holding the button. Now, given what a huge percentage of the time is spent driving near home, and at any given moment people likely have a big selection of strong radio signals to choose from (rather than having to fiddle and tuning in a station that's almost out of range), how smart is it to have the default be "tweak this tuning" rather than "find me another damn station"? And when you're trying to "channel surf" radio stations, the extra second of delay is infuriating. You listen, judge the content in like a quarter to half a second, go to move on, and listen to whatever crap you just rejected for another second or so, 'til the thing beeps and moves on to the next station...
- Ksenia's grandfather's radio... he asked me to set the clock for it. Now, clock-setting is a whole 'nother ball of bad-UI wax, but having to press. And hold. And hold the button labeled "Clock/Sleep/Timer" was just not something Ksenia's grandfather was going to stumble on by himself.
Dumb UI designers: making your life a little worse in a thousand little ways.