We all know examples of bad design in software user-interfaces. Today I just remembered some non-IT cases that always amuse me. Mainly because I’m talking about hardware UI design (which is costly to change, so some extra care should be taken) and, even worse, related to car safety.
The first one is popular among older Renault Clio owners. I once had a 2003 model that had the worse positioned horn button in a steering wheel. See picture above:
Believe or not, the horns are those two round and small buttons on the left and right sides. The only situation that it could be used was when holding the wheel in a straight 10:10 position. I found my self several times in need to horn to warn pedestrian when making a curve. Imagine pursuiting those damn buttons in a difficult situation. I got frustrated every single time.
The Renault Clio also had the lazy approach to place the glass windows’ switches just above the gear stick in the center console. A friend of mine cannot fully extend her left arm, so she had to use her right arm when riding in the passenger seat. Doing that, she had to dangerously lean forward, with her head close enough to the dashboard. Besides the sure bumping when braking, the seatbelt was also loose.
Well, new Renault Clio models seem to have them fixed, but I cannot understand how the basics of safety was completely overlooked in this case.
The other example still haunts me. I bought an Alpine head unit for my car very similar to this CDE-100 one. I should have guessed that something was wrong because it was a returned item (quite a bargain: only used for two days, full warranty, 40% discount, bought in a major department store).
The catch was that the volume knob opened the audio adjusting menu when slightly pressed. It’s completely absurd. The volume knob is used all the time: a weird music come up, the commercial ads suddenly burst a higher volume, you want to talk to someone in the back seat, you just need some silence.
You reach the volume knob but accidentaly press it. And it happens very easily and all the time. You cannot use the button as a support for you hand or else you press it. That is, you have to leave the hand just floating over the knob. The smallest bump on the road and “click”.
There you go, the menu shows options for bass, fader, balance and so on. The knob does not control the volume anymore. You try to cycle through all the options but miss to stop in volume again. The escape button is really small and you have to press it for some seconds to exit the config menu. Major distraction when driving.
The power off button is also one of those that don’t want to be functional. It’s the same button to cycle the source (tuner, aux, disc, ipod), but you have to press and hold it for an eternity. It’s annoying that it makes you wait right when you are in a hurry. It takes me three seconds to shutdown the engine, unfasten my seatbelt, remove the key and unlock the doors. Plus ten seconds to try to turn off the radio, fail, select aux, try again, timeout, select disc, disc start playing, try again, fail, finally just remove the front cover and put it aside.
Well, although this post is sort of off-topic, it has some valuable lessons. Plus, I finally got this all out of my chest!