Yes, things are still broken
Here are just a few things that came across my radar in the last twenty-four hours.
My thesis is that digital interactions demand more organized and situationally smart displays. My other point is that it's not hard to avoid broken if you pay attention to the way people actually use what you make.
And a place for you to suggest your own broken.
What time is it?
Just added this one today. Why does the electronic train sign tell me the date but not the time?
How many commuters need to know the date? EVERY commuter needs to know the time.
Pearson! Stop torturing students
They make millions of dollars a year selling answer sheets and workbooks to schools. And yet...
Try to imagine checking your work using this answer key.
How often do you find yourself going DOWN the columns (the way your eye naturally follows) instead of across, which is what someone who didn't think about this for two seconds decreed.
The incredible thing for me is that years into the process, no one has ever cared enough to fix it.
Sirius XM, the data is there...
Let us see it.
Here's the dashboard display for the Sirius XM in the Subaru. We're talking tens of thousands of cars.
Almost all the space in the display is devoted to a picture of a satellite (!), the black bar that says XM2 (which means nothing in particular), the word "preset", the number 2, the code "CH Number" and then, perhaps usefully, the number 26.
Redundantly, in big type, the dashboard tells us the "category" "CH name" "Title" and "Name". Isn't this obvious?
Then, after wasting more than 70% of the screen, the actual data is crowded in the remaining space.
Back to the Subaru
As you can see, when the station changes, almost nothing at all on the screen changes. That's the first rule of a persistent display--anything that doesn't change isn't important.
Since so much of the screen is wasted, we don't even get to see the full name of what we're listening to.
Of course, we DO get to see that clever illustration of a satellite.
Here's the thing about a high-resolution screen: You can use color. You can use nice typefaces. You can use icons and logos and other mnemonics.
And one more time with the Sirius...
Here's the screen from the Prius. In this case, 70% of the screen is wasted again, but in new and different ways.
For example, what's the point of numbering the presets 1,2,3,4,5 and 6? There is no controller anywhere in the car with numbered buttons, so the numbers have no purpose.
Why repeat "ch" in front of each channel?
And why number the channels? Is "123" the best way for me to remember what's on this particular channel? A picture of a dancing bear or three or four initials might be a much easier way to remember what's what, as opposed to having the memorize the 18 or more channels I might frequent, no?
The right side of the screen is black, plenty of room to list the entire name of the program, but nope, it's cut off after 16 characters. Why? Surely there's enough bandwidth to tell me what's playing.
In summary: someone hurried their way through this design, the committee dumbed it down without testing it, and since it's a car, no one is ever going to change it, so I'm going to be irked every single time I turn on the car!
The long lost Broken speech
This talk was given exactly once, without rehearsal. Once I got it off my chest, I felt so much better.