All Geek to Me

August 26, 2007

Alarming Developments in UI Design

Filed under: Geek Stuff — britinla @ 4:22 pm

Designing a UI for a complex computer application is obviously a challenging task. Creating a UI for a basic piece of household electronics should be far simpler. However, judging by my alarm-clock, it is still a sufficient challenge for it to be done wrong.

There are two switches on the back of the clock. One turns the alarm on and off, the other adjusts the brightness of the display. When the alarm is active, there is a light on the display. One of the two switches is immediately behind this indicator; it is not the switch that controls the alarm and its associated light. In the haze of the alarm ended sleep I have on several occasions attempted to end the beeping, but merely dimmed the display.

In the US, dates are written in a partially reversed format, mm/dd/yy rather than dd/mm/yy. Time is still written as would one expect, with hours placed before minutes. My alarm clock’s display honours this standard. The buttons below the display that adjust the time and the alarm time do not. The button for the minutes is below the hour digit of the display and is to the left of the hour button.

A alarm clock needs to have the following features:
a) Display the time
b) Wake you at a specified time
c) Allow you to turn the alarm on and off
d) Set the time
e) Set the alarm time.
This alarm clock manages to deliver two of these five features in a sensible way, but fails a basic UI test in the other three.

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