The usability of everyday stuff

Yesterday I went down to a client’s with one of my team members to start a new project. He rented a car and ended up with a Mazda 7. While driving, we tried to adjust the temperature in the car but had little success.

Mazda 5 climate controls

The dashboard offers 3 dials – 3 – yes 3, for adjusting the temperature and feedback is given to the user in a digital display near the windshield. I adjusted the left dial towards the cold – to cut the heat as it was hot. Then I turned on the AC in the far right dial. Still hot. The middle dial had a thing called MODE which you pushed to activate rather than turned – circular implies turning and the other two dials turned so this was confusing. Every time I pushed MODE it turned off the AC and the turned off the fan controlled by the first dial. MODE moved from defrost to dash blower to foot blower. You would think it wouldn’t have any effect on whether AC was on or not or how hot or cold the setting was or whether or not the fan was on or not. But it did.

Two interaction designers could not decipher the labels and the combination of turns and buttons to get a comfortable temperature in this car so we just opened the windows while the heat blasted.

I can only imagine the frustration of a single driver having to pay attention to the road and wonder if the car designers ever actually sat in the car and tried to adjust the temperature while they were driving.

This reminded me of my alarm clock which has the most annoying feature. I like to snooze in the morning. Most people hit snooze before they are awake, often while it is still dark and usually when their eyes are closed and their dexterity is less than great due to being asleep.

This means a nice large snooze button is in order, so you can slap it without looking and sleep a little longer.

Unfortunately for me, the alarm reset button is right next to the snooze and if my aim is not right on I accidently hit that which not only turns the alarm off, but resets it for the next day. This means it won’t go off in 9 minutes but in 24 hrs which is not what I intended.

Again, I have to wonder if the designers did any usability or human factors testing in context when they made this clock?

current: experience matters design :: senior level interaction design and systems strategy consulting former partner, tangible user experience; Yahoo! founder of the public and internal Yahoo! pattern library. design director of ued teams responsible for designing solutions across key yahoo! platforms: social media, personalization, membership and vertical search.