(Dis)Ease of Use

In his June Online Insights column, Michael Tchong addresses the need for more drag-and-drop technology. Arguing that most technology — hardware and software — is purposefully designed to be difficult to use, he suggests that our tools need to be easy to use, simple, and, well, ordinary.

Jakob Nielsen says much the same thing in a recent piece he penned about remote control anarchy. Indicating that he uses six remotes in his "modest" home theater, he adds that they total 239 buttons, and that he uses only 33% of them most of the time.

While companies have been touting universal remote controls for years, Nielsen's experience — and my own at home — seems to indicate that remotes are still far from universal. Do any FC Now readers have ideas on how this could be more drag and drop?

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7 Comments

  • Larry Morgan

    Best remote I ever had: There was a download for my Palm Pilot that let me train from other (IR) remotes all the buttons I wanted, would let me move them and resize them and let me program macros too (turn on TV, Stereo to "video", etc. all at the same time)! It must still exist and for what they charge for all those fancy-schmancy pretenders to universality, this thing was the clear winner. Now, where did I put that old Handspring Visor?

  • a Software Developer

    Easier said than done. Simplifying interfaces is a nice benefit but how do orchestrate the nice feature set that will provide that simplicity? Ultimately there are some complex functions that need to be provided to consumers and it's not always easy to simplify those functions. It assumes some basic knowledge on the part of the user to understand what functions s/he is using. Converting complexity to simplicity is genius and genius is in short supply.

  • David

    The companies’ involved need to start thinking about what the consumer is really doing with their technology (how many really are?), which is combining bits and pieces into their own personal solution.

    What really needs to happen, in practically every industry where there is some cross over between technology and consumerism, is that the manufacturers need to come together. For example like what happens when new technology standards are agreed upon (i.e. the bluetooth sig or WAP) and define a framework for the control of these devices.
    It won’t happen overnight, but it has to happen at some stage.

    (And I promise to press post just once) ;)

  • gqelements

    look no further than harmony remote controlls to solve the woes of your entertainment system
    reviewed by donald norman, they controll my system 100% with no complaints

  • Mike Tutt

    As a totally blind person I am all in favor of simplifying the operating controls of most regular devices and tv remotes, cell phones and most domestic appliances are good examples. At the same time I hope there isn't a tendency to reduce every gadget to a GUI control panel or even a "touch screen". No, a more blind user-friendly speech-based approach is the way to go and if this incidently results in usable Java and Linux screen-reading software being developed then there would, indeed, be three hearty cheers from this corner.

  • Jogendra singh Khalsa

    The IT-World has turned to Byte-Based softwares,now , i.e. no-OS boundations.
    The concept is to Control Basic functions , Only.
    Lets start with REMOTE-CONTROL's example.
    -Basic functions should be control , like
    . Turning ON/OFF a System.
    . Turning UP/DOWN the FORCE
    of a System.
    . Programming for Functionalities:-
    Like ( ON/OFF/RECORD etc.on Particular Time )
    SO on.

    Regards.

    Jogendra Singh

  • Phil Reichert

    How about an (open source) standard? Take the top 50 multimedia functions and standardise them (maybe ISO???).