SIGIA-L Mail Archives: Re: [Sigia-l] Coat Hanger Usability
Re: [Sigia-l] Coat Hanger Usability
"Scott Nelson" wrote:
> On Monday, March 1, 2004, at 11:35 AM, Lyle_Kantrovich_at_cargill.com
> > For example, what is the basic measure of
> > "usability" of a BMW car?
> Pet peeve: this industry (the entire tech industry as well) needs to
> come up with a better example than the automobile.
> It seems like people quickly forget the extensive period of instruction
> that goes into driving a car: this is not an example of a seamless
> system - if it were truly "usable" we wouldn't need the extensive
> series of licensing procedures & penalties that exist around the world,
> nor would the automobile be amongst the deadliest man-made machines in
> the world.
I've always assumed that the "usability" of a car refers to the usability/learnability of the control interfaces for
things other than the brake, gas, clutch.
Driving a car is complicated and dangerous as you say, but I don't think the basic controls have changed very much since
they settled in the current configuration. I'm thinking an analogy to web design would be something like "don't mess
with the back button" -- a built in control that should function the same way on every web site.
On the other hand, there IS considerable variation, and growing complexity, in the control interfaces for the lights,
stereo, climate control, mirrors, windows, seats etc. Not to mention new navigation support systems! It seems pretty
straightforward to talk about the usability of these interfaces, and I can give two examples from my own life. One I
think about every day, and the other, a singular experience:
We have a Mitsubishi Gallant, and a Nissan Altima. The driver's-side lock on the Gallant is located on the back and top
of the door. When I need to get my son out of the kid's seat in the back, I can open the rear door and still reach the
lock control to lock the car in a single motion.
On the Altima, the lock functions the same way, but it is located on the side of the door toward the front, next to the
handle that opens the door. To get my son out, I have to open the back door, then return to the front to lock all the
doors. Because the rear door lock is similarly positioned, I can't even reach around to unlock that door before getting
out. To me, this is a wasted and inefficient motion compared to Gallant and I've resolved thousands of times to consider
it the next time we purchase a car.
A few years ago, I flew into Manchester New Hampshire and was renting a car to drive up and visit a cousin up in Gorham
Maine, where I had never been before. I arrived well after dark, and it was raining, so I allowed the guy at the rental
car counter to upsell me to a Volvo S40.
Now, even though I'd never driven this car (or similar) before, I roared out of the airport without spending any time
studying the controls -- I DO NOT reccommend this! Frankly, I was amazed by how easy it was for me to figure out the
stereo, lights, windows, wipers, and defroster on the fly, as it were. I'm absolutely convinced that the designers of
the car had spent a considerable ammount of time on the usability of these controls.
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: Tue Mar 02 2004 - 02:19:59 EST