Wednesday, April 7, 2004

What Were They Thinking?
    — That’s Why They Offer Wake-Up Calls

“What Were They Thinking?” highlights products and presentations which just don’t make sense.

In February, I went to Houston for the LUEY event weekend.  The hotel I stayed in (Holiday Inn Select / Greenway Plaza — now the Crowne Plaza / Houston River Oaks) had this alarm clock.  The manufacturer was something like Empire or Elite; wish I could remember just what so I could avoid them forever more.

The blurry picture here doesn’t do this device justice.  We’ve probably all seen clocks which have minor control quirks, especially never knowing which dial is volume and which sets the station until you move one (since no one ever checks the hard-to-read label beforehand), or the way you have to closely read the labels next to the dots to be sure which indicates the alarm is on and which indicates AM/PM.

No, this clock goes beyond the pale in three ways:
  1. The tiny snooze button.  Think about it: if you are going to use the clock as an alarm clock, what is the most important thing next to the time display?  The snooze button.  This should be big and centrally placed, ensuring (a) that you hit it easily in your jarred-awake, groggy, no-glasses-on state and (b) that you don’t accidentally hit buttons which turn the alarm off or change the time while you flail around for the snooze button.  Which are exactly (a) what I didn’t do and (b) what I did do.
  2. The button for setting the alarm.  This clock, like many, requires you to push an extra button when setting the alarm, which prevents you from accidentally hitting a button and changing your alarm and thus causing you to be late for a meeting.  (This one didn’t, however, require pushing a second button to set the regular time, so you could easily bump things and change the current time, making you wake up an hour or two too early!)  Since most people are right handed, they will hold the alarm set button with their left hand, and use their right hand to do the major manipulation of the hour and minute buttons.  But here, the hour and minute buttons are to the left of the alarm set button, which means that most people have to cross their right hand over their left to do the setting.  But wait, that’s not all!  With the alarm set button in the middle, the hands crossed, and the buttons above the time display, your hands are right in front of the time display, so you can’t see the alarm time as you try to set it!
  3. The radio dial.  Lest you think that the design stupidity ends with the above minor things, it’s really too bad you can’t clearly see the radio dial in the photo above… because it is backwards!  No, really: while every other dial in the (Western) world has the smaller station numbers on the the left on of the dial, here the smaller station numbers are on the right end, and the larger ones are on the left, so the interaction is the reverse of what any user (in Houston) will want.  Whose idiot idea was that?

Updated on July 12, 2004

Updated on January 10, 2010
Boy did I have typos in the original post!

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