I enjoyed your article
on putting the user in the driver’s seat. I work on video gaming
machines (mostly video slot machines) and I think the user interface
can really affect how well the games perform. More serious gamblers,
especially in Eastern Europe and Asian countries demand features
that the casual gambler doesn’t want to use. So you have to make
these features available and easy to use if desired, but pretty
much transparent, and hard to accidentally activate to the more
casual gamblers. Game times are typically 2.5 – 3.5 seconds a
game, so while this is isn’t safety critical or managing a complex
device like an airplane or even a car, you still need to make
things very obvious and not slow down the serious player, while
making it difficult for a novice player to accidentally enable
a feature that may cost them more money than they expected. I’m
not sure if you’ve tried either of these, but since you mentioned
remotes and running watches in your article…
On the 3 remotes to
watch tv. I just bought a Logitech Harmony 676 remote and was
able to put all 5 of my remotes in a drawer and haven’t used them
since. It’s activity based so you push a button for the activity
you want (listen to radio, CD, watch a DVD, watch TV, or Cable,
or HDTV…) and then the remote maps the buttons to control the
appropriate devices. My only real complaint is the remote remembers
the last state of all the devices, so if you manually adjust anything,
it may be confused about what devices are on, which inputs are
enabled…. It has a nice help system to walk you through straightening
this out pretty quickly, but you have to tell the kids to never
manually adjust things, and it just seems wrong to have to do
On the watch for running,
if you haven’t tried one, you might want to look at a Garmin Forerunner.
A GPS might be overkill when going out for a run, but you just
hit the start button when you start out, and the stop button when
you’re done. It gives you the distance, current pace, and elapsed
time on the display (you can customize it, but I haven’t needed
to). It stores a history of all your runs (or bike rides), and
some models will download the data to your pc via serial or USB
port. You can have it auto-pause the timer if you’ve stopped running
to allow for traffic lights, and to automatically beep at each
mile or km and display your split times. I got separated from
a group during a run along a pretty twisty out and back course
for the first time, and while still running turned on the navigation
feature for the first time, and was able to use it to find my
way back, without having to stop running or having read the manual.
Since the new models are now out, you could probably pick up a
new Forerunner 101 for around $70, or maybe a bit less.
Working on usability
for gambling machines probably added the interesting property
that most extra features can be measured in exact financial return,
which will make it a much more measurable design than you would
have in design's where you have to conduct user surveys or trials
to judge success.
During a recent product
upgrade, I was told that customers didn't like the dial on our
existing product to change values. It is speed-sensitive, to increase
by either 10 or 100 for one revolution, and has a good-sized aluminum
knob with a finger indent so it spins quite well. Some values
range from 1 to 10,000 and require an input resolution of 1. If
a customer wants to increase a value by 200, they usually have
to twiddle the dial back and forth to get the exact value. The
new product has up/down/left/right/select buttons. Left-right
selects the digit, up/down increments and decrements (with rollover
to next higher digit).
My concern with a numeric
keypad involves max-min limits and the resolution of some values.
Some input values have resolutions of 2, 5, or 25 (ignoring decimal
places). For example, only 0, 5, 10, 15, ... may be legal values.
If someone enters "7", what is the proper reaction - round up,
or round down, or change to a warning screen and force the user
to re-enter a value? A similar issue arises with max-min limits,
probably the best solution being a warning screen showing the
limit and allowing the user to accept the limit value or change
the value and enter.
With the left/right/up/down
numerical entry, values can change by 1, 2, 5, or 25 with a single
push of a button, a value of 7 cannot be entered, and values stop
at limits. When the increment is 25, two digits are highlighted,
so the change to two digits with one push is more obvious.
Any non-numerical values
allow the user to select from a text list, e.g. Fast/Medium/Slow
using the up/down buttons.
Ed Barney, Vermont,