My DVD player flashes 12:00!

I've recently started a job involving supporting a consumer electronics device, so I've been thinking about the usability of consumer electronics a lot lately. The piece of equipment in question has a phone jack. Not too infrequently, the other end of the phone line ends up plugged into a satellite dish box, not the wall.

The plug on these satellite boxes allows another device to control them. But the makers clearly did not understand that your average consumer finds which plugs fit, and starts plugging things in. Those who have read their Donald Norman call these perceived affordances, or affordances for short. My one sentence gloss: What does it look like I can do with it?

The most famous example of affordances from Donald Norman's book Design of Everyday Things is doors. A pull handle should indicate that the door is opened via pulling. A push plate indicates the door should be pushed and which side to push on. The infamous convenience store doors with pull handles on both sides are a common example of ignoring this idea.

Other people have written about the usability of consumer electronics, or the lack thereof. I also found a story about a GE dishwasher I saw on WebWord amusing.

Speaking of GE, all this inspired me to photograph a dial on the GE dryer in the apartment my girlfriend and I moved into recently.

Dryer controls I hate

Since I was not wearing my contacts, I peered at this dial from about 3 inches away and was audibly annoyed because I was looking for the 60 minute drying setting. The only timed setting available on this dryer is for fluffing. I do not trust my dryer to know what "More Dry" and "Less dry" really are. And what's up with the "Preferred Regular Setting"?

Posted by Chad Lundgren on Tuesday, May 20, 2003 (Link)


Posted by Ben Kraal Tuesday, May 20, 2003 at 06:36 PM

The dial reminds me of the 'fridge in POET. What is the real implemenation of drying and how does the dial relate to the implementation?

I like your gloss of the concept of affordances.