Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Analog People in a Digital World: Designers - Can You Hear Us?

Analog People in a Digital World: Designers - Can You Hear Us? With all the time and money spent on designing products that are “user friendly,” why is it that tried and true features that have worked perfectly well for decades are being replaced with ones that don’t? Wing windows in cars (sorry if you’re too young to know what I’m talking about) were great. You could angle those little triangles to direct the flow of air where you wished. Better yet, you knew that if your pooch stuck her nose out that little space, there was absolutely no danger of her falling out. I’m told that the electric window (yes, children â€" we used to have to crank them open and closed) caused the demise of the wing window â€" but I don’t believe it. Surely they don’t have to be mutually exclusive. Lest you think I’m an old fuddy duddy, let me assure you I’m not. I love the latest gadgets â€" if they serve a purpose. And I’m so into computers that I even own (and occasionally wear) a heather gray tee shirt that says “ ” in powder blue. And speaking of computers â€" here is another example of replacing what works with what doesn’t. All my old laptop computers all had a wonderful thumb wheel switch to control the audio intensity (or as they erroneously say, the “volume”). What a concept â€" an analog device to control an analog feature! In no time my thumb learned just how far to turn the switch to achieve the perfect loudness level, and it only took one little motion. In contrast, to adjust sound intensity in my current laptop computer I have to press either an increase loudness button or a decrease loudness button. And pressing these once usually does not do the job, so I press one over and over and over â€" oops â€" too loud; now press the other button once â€"- oops â€" too soft. Well, you get the picture. This obsession with digital is being taken to absurd extremes. It’s now invaded household appliances. We have a new dishwasher. Unlike the old one, it has no dials â€" just buttons you can press either on or off. All you can do with this machine is turn it on, pause it, make it resume, or stop it. It’s supposed to save on energy, yet its shortest cycle (rinse only) is 90 minutes â€" and there is nothing you can do to shorten it! Who needs to rinse dishes for 90 minutes? How can this possibly save energy? I am told that all new dishwashers are like this, and that washing machines and driers are close behind. As they say, it’s time to get real. People are real. Besides, we were here first. Hey all you designers â€" please give us some people-friendly technology before things get even worse. This article was written by Debby Gilden, Ph.D., freelance PowerPoint® designer and instructor. Please visit her Web site .

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