I recently had to retire my tried and trusty alarm clock radio. I never thought it was anything special. I didn’t keep it around because it had superior functionality, a great experience, great audio quality . . . . it was just the clock I had.
But in making a change to a new clock, I realized how good I had it before. It seems that attention to simple human factors principles was not a priority.
Here are just a few of the attributes that made a difference.
- With my old clock, I could see the tuning indicator with a sideways glance, still halfway under the blanket. With the new one, I have either lift my torso out of bed or reach my arms out of the blanket, grab the clock and bring it down. Not only does this take time, effort, and winter cold – it also wakes me up twice as much as just looking. This happens several times a day, so it is more important than I would have thought a priori and more annoying every day (seven so far).
- With my old clock, I could turn off the radio when I was ready for sleep without looking. I could stay in bed (again, under the covers without lifting my torso). With the new one, the radio on and off buttons are pretty similar. They have tactile cues, but not enough for a tired user to tell the difference. Know your use case!!
- There is a basic control affordance problem that really surprised me. The old clock matched the typical population stereotype. If you rotate the volume control or the tuning control towards you (it was a rotating control on the right side of the clock) the volume or frequency went up, which matches to the right on the display. But with the new one, it is backwards. Even after seven days, I still make this mistake about half the time. We have known about control affordances and compatibility for years. No excuse for this mistake.
- The new clock has a daylight saving indicator so that you know if it is daylight savings time and it will adjust automatically twice a year. Does anyone think this is worth the extra programming UI and the display indicator to show you 24/7 which time zone you are in? This seems to be like a feature looking for a use case.
- The daylight savings indicator also means you have to set the date. There is no display for the date. I can’t imagine too many people use their alarm clock to find out the date. But if you don’t set it, the clock might adjust to or from daylight savings time on the wrong night and wake you up an hour too late or too early.
- The battery backup on the old clock was a simple 9-volt battery. Available at every local store. The new one requires a Sony lithium battery made (or at least used to be made) for their clock radio line. Where would I find a replacement? Order it online? At Radio Shack (or what used to be Radio Shack?)? And for a lot more money as well. What a pain.
But in all fairness, the new one does have one advantage. The button to turn off the alarm is different from the alarm mode control that toggles the alarm between off-buzzer-radio-aux. So the alarm is ready for the next day even when you turn the radio/buzzer off in the morning using the
Do you have any examples like this? A simple product you use in the kitchen, in the car, in the backyard? One that isn’t fancy or sexy, just really intuitive and simple and effective and does what you need it to, when you need it to, how you need it to?
Image Credit: Caleb Nestor