On the Interface …

Although the topic “User Interfaces” appears in the title of the blog, I didn’t post anything related yet.

Moving into a new office building confronted everybody with the new switches in the offices which control light, temperatures …

Here is what they look like:

(Sorry for the fuzzy photo, but the 2MP cam in my SE-phone isn’t capable of more …)

The only thing that works as expected here are the light switches, which toggle between ON and OFF – except that you always have to read the text in order to find the desired kind of illumination.

Touching the buttons of the shades makes them go up or down as expected, but the problem arises when you try to stop them. Hitting the button again does not do the job, hitting the button for the other direction reverses the direction but does not stop them either – hmmm?!
The solution: Pressing the buttons for more than 1 second will stop them when you release the button. Unfortunately the delay of 1 second is about the average time people will press the button, resulting in an apparently random behaviour.
The porthole-like windows open and close when pressing the corresponding button – this time they only move as long as you actually press the button.

The highlight is the temperature control. You can press ‘cooler’ or ‘warmer’ and … wait. One very important issue in user interface design is feedback. I actually could not figure out how the temperature control works until I read the manual!
The feedback works as follows:
There will be a red light next to ‘cooler’ when it is the standard temperature of 21C. When you press ‘warner’ once it will be 1 degree warmer indicated by a red light next to ‘Window open’, and once again, i.e., 2 degrees warmer light the LED next to ‘Shades up’ (as in the picture).
The whole thing works for cooler as well, but now the LEDs will flash to indicate that it is cooler than standard … The only purpose of the green LED is to indicate that the AC is actually working, which won’t be the case as soon as you open the window.
Would you have guessed?

So much for intuitive controls …

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