2011-03-18

Attention to detail.

We recently moved into a new house, which means that all our kitchen appliances are brand new.   We opted for an induction based cooker.  Cooking with induction is rather neat since it provides very quick and precise temperature control.  There is a lot less lag between varying the power and getting observable result.

However, I am not very pleased with the industrial designer's work when it comes to the user interface.  The UI for the cooker is a touch interface.   They layout is fairly simple, a master on/off and +/- buttons for each surface.  Increasing or decreasing power is done by repeatedly pushing the plus or minus buttons respectively.  You can also hold down these buttons to turn the power up or down several steps, but this is a rather slow way of doing it.

I don't like that interface.  It is slow and fiddly and lacks tactile feedback.  But what is far worse is that the designers were shortsighted and incredibly sloppy in designing this.  You see, the interface gets utterly confused if water is splashed onto the surface.  If it gets bad enough, you simply have to shut down the cooker and restart it.  This happens quite often so it is a fairly tedious design flaw.

I am not sure how this got through testing.  Any sensible engineer or designer would conclude that this is a serious design flaw, go back to the drawing board and figure out how to attack the problem.

And in all seriousness, it doesn't really take a lot of effort to come up with alternative designs that would work significantly better.  Both technically and with regard to user interface.  If your industrial designers do not obsess over such details they have no business designing consumer goods.

(A cursory glance at the products of various manufacturers of magnetic rotary encoders suggests that it would be neither complicated nor expensive to design and implement a user interface based on removable, surface-mounted rotary encoders.  Which makes you wonder whether these manufacturers take any pride whatsoever in their products).

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