Thursday, June 19, 2014

Harder Than It Has To Be

We have had our car for seven years and 95,000 miles.  After all that familiarity, there are a number of buttons with symbols or nonsense words on them that I still don't know what they do.  Fortunately, you do not have to wade through a menu list to turn the radio on; you can still push the big button.  But there are about four groups you can pre-set radio stations to -- why?  Like most people, I only have three stations pre-set on the first group, and only listen to one station very occasionally.  Who knows how many stations we can receive here, but they're all junk, and even my favorite one has too much jabber in recent years.  All electronics are massively over-featured.  I sold our bread-maker on Amazon after one use; it had a small, almost unreadable computerized menu to tell it what to do and it never did the simple thing I tried to instruct it to do (i.e., start).  I have happily junked VCRs by the dozen because they too had extensive menus, using words in obscure and arbitrary ways to, it seems, prevent you from doing the only two things you wanted to do with it: record or re-play.

I understand local or amateur signage won't be of the best quality, but why this:  recently, on boarding an airplane, I searched the usual place for the seat numbers, below the latch of the overhead bins, and found only faint smudges of tiny grey type, completely unreadable.  Meanwhile impatient people are doing unpleasant things to my backside with their enormous sharp-edged luggage.  Designers just don't understand that is the very first thing you need to determine upon boarding, and have only a half-second to do it.  Much of the population has below-perfect vision; some are height-challenged.  A label with dark letters in an clear font of a useful size would solve this problem and cost no more.  Why make a routine task impossible?

Appliances and clothing are now made to sell all over the world, so manufacturers have gone from short, clear words to symbols.  They are usually tiny and useless, since no one knows what most of them mean.  Speaking of tiny: we recently had to get a serial number off a large Sony product; it was on a sticker, with numbers the size of sand grains.  There was enough room on the back of the TV to inscribe Hamlet, and serial numbers should not be removable.

Does anyone know what all those cable TV remote buttons, which are shaped and color-coded in wildly random fashion, do?  Ours has fifty.  The ones you use all the time are not labelled, so you have to find them by experimentation.  It is fun to see what comes up on the screen, though.

We recently went to a specialty farm with high hopes of cute animal entertainment and could not find out how to sign up for, or where to be, for the tour.  There were at least 20 signs with long lists of prizes won by their products with all the dates and specifics, and some so dense with information it was not clear what the sign was about at all.  I was not the only wandering around trying to figure out how to get started.

And it is pretty amusing that in order to stop your computer, you have to click on START.  Talkin' to you, Microsoft.


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