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Beth Stackpole
User Rank
Blogger
User interface nightmare
Beth Stackpole   9/19/2011 8:42:38 AM
Looks like Kenmore engineers could have benefited from a crash course in user interface design. And the choice of Windows as the software interface stumps me? Seems a bit overbaked for a microwave, not to mention, a surefire way to invite bugs and compatibility problems. Come on, we're talking Windows!

Charles Murray
User Rank
Blogger
Re: User interface nightmare
Charles Murray   9/19/2011 11:19:37 AM
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Menus should never be nested five or six layers deep. The user interface sounds like it suffers from the all-too-common design problem of trying to incorporate too many functions. Blaming it all on "dirty power" only makes it worse. 

Jack Rupert, PE
User Rank
Platinum
Re: User interface nightmare
Jack Rupert, PE   9/19/2011 3:32:12 PM
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@Beth - I didn't get that they actually used Windows.  It just behaves in the same manner.  Although I wouldn't be surprised if it were Windows embedded - but that should be a lot more stable and not require reboots.

Beth Stackpole
User Rank
Blogger
Re: User interface nightmare
Beth Stackpole   9/19/2011 4:08:37 PM
My bad. But even it was based on Windows Embedded, that comes with its own share of problems. Chuck's point about having to navigate that many layers deep for navigation is a good one. A microwave, out of all possible appliances, should be a one or two button operation at best.

William K.
User Rank
Platinum
Microwave oven "ease of use"
William K.   9/19/2011 6:57:38 PM
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The problem with almost all sofware driven appliances is that the code is written by programmers, who clearly are not normal people, nore anywhere close to normal. So the thinking that relates to the functionality is certainly not normal. The only good way to have a single dial microwave oven was with the mechanical timer and a HI-LOW switch, and a start button. Those ones worked easily and depenadably all of the time, until they finally failed and were replaced.

TJ McDermott
User Rank
Blogger
Pushing in causes flex?
TJ McDermott   9/19/2011 11:53:56 PM
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Could it be more than bad user interface with 6-deep menus?  It sounds like each microwave use requires at least two, and as many as six, pushes of the knob.  Could pushing the knob flex the circuit board behind, and cause your GSOD by a broken trace or solder joint?

stucbrown
User Rank
Iron
My new car stereo
stucbrown   9/20/2011 10:19:29 AM
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The microwave user interface control design reminds me of my new car stereo. I recently had to replace the factory system. I searched for the simplest replacement I could find that was also affordable.

Unfortunately they were all similar in that department. The one knob that should normally have a volume control function, and maybe an on/off function, had many functions. Push and turn, push and turn, working its way down into the menu system for setting up the unit, adjusting the audio, etc.

My wife tried to turn it off by pushing the knob (as on our factory radios), but found it started doing other things, but did not go off.

We found that you have to push the source button several times to put it into standby. Then the clock time would reappear with the radio off.

Only a programmer on a complexity jag would have dreamed up this UI.

ewertz
User Rank
Iron
Re: My new car stereo
ewertz   9/23/2011 11:45:03 PM
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"Only a programmer on a complexity jag would have dreamed up this UI."


More like "only a company with exactly one employee would have dreamed up this UI."

This was clearly a group effort (And true to this blog's name) -- a group of monkeys!

Similarly, only a monkey would purchase such a thing.

 

stucbrown
User Rank
Iron
Re: My new car stereo
stucbrown   9/25/2011 1:40:18 PM
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I really didn't have a lot of choice. All of todays after market car stereos have a similar UI. Been that way for some years. One I bought for my wifes car is similar and a different brand.

I would always prefer the original factory unit since the controls are bigger and more intuitive. I could have the original repaired, but the cost was not worth it, and warantee very short.

ewertz
User Rank
Iron
Re: My new car stereo
ewertz   9/25/2011 10:12:08 PM
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One-time setup issues are kind of a special-case, and I'd agree that that can be some work if one were to try to do without the manual.  But that's something that should only have to be done once (or when the battery gets pulled/discharged, and the like).  Most products of any complexity are likely to have this issue.  I liken it to setting up a Windows desktop -- everytime I install Windows I spend 2-3 minutes doing the relatively-obscure bits like changing my background to solid black, getting my quick-launch icons "the right size" and turning on filename extensions in Explorer.  Ideally not something that I have to do more than once a year or so.

It is a huge problem, perhaps to your point with the unit you bought, for the product to send me down into the bowels of minutae-config-land when pressing or turning the most commonly-used knob.  This is certainly unacceptable.  With my last after-market unit, you had to press MENU and futz with the knob to get down in the config rat-hole, the analog of CTRL-ALT-DELETE.

If the knobs work the way you would expect them to 99.9% of the time (press on/off, turn for volume), I'm having trouble complaining when I really need to get to the other 1% and need to pull out the manual.  In my case, this was when the battery did get pulled and I had to figure out how to key-in the anti-theft security code to get the stereo to do _anything_.

I'll definitely grant you that if under reasonable use patterns, if the unit doesn't meet the 99.9% standard, there's a problem.  Obsessive-compulsive button-pushers (and children) are just SOL, because nothing is going to make them happy all the time.

 

thubten
User Rank
Iron
Why it is that way
thubten   9/20/2011 12:13:01 PM
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The problem with American modern design is that all the MBA's want it so cheap that the engineers are forced to remove all the electro-mechanical switches and dials, and put everything in software. Our Japanese friends still resist this tendency, and of course the Chinese can do whatever they want paying their people a couple dollars a day.

Amclaussen
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Why it is that way
Amclaussen   9/23/2011 5:20:09 PM
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EXACTLY!  By the way, do you know the real meaning of MBA?

Easy: More Brainless Ass#oles!

but, seriously, there is a certain dose of narcisism in the software engineers in charge of the simplest functions in the latest appliances too, that make them VERY prone to over-do themselves, which give results like the inoe dial microwave oven.  And the lack of older, senior engineers to supervise the final product.

ewertz
User Rank
Iron
Re: Why it is that way
ewertz   9/23/2011 11:36:35 PM
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Bullcrap -- this is a marketing problem pure and simple (as far as the HMI is concerned).  Maybe you think that marketing walked into the meeting and said "I want an awesome conventional microwave" and engineering said "I can make that microwave with just one dial, watch!".  Backslaps and cheers all around, then "Meeting adjourned, good work guys!".

Right....

 

mumom10
User Rank
Iron
Thanks for confirming the contradiction of a multifunction dial
mumom10   9/20/2011 2:44:47 PM
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I just purchased a Kenmore microwave, and seriously considered the dial version, except that for a "high end" microwave, I was suspicious that one dial could provide sufficient functionality. I purchased a cheaper model with relatively simple touch buttons.  But it has no express cook other than "add thirty seconds". My old GE has a better interface despite the magnetron issues, it has had three supplied by GE under warranty.  I am tempted to return the Kenmore (still haven't installed it - testing on a microwave table) and order a magnetron from Samsung for the old GE.

BobGroh
User Rank
Platinum
Re: Kenmore Microwave vs human factor design
BobGroh   9/21/2011 4:22:57 PM
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As I was reading this posting, my first (and second and ...) thought was that all of this is just bad marketing/human factor design.  I also really wonder if this is, in fact, an example of one of the pitfalls of offshoring.

Let me explain this somewhat incomplete thought. I can easily conjecture that what we have here is a case where the marketing people are in the US and the product design is done overseas (most likely in China).  The marketing people, who should be driving the design to be 'user friendly' are much more interested in just getting the 'new thing' done and into production.

I would also suspect that the 'authority' to make changes is probably diffuse and ill defined. So no one person is in control of the product development.

And now we come to the 'offshore' part - the design team is probably offshore - it could even be split - mechanical and electrical in one country (e.g. China) and software in another country (e.g. Russia or India). This leaves the very real possibility that the people doing on the development are non-US and don't really have a good feel for what is needed for 'user' comfort.

So you get a mess.

An example of how this does NOT happen?  Apple (or least the way it was) - you had, in many cases, one person - Steve Jobs - who had (and frequently exercised) the authority and power to insist that Apple products met HIS requirements.  And, luckily, most of the time, his sense of product design and customer needs was spot on.

 

 

dougspair
User Rank
Gold
Microwave...
dougspair   9/21/2011 7:33:07 PM
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..Well I guess I got lucky, in about 1986 I bought my first and only microwave...at Sears...a Kenmore...first of the newest hi-tech touch-pad deal...still works fine....although I did have to replace the light that turns on when you open the door...-bulb

techrep
User Rank
Iron
Re: Microwave...
techrep   9/24/2011 1:54:24 PM
NO RATINGS
That 1983 Kenmore Microwave used a reed relay in the high voltage variable power circuit.

Nothing like KISS.

Curt Carpenter
User Rank
Gold
Purchase Decisions
Curt Carpenter   9/23/2011 4:13:45 PM
NO RATINGS
I wonder how many people actually tried using this microwave with its six-deep menu scheme before they bought it?   I propably wouldn't have either.  I'd have liked the one dial/one button design approach, thinking wow -- only two things to  break on this baby!  Using your microwave shouldn't be like trying to connect to AT&T tech support ("For Mandarin, press 19!"  Thank you!  Please enter the 45-digit serial number of your device NOW, or press 8 to let us guess your serial number!  Thank you!  For "Easy Listening" music while on hold, please press 1.  For Oldies, press 2!  ... For silence, press 26!  I'm sorry, 14 is not a valid selection.  Please start over from the beginning NOW!  Thank you!)

 

ewertz
User Rank
Iron
what would you expect?
ewertz   9/23/2011 11:28:14 PM
NO RATINGS
I question the purchasing decision as much as the product implementation.  It sounds that equal amounts of time were spent by both parties on each task -- not nearly enough.

Would you buy a car with all of the controls (one!) on the steering wheel?  If not, why would you buy a microwave similarly designed?  After all, their respective uses are probably within the same order of magnitude of complexity.  Blaming the designer is all well and fine for its reliability, but I question the purchaser's lack of judgement for complaining about its interface shortcomings.

While a product designed by the same engineers with a more classic interface may have had the same reliability issues, I blame the purchaser for mentally checking-out before checking-out by not thinking for even a minute about the utility of what it was that they were buying.  You bought the equivalent of a toaster and expected it to be a microwave.  Did I hear you say that you trusted the salesperson -- and you're an engineer?  Wow, wow, WOW...

Sure, shame on them for designing such a UI (and as it turns out, reliability) monstrosity, but you neglected to pop your brain out of Park before driving it home.

Perhaps this is a situation that you probably shouldn't have put yourself in in the first place.  If you have warranty claim for the function of the device, wield it!  You'll then have been lucky that the two mistakes will have cancelled each other out.

 

 

howard
User Rank
Iron
Similar UI on GE is great
howard   9/24/2011 10:57:30 PM
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I have a GE advantium microwave/ir oven with a similar UI. Not a single problem. Clearly a bad implementation.

Find out who really made it for Sears and call them. They may know how to fix it.



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