Monday, October 11, 2010

usability from a toddler's perspective


I must clarify that I am not a toddler, but I am writing from a toddler's perspective (whatever I know by observing my son). Alright, let's get to the matter that I want to talk about. The following discussion is about the usability of a DVD player.


My son, Namish, is now 3 years old (I should say 3 years young), and he has been operating a DVD player from the age of 2. But he is unable to use the new DVD player that we got a couple of months back. So, why a child who could use a DVD player when he was 2 years old is not able to do so when he is 3 years old? Anyone who has observed a child closely would know that the understanding of a 3 year old is much better than a 2 year old. One argument could be that the new DVD player has a new interface, so he is taking time to learn the new interface. But it should not take him more than 2 months to understand it. Another argument could be that we are blind so we can't tell him the signs for play / stop or next/ previous. But we certainly showed him by pressing those buttons.


In my view it is due to somewhat bad design. There are 2 concepts for the word 'design': One, design equals aesthetics and Two, design equals usable. In terms of aesthetics, the new DVD player is pretty good looking. It has a single button that has all 4 functions in one. In other words, it is a 4 directional joystick button.


The top of the button is play, and the bottom is pause. The left of the button is back, and the right is forward. This is very simple for people who are familiar with modern digital devices, but for those who are new to these gadgets, it is quite confusing.


Our earlier DVD player was designed such that buttons were paired for functionality. So there were 2 buttons, one very long button for play / pause, and second long button for back / next. That design was also slightly confusing, but there was a line in the middle to mark the difference. So he could easily learn to use those buttons.


IF device manufacturers follow the rule of one button per functionality, the life for many of us could be simpler, including for the little once among us. Device manufacturers are now moving away from buttons to touch interfaces.


That brings me to the touch screen based devices. The simple rule is users touch the item of interest and activate it. This rule is very simple for people who can see, but it is very complicated for people who are blind. Blind persons do not get feedback and do not know what to do with those items. I will try to cover this in my next post.


And if in the meanwhile, you have some ideas, please share with me.



Post a Comment

<< Home