October 10, 2007
I was struck, the other day, by how much I had to think when attempting to heat up my sandwich in the microwave. There are so many controls: a clock, a set of food-specific buttons, defrost and timer controls, and of course a full numeric keypad. Quick! What do you press?
I wonder if older microwaves weren't a better, simpler design, with their single giant analog knob. I noticed that every microwave for sale at Target, even the most inexpensive ones, now use a complete set of digital controls.
This is progress?
Maybe something to think about, the next time you're about to add just one more field, button, or link to that form.
Posted by Jeff Atwood
Microwaves, like all technology, have been overcomplicated by the weakest link. Sure, the dial worked fine, but what about people who don't know how long to pop popcorn? We don't want to make them have to learn, so we better build a microwave with a 'popcorn' button and write algorithms that take the size of the bag into account and produce the correct cooking time. A classic example of technology being over-engineered to suit the absolute laziest of users. What would happen if people had to figure out on their own how to make popcorn? Less people would eat popcorn? Unlikely. Less people would buy microwaves? Even more unlikely.
The same thing happens to me when building information systems, people complain that they need a feature to control some minute business exception that occurs in 1 out of every 1,000 iterations of a process, but do they really need that? No, there are other, more simple ways, like using the provided comment field to mark the exception. However, the user would then actually have to READ the comments (of which there are maybe 2-3), and well that's just way to much effort.
To make things worse I have a webmaster here who bends right over to adding new buttons and features in ever spare inch of control realty to accommodate such asinine requests. So many things could just as easily be fixed with a minor change to a business process, or a personal education process in the case of microwaves. However, people want technology that does absolutely everything for them, and rarely do they consider the actual complexity of such technology.
They point here is that they put those buttons there because they want to sell more waveovens.
And plain people when want to buy a waveoven and don't know anything about waveovens doesn't have a criterion to choose what is 'best' for them.
So they usually look for the one that looks more complete, capable of doing complex stuff and, of course, the one that looks more expensive to impress the people that comes to home.
I think that the last sentence is the one that sells more waveovens.
I wonder if that's where Jeff found one of today's photos:
Good eye. Indeed it is-- that, plus my perplexing sandwich experience from yesterday's lunch.
Easy - the popcorn button. :)
I just discussed this with a coworker, and ironically when he tried the "popcorn" button on our microwave (it's the one in the photo), it burned his popcorn. Irony of ironies.
Basically, a UI expert went to Korea
Hi Giles-- I liked that too. I wrote a little bit about that here, with citations to the original posts: http://www.codinghorror.com/blog/archives/000880.html
Has anyone used the "Frozen Pizza" button? I never got that...are you supposed to stick a mini frozen pizza in there or something?
There is a trade off with simpleness in UI and discoverability of features.
If your UI is too simple, people will never know of what your product can do. Then there is the critical mass that Jeff is pointing out. Where so many buttons kill discoverability because its so cluttered.
Code Rush (a productivity tool for .net developers) is a tool that nails simplicity and discoverability. There is a help (training) window that you can keep open while you write code. Instead of one long list of key commands, it dynamically shows only relevant keystrokes given the context of where you are in source code. There is also a skill setting that you can change as you learn shortcuts and key commands. It filters the complexed ones from basic users and basic ones from expert users.
Obviously a dynamic set of buttons on a microwave is fantasy, but i think the point was to draw parallels to software.
I hate to say this but on most consumer devices, the knob and dial interface was much more intuitive, useful and controllable than the flat panel digital crud created by befuddled marketing types and clueless engineers.
I can't help but notice that when controls are expensive to produce (like knobs and dials), their number is quickly minimized to the most efficient possible arrangement. It forces the engineer to *think* about what they are doing. Something many managers seem to perceive as "nonproductive."
As a personal aside, I believe that the designers of television and DVD remotes should be sent to a Hell where they are forced to use them forever.
Any true popcorn aficionado knows that you never rely on the popcorn button when using a foreign microwave. You always have to listen for the slow down in the popping interval.
Good post. Just having a rotary control instead of a keypad is not good enough. Seeing the photograph of the old microwave made me realize why the control on my microwave does not work well. I have a Panasonic with a knob (with a digital display) that lets you set the time. I bought it thinking that was a very good idea. But it fails miserably. With the old microwave in the photo you can see how far you must turn 'before' you start to turn it. With my microwave I have to watch the changing display to figure out when to stop and the dial itself offers no resistance (or feedback) while turning it. I can never set it right quickly.
The presets are too much. Button overload.
The auto start by pressing a single time button and then adding additional time with another one button press is great. Much better than pressing Start, Time, Go. But the knob was better than this too.
Perhaps a better title for this post would be: "Popcorn Button Considered Harmful".
What'd work better is a simple alarm-clock interface:
These would be expressed, of course, as a series of #9652;/#9662; buttons.
And, of course, the “Start” button.
Simplicity at the cost of function? No thanks!
I agree with you that microwaves are more complicated than they need to be, but I think your single-knob version is trying to go too far in the other direction.
How do you know if you're nuking something for 1 minute or 55 seconds? The analog control doesn't give you enough control.
Granted, maybe that doesn't matter... But what if you need to nuke something for, say, 5 seconds? It's not exactly easy to set that for 5 seconds.
Plus, there's no way to change the power settings.
And, finally, the knob in the picture is limited to 10 minutes...
One dish I enjoy, pre-packaged Rice Pilaf, calls for 20 minutes at 50% power... Trust me, 10 minutes at 100% power isn't the same.
Thanks for this post! I thought it was just me.. :-)
I've got no problem programming computers. But microwaves...
Why do you think that the intent of the extra buttons was for a better, simpler user interface? Sure most people are going to use the functions (and most buyers know they won't either). But they have to "know" that they could use those features - so they have to be displayed, after all, they aren't going to read the manual.
When someone else sees their microwave, do they want to be showing off the plain one (even if it is the easier to use) or that they could afford to get the one with all of the bells and whistles?
I suppose I should clarify that in the case of a microwave oven, they should be M and S buttons rather than H and M buttons. I'm pretty sure that anything will turn to a cinder if you nuke it for one or more hours. #9786;
Clock, Power, Time and a Start/Stop. Plus a up and down to adjust the time and power. Only 6 buttons. That would make a very simple interface.
I don't like knob in this case because it is more difficult to clean.
But analog knob are awesome in home theater. I remeber my old VCR with fast foward and rewind knob. I miss it so much! Now I have foward and next chapter that are almost indentical and are side by side. It is really not good desing.
To be fair to the designer, they obviously went for accuracy over simplicity. Ever tried to get a 20-minute knob microwave to heat for 1:45 minutes?
I think its a north American kind of thing, I noticed that whether it be cars, toasters, power bars, you-name-it, they are usually littered with controls and LED's.
Sadly the designers will probably 'fix' this by adding a 'sandwich' button :)
The time control is about the only specific feature of a microwave that is important to me. 15 seconds can ruin a good sandwich, where as 10 second can leave it too cold. Not too hard to do it either.
In the case of the User's Responsibilities with the microwave, they only have to keep track of time. Power is okay for more advanced users, in which case the [Power+] and [Power-] buttons serve fine. Though, I've never had an excuse to use them.
The add 30 second button is amazing. Sure I have to press it a bunch, but it doesn't require much thinking.
I have a toaster oven with a timer dial, and it works great. Except for one interesting little quirk: the timer doesn't even need electricity to work. If I unplug the toaster oven for some reason, and forget to plug it back in, I only notice when the timer goes off 10 minutes later and I find my food stone cold.
If you only want to apply microwaves for an approximate amount of time (until the dial wears out and does something funky, like turn on all the time or never), the dial is fine.
The digital interface allows for more precission, more features and less physical wear.
Beyond that, anyone overwhelmed by a few buttons on the front of a microwave might want to reconsider using a microwave in the first place.
"Beyond that, anyone overwhelmed by a few buttons on the front of a microwave might want to reconsider using a microwave in the first place."
Isn't that the same idealogy the *ix folks have on operating systems?
Everytime I see 10:24 on digital clocks I think "Wee! It's 2^10 o'clock!"
Many, many years ago when my mother bought her first microwave she deliberately bought one of the last models that had a knob (time) and a slider (power) as all the new models had the keypad. Recently we replaced our microwave and I was delighted to find one with two knobs - not even a start button! Perfect.
Yeah, I stupidly sold my two-knob microwave to work (they wanted a cheap uWave, I didn't need mine at the time), but now I do need it we've ended up with this hideous thing that doesn't even have a one-button start mode. That is the rescue mode for many of the stupid UIs out there - if you hit "start" you get 1 minute at full power, and it's all a lot of people ever use. Our new one, on the other hand, requires me to hit time-numbers-start and the time+start buttons are in the middle of a bank of 2x3, so I actually have to look closely before hitting the buttons. FFS!
I hate my knobbed microwave at work, actually--they try to solve the precision for small times problem by relating rotation to time quadradically with an unlabeled dial and an LED display, so the only way to know how far you've gone is to bend over close to the display. Ugh.
I too like the simplicity of the older microwaves.
Recently though I've become a fan of the new microwave at work. It has an 'auto reheat' button.
Just put in whatever you want to reheat, press the button, come back when it's done. It's pretty good at heating whatever I put in there to the expected temperature.
Digital controls don't bother me. What bothers me is the idiocy and counter-intuitive nature of newer microwave controls.
The one I had around the house was simple - you typed in a time and pressed start. It then did its thing for the next however many minutes and seconds, then beeped when it was done.
What we have at work is a number pad that jumps to "x minutes" based on the number you push. This isn't really expected behavior and you lose the ability to input any precise amount of time... at least from what I've seen. I haven't examined too closely for fear of discovering the "incinerate user" button.
My previous microwave cost me AUD400, had all the digital crap on it and blew up because the heat from control pad and the LED display attracted bugs which fried the circuit board.
I went out and bought an old fashioned made in china 80 dollar one with the dial. Cooks better and doesn't attract bugs.
Dials aren't always perfect. My alarm clock has has a dial with 3 settings - off, radio, and alarm - in that order. If I wake up early before the alarm goes off and want to turn it off so that it doesn't wake my wife up, I must turn it through the radio setting to get it to off. No matter how fast I do it, the radio still goes on for a second or two, which usually wakes her up.
But what if you need to nuke something for, say, 5 seconds?
Turn the knob forward, wait five seconds, then turn the knob back.
You _could_ make a more simple microwave knob that would actually be useful. But I haven't seen it yet. The first minute should be a quarter of the knob; the second should be the next quarter; and from then on it should be graded upwards to 20 minutes or so. Or something along those lines. The imprecision of such knobs to work for small times is irritating as hell.
Oh, and one more idea—maybe we could just leave it up to the ol' free market here?
I mean, I like microwaves without knobs. You like microwaves with knobs. You buy the ones with the knobs, I'll get the ones with the buttons.
I know, it's a silly little point to make, but we needn't pretend that the entire world is going to like the same interface. If the microwave display were entirely virtual, of course, we could have both. But in most "real world" applications you can't. Fortunately we're really just concerned with software here, right?
Hit [popcorn] setting, then [start]. Usually works for most stuff. May blow up some hotdogs.
When I first moved out of home I had a microwave that I think must have been a prototype or something. It had a lever at the bottom which had three positions. The lever when moved, moved a triangular prism inside which had a number of foods written on it. Running perpandicular to the lever was a slider which ran up the side of the triangular prism. When moved up from it's resting position it would turn the Microwave on and then slowly settle back down to the bottom.
The idea was that you would use the lever to find the power setting with your food on it, and then use the slider to select a time. It sounds complicated but it was far easier than the digital interface we have now. My Microwave is like MS-Word. Feature packed and underused.
If I can dig up a photo, I'll post it.
The other day, I tried to get a normal printer...
They didn't even have buttons before!
I understand your pain.
@ Kieran: You might want to report these bugs to the manufacturer...
Nice Jeff. However some microwaves will start with a single button push. '3' for 3 minutes, etc. Mine does that for digits 1-6. It and the 'add 30 seconds' button are more convenient IMO. But then there's nothing that instant for the in-betweens, which the dial could always hit, in case you know just that *perfect* setting for something you're always cooking... I sometimes find myself entering it manually... ugh.
(PS. searching your comments so as not to repeat something someone already said sucks. :p But then we all know and encounter that...)
Actually, there do exist modern microwaves that have the simplicity of the older ones, even without sacrificing the features of their competitors. Mine, for example, has a simple dial you can turn that increments the time as you turn it clockwise and decrements it as you turn it counter-clockwise. End of story if that's all you need. There are also lots of fancier settings in the form of buttons (with REAL tactile feedback, at that).
most of the time i just hit some absurd amount of time and hit start. and then stop it manually after a while.
the worst is the microwaves where you have to hit 'cook' before the time. of course i want to cook. if i hadn't wanted to cook, i wouldn't be messing around with the microwave. the best is the ones that have a big button up top for +1 minute, which turns it on for a minute more with each press. it still would be nice to set the power level so easily
Well the obvious solution to all UI issues, as several products have been showing us is the touch panel.
Then all you need is to be able to adjust the layout of your touchpanel. Of course no one would be using a stylus in the kitchen and touchpanels are bad at catching wethands, so that might be a slight issue.
Many a time I have choked down congealed ricotta or viscous goulash, staring glumly into the haughty countenance of a cafeteria microwave.
The same thing is happening with programming. Instead of delete we now have "the Dispose pattern".
Don't you think there are users (buyers) out there who would just assume that if the microwaves have more buttons, they would offer more functionalities, and therefore 'better', worth more money, etc. Isn't that the same thing with software some time?
I think it's the ability to add in a ton of features with little extra cost to the machine these days. Manufacturers want to cover all possible uses that someone out there might have with just one model, which actually, isn't a bad thing at all.
But that being said, my family used to have one of those digital ones with a gazillion keys on it, and we rarely use it at all because it was just too complex, having to set a dozen options to cook some instant noodles. We finally got rid of that and got the big knob model and everyone is happier.
Yes, contribute to the dumbing down of society by designing our products so that they can be operated by the lamest of cavemen. After all, interface is something which is there to prevent the user from understanding how the machine works.
... What I mean is that digital is by far, more complex than analog. And with the complexity comes more features naturally. We can interface the extra features but to do it as easily as 'a dial' would take extra interface that requires more. And it also seems archaic so That could be why it remains avoided by the engineers.
What bothers me is when I want to microwave something for less than a minute (which, admittedly, is not all that often, but enough). I used to be able to hit cook-3-0-start and it would go for 30 seconds. Then we got a new microwave. I would instinctively try to enter the time this way, but when I hit the 3 the timer would start for 3 minutes. It had a "add 30 seconds" button, but this didn't work unless it was already going. Fortunately the one I have now allows me to start it at 30 sec.
I really haven't paid enough attention to the presets to even think to use them most of the time. I know how much time I need, and I don't necessarily trust that the slice of pizza the manufacturer had in mind requires exactly the same time that mine does.
@Joshua : make things unecessarily complex and even the brainiacs will cause accidents, because you're not 100% of your time in "thinking mode". Unecessarily complex interfaces don't make anyone smarter. They'll almost always frustrate and discourage.
You could reorder the interface a little bit and use a little more color - you'd make it twice as simple while still allowing users to use the complex options; without the manual, too.
It used to be easy, even on digital microwaves. Something like [Cook]    [start]
Or even    [start]
specifying the power was optional.
In my experience if I try that on that microwave.. nothing will happen or it will start doing stuff by itself that i don't want it to do. o!
Hey Now Jeff,
This post makes me think of the old KISS principle. Keep it simple stupid. I'll keep the post in mind the next time I'm adding one more field or button. I love hot keys. On the microwave just press #1 it heats up my food, similar to a phone just one number pressed my favorite #'s are dialed. From Alt + tab to Ctrl + S we gotta love hotkeys.
Coding Horror Fan,
The vast majority of microwaves sold in Germany have two controls: a timer and a power regulator. The more expensive ones might have a button or two in addition. Nobody would buy a microwave like the one on the picture. At least I certainly wouldn't, simply because the controls make the thing plain ugly.
I saw a great blog post about microwave controls a few months ago but I can't find it now. The gist of it was that they only used the "extra minute" button. Pressing it once turns on the microwave for a minute, with no other button presses required. This bloggers parent (or grandparent?) knew how to use it because it was easy. Press that button 4 times for popcorn. Twice for soup.
My work has a microwave that has a toaster built in. Both of them have separate controls on the control panel, including their own on/off and reset buttons. But, and this is my favorite part, you can't use the microwave and the toaster simultaneously. So it's really easy to try and stop the microwave but hit the stop button for the toaster.
Hi Jeff, if it's not beyond the scope of your blog, could you do some sort of user interface analysis for Wikipedia. Because as far as I can tell, it's not very accessible to the average user (sometimes I think that's a good thing ;)). But I don't just mean in editing, but also in viewing, searching and finding the information they need.
Actually, I prefer the digital controls over the knob. I cook with mine, so the ability to have it on for more than 10 minutes and at 50% power is useful. The beverage button works great for re-heating coffee. Press a keypad button, and the microwave turns on with 1 minute times the number pressed. The other buttons are useless. On yours the Dinner Plate struck me as odd, because it is the one non-food option, and a reheat of the contents of a plate would vary widely.
I just bought a new stove. There wasn't a *single* frikkin' model that had a knob for the oven temperature. So instead I have this piece of crap with 12 buttons for a bunch of features I doubt I'll ever use. Worse, when it lets me know it's warm, it shuts off the timer which I just spent 30 painful seconds setting through buttons (because there's no knob for that, either).
I would take the older microwave any day. I hate the new fangled cannot work out what to do million and one button new microwaves :)
Interesting post, Jeff. I think that you're missing a key factor, though. The 'high-tech' microwave interface is designed to diffuse the 'gunk' delivered by mucky hands (think hygiene). Check out the single dial interface - it's filthy. The keypad interface design, however, looks spotless, and that's because it spreads hand movements across a larger surface area. Ingenious.
Are you serious? Most new microwaves sold in europe have power time knobs again. Here you don't really see those ugly digital 90's ovens anywhere anymore.
No I like the digital one better. In my office our digital one died and someone picked up a two knobber. At first it was neat and retro and now it just burns popcorn...I miss the popcorn button. My desk is 15 feet from the microwave and it seems like on one can make popcorn with out it burning.
I'd be very interested in surveys as to how many people actually use any of those extra features. I'd be surprised if it is over 1%. I can't recall ever using, or even ever seeing anyone use anything over than "300[start]" with variations in the time with the possible exception of changing the power setting.
Too many designers fail to understand that sometimes adding a feature makes a product worse.
The keypad interface design, however, looks spotless, and that's because it spreads hand movements across a larger surface area. Ingenious.
No, it's clean because I cleaned it prior to the photo. Seriously.
The fairly recent (digital timer and everything) microwave I have has a grand total of 5 controls (well maybe it has more, in fact I'm pretty sure it has like 4 or 5 more, but I *never* used them. One of them sets the clock, that's about all I know), 3 of them I actually use often:
* A start button, clearly labelled as such, at the bottom right of the microwave. This can start a heating, but if you just tap it it starts heating at max power for 30 seconds, and every subsequent tap bumps the count by 30 seconds
* A stop button, clearly labelled as such, which... well... stops the microwave
* At the top (right under the timer) is an unmarked knob. Turning it clockwise increases the timer, turning it CCW decreases it. I usually use it to fine-tune the heating time.
* Under that is the grill on/grill off button, which I never came close to
* And right under the grill button (about halfway between the start and the timer) is the power button, to cycle between the preset 150W, 200W, 300W, 450W, 550W, 650W and 800W (the maximum)
I usually just slam the start button and then turn the knob, if I want control over the power I tap the power button until I get the required power, then tap the start button. Or I select the power, then turn the knob until I reach the needed time (the knob starts at 0 in that case though, inefficient) and then I end the operation by tapping the start button.
5 controls I notice, 4 I use, 3 that are both completely clear and of utterly trivial use.
And no keyboard.
My pet peeve:
Have you ever noticed how much microwaves beep? Every single button press emits a highly irritating beep. Why? WHY??
It looks like two of the most expensive microwaves at Target have dials:
page 3 of that same search, second row, the first and third, second one is out of stock, next row down is a convection oven not a micro.
To heat a sammich, place in oven, set for 30 seconds on high.
Toaster ovens are just as hard to use, although you end up with a better tasting sandwich.
Bjarne Stroustrup may have said a very true thing about this :
“I have always wished for my computer to be as easy to use as my telephone; my wish has come true because I can no longer figure out how to use my telephone.”
And it seems that it is not something that will disappear, since it's driven by market demands [http://www.jnd.org/dn.mss/simplicity_is_highly.html].
"I cook with mine, so the ability to have it on for more than 10 minutes and at 50% power is useful."
that's the rub - most people don't cook with theirs, they just heat stuff up. However these people (the majority i would say) have to be inconvenienced for the sake of those who want finer control over their microwaves.
There was a neat, tiny little controversy about this in the world of design / ui blogs a few months ago. Basically, a UI expert went to Korea, and found that car dashboards there are packed with controls. On one SUV dashboard he found three different switches to control the same light. His Korean hosts said Koreans were obsessed with new features, so the unnecessary switches were added as a marketing ploy. There were then blogs and comments saying this was definitely not just a Korean thing, and a very interesting point that users **say** they want simplicity but almost always **buy** gadgets with extra features. Dan Something, in his book "Stumbling On Happiness," also points to research that retailers should put fewer gadgets on their shoproom floors, as there's a ceiling on the number of options people will consider before giving up the whole process, and this probably creates lost sales for retailers.
Obviously I forgot the blogs and even the Harvard psych researcher's last name, sorry about that, but there's enough here for a good Google session.
Obviously also the iPod's packaging and design versus the packaging and design of most MP3 players is also relevant. Users **do** in some cases pay for simplicity.
Thank you! I'm glad I'm not alone on this. Some food service industry microwaves use very simple interfaces with only a handful of preprogrammed times - minimal thinking involved, and very fast to use (over and over again).
Yuck, burned popcorn has to be the worst thing ever. Or maybe about as bad as not burned popcorn. I hate it when that smell permeates my work environment. Because then I have to go and get some myself.
I find it's often interesting to compare consumer products to their industrial grad cousins. The business world tends to go for function over form.
For example, if you look at a microwave oven in Subway it just has a row of 10 buttons across the top, presumably for specifying 1-10 minutes, which also start the oven.
Don't you hate it when buttons in new microwaves stop working. After a few years of use, you have to push them very hard to get them to work, if they work at all. I'm sure that doesn't happen with a single analog knob.
Disclaimer: I am _not_ curious orange.
A quick glance at the control panel reveals that the 'start' button also says '/speedy cook'- my guess, at it's default state, with no prior input, pressing this button will set the microwave to 'high' power and increment the cook time by 30 seconds for each push, within a certain time limit. Pausing for that limit would then enable the button's 'start' function.
My microwave has a separate button for that feature- a 'quick-set' button that increments time by 30 sec's. This feature is (and has been) standard on microwaves for years now, at least on 'better' or more competitive models.
Thus, I think there is a parallel for software UI's (which you've most likely already covered)- intuitive (or more so) hotkeys. Obviously, the most oft-used power setting on a microwave is 'high' or maximum, and the most common cook times have a GCD of 30 seconds. So, when designing a(n) UI for software, I would think having hotkeys for the most oft-used features is a necessity. Then the battle becomes making them _intuitive_. CTRL+s for 'save' is intuitive- CTRL+SHIFT+F9 is not.
I think the thing I find most amusing is that it seems as if the control layout for every microwave I see is different. I mean they crank these things off the assembly line by the millions, and yet, it seems as if no two are the same model.
Maybe it's just me...
UI complexity is a timeless problem. On one hand, you want to be accessible to novice users. On the other, you want offer the capability to do complicated things. The challenge is to provide a tool that serves the needs of all kinds of users.
One solution is to offer two user interfaces. I've done this in Photoshop plug-ins I've written. The user is initially presented with a menu of simple processing choices. If they are more adventurous, they can switch to another tab which has an array of sliders and dials that provide fine control over the effect.
For the microwave situation, perhaps there could be a door concealing the advanced controls. I've seen some remote controls that do this.
jeff, you notice it because you are in the software biz, if you were in the microwave biz you would say the same thing about software...
I admit, my microwave is 7-8 years old. I wouldn't consider it hard to use, though.
To use it, I just type in a time and hit Start. There is also a way to change the power level, but I never use it... everything I've ever run into says to Microwave on HIGH, and the microwave has a separate Defrost button.
The only other buttons on it that I ever use are the Popcorn, Defrost, and Clock buttons.
Nowadays it seems that the popcorn I buy has instructions on it that says: "Do NOT use the Popcorn button on your microwave". WTF, that was the only convenience button I ever used. Now, I fear that button.
your post threatens my job security... if i ever do that type of programming.
the ONLY problem i have with new microwaves is when they have more action buttons than just a START and a STOP button. like i remember this one microwave that had a button that was called start, and all it did was start a timer counting down for the time amount you entered in.
but in a completely unintuitive place, there was a "bake" button, that actually did the cooking action for the specified time.
i was like "wtf?" and then i started just boiling water on the stove for my ramen. if i couldn't figure out the oven, i was gonna get a can of chicken noodle soup and the blow torch.
Here, here! The only control every microwave has ever needed is a knob that goes from "off" to "15 minutes". No other buttons, not even a "door open" button, is needed.
One dial will do fine thank you.
OK, maybe two dials, one for power level, one for cook time.
My motto in life, if it doesn't have a keyboard and a mouse I don't buy it.
@Jeff "Quick! What do you press?"
Easy - the popcorn button. :)
Seriously, the problem is that all these microwaves are slightly different - the one at my work has a +30 button on it that is pretty easy to use (once you know what to do). Hit it 3 times and your meal is hot and delicious. At home, the Quick button expects me to press a number afterward, to indicate how many minutes to cook. Neither of these, however requires me to hit the Start button.
Don't ask me how to use the convection feature - my wife knows, but I'm clueless.
Some programs are that way too. My goal is to "iPod" my programs - easy interface with intuitive features with cluttered displays - sometimes easier said than done.
The microwave I had growing up (mid 80s) was not very easy to use
To cook something for 1:30
1) Insert object into Microwave
2) Press "Cycle 1"
3) Use 4 buttons underneath the 4 digits on the timer to set the time, so, press the third button from the right once, and the 2nd button from the right three times.
4) Press start.
For my grandmother, of course, we got the Microwave With A Knob.
I hate dial-style microwaves. I don't trust that they will work properly with the silly analog timer thingy.
I hate the segmented LCD displays - how expensive is a matrix display anyway?
All the cooking programs are bung, and the defrost never seems to work properly. I end up with partially cooked chicken most of the time.
Full power is usually far too high, and why is it by selecting 50% power will just makes it go full power 1/2 of the time? Sure it averages 50% power during the time requested, but really, who are we kidding.
The reason why there are heat lamps and toaster bits in microwave ovens is because they're just not that good at cooking. I'm impressed by what can be made with a micro, but a real gas oven is centuries ahead.
The one lesson that hit me the hardest from The Design of Everyday Things (a book I think has been mentioned previously on this site) was that while as few controls as possible *looks* the easiest to use, what's *actually* the easiest to use is having one control per thing you want to do. E.g. in a microwave oven, you're likely to want to set a time and the power, so two dials are appropriate.
The "as few controls as possible" mentality was so ingrained in my brain that it took me several re-reads to actually get that "no, you should put in the extra controls iff they map to things you want to do."
Going back to the basics, EVERY microwave only has 2 (two) settings:
Power level and time to nuke.
All these fancy buttons and settings, dials, and whatever are just fancy buttons.
Maybe some people don't want to remember how long does their favorite popcorn brand takes to cook, well, too bad. All microwavable foods have instructions in the packaging.
My microwave has some kind of weird sensor which decides how it cook what I tell it to, and it works *most of the time*.
However, me being a programmer, I know how much time my favorite foods (pizza and popcorn, if you must know :P) take to cook like I want them to, yet, I can't tell the microwave how much I want it to cook with 2 buttons! What gives ?
Microwave designers seem to think that they know better than me how I want my food...
PS: Your latest posts have little to do with coding horrors...
things became sooo complicated, i dont need these features
normally though the best solution is to buy the CHEAPEST because these things are normally the SIMPLEST as well
However some microwaves will start with a single button push. '3' for 3 minutes, etc. Mine does that for digits 1-6.
I used to have one of those too. It always bugged me that that feature only worked for 1-6 minutes. Granted, it's not often that you need to heat something beyond that, but the logic is obviously already there -- how hard would it be to wire it up to 7-9 also?
I've got an LG microwave with a similarly complex layout, but also a "Start" button. Each time you press this button, it cooks on full for 30 seconds. We've had this microwave for about 7 years, and have only ever used this button, even to the extent of pressing it 10 times for 5 minutes.