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July 6, 2010 / fayafshar

Bad feedback is worse than no feedback

So we’ve had this Philips DVD player for over 6 years, and since the day it was purchased, I have mistaken it’s ON and OFF states, because of a strange red LED light that is lit next to its Standby – On button.

Philips DVD player

Philips DVD player

The problem is, this button misleads you into thinking the DVD player is OFF when it is actually ON, and ON when it is in fact OFF. Why? because the red LED is turned on when the unit is actually off.

Philips DVD player in ON state

Philips DVD player in ON state

Who would have thought that a DVD player that’s turned off, has led lights turned on?

Philips DVD player in OFF state

Philips DVD player in OFF state

You might be thinking that i should have checked the label on this button. Well I did, because initially I assumed it was my misunderstanding.

But the label is even more misleading: Standby – On

What in the world does Standby On mean??????

The formal definition of “on standby” means “waiting” or “ready”

The formal definition of “standby” for a TV means “ready to receive a signal from a remote control”.

So my guess is this button’s label is meant to imply “ready to receive a remote control signal – on”.

Well however you look at it, it doesn’t make sense.

So my point with all this rant is that users need to get constructive feedback when using anything designed well. Don’t complicate things, just let the user know when the unit is off (by dimming lights for example) compared to when the unit is on (use different tone/colour of lights, or some other means to communicate the state of the device).

I wonder if the designers at Philips actually tried testing this DVD player on real users? By real users, i mean people of a wide range of age groups, and ethnographic backgrounds. It certainly requires testing in the natural environment of users.

If you have come across anything similar, drop me a line! Or if you think the label makes sense, i’d also love to hear from you   🙂

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4 Comments

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  1. Chris Boyne / Jul 7 2010 9:41 pm

    have you ever read a book called The Psychology Of Everyday Things?

    It’s a brilliant read, and goes into exactly this sort of bad design – such as doors you should push that have handles you can pull… if the door does not tell you how to use it do you then need a user manual written on the door saying ‘push’? When just designing the door correctly will inform the user intuitively without any need for writing. Push pad means I push this door, a pull handle means I pull.

    • fay afshar / Jul 9 2010 6:50 pm

      Hi Chris,
      Yes i’ve read that book, its a great read. It really opens up your eyes to good design and how much thought must go into it.
      He has however renamed it to The Design of Everyday Things i believe.
      Speaking of which, i came across a door at the local medical centre which had a handle on both sides. Although one side is labelled pull and the other labelled push, the door opens in both ways, so in this case the label is not really needed huh?!
      🙂

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