Skip to main content

Microwaves Are Evil (at least mine)

Posted by joshy on November 24, 2003 at 10:27 AM PST

Yes, that's right microwaves are evil. More specifically,
the microwave in my office. Or, to get right down to it, the
interface on this microwave. You see, it's awful. Just plain
awful. And yet, I've seen worse.

Here's a picture:

You can see that it's a normal looking microwave, a few extraneous
buttons above, but not as bad as I've seen. In fact, they did something
clever to make it easier to use. There's too many buttons on the
microwave so they found a really innovative way to get rid of one. They
probably got together one day at the usability compound and I think the
conversation went something like this:

Flunkie 1:So, like, our microwave has too many buttons dude.

Flunkie 2:Yeah, totally man!

Flunkie 1:We gotta get rid of some, dude.

Flunkie 2:Well, when it's running you only need to stop it. And when it's stopped you only need to start it. So we could make those share the same button, man. It'd be, like, totally condensed 'N stuff.

Flunkie 1:Whoa! That's righteous, dude. Let's totally do that!

Flunkie 2:Radical! I'm hungry. Lets go get some munchies.

Yes. That's right, they combined the start and stop buttons. Brilliant! Except for one problem. Their over-sized printed button didn't have an over-sized switch underneath it. You can press the / between them and no where else.

This has caused so many problems in our office that someone left the instructions on top of the microwave. A microwave that needs instructions is a bad microwave.
But still, that's not enough. We still couldn't figure it out. Finally, someone highlighted a particularly helpful section of the manual, along with a explanatory text.

So I have two questions:

  • Why do designers still make such unusable products, even
    in an area that is pretty well known?
  • Why do we put up with it?