The expression “user-friendly,” used to describe every technological gadget, is a near fraud as far as I’m concerned.
The expression is intended to induce a nontechnical klutz like me to buy a contrivance that looks complicated, but any fool can master it in minutes. Then, enclosed in the package, is an instruction booklet, many pages long, that tells you, in Spanish and English that “user-friendly” means you’ll need your grandchildren to guide you through the stages of operation. Of course, they’ll roll their eyes, but everybody will be happier if you pretend you don’t notice.
Take my “user-friendly” TV remote for example. The back side, with comfortable grooves for my sweaty fingers, is truly user-friendly.
But the business side is another matter completely. It has 61 buttons. The 10 with channel numbers and the “volume” and “channel” buttons and the on/off button make sense to me, but the other 48 are totally baffling. The user manual may explain what the “swap,” “aux,” “fav,” “pip,” “aspect,” or “M1,” “M2,” “M3,” “live,” buttons are for but does “user-friendly” still apply if I have to look everything up?
All I know is that when I’m in a jam with my TV, none of those other 48 buttons change anything. It feels like somebody has just sat me down in front of a control panel of the pilot’s seat of a Boeing 707.
Here’s something the entire electronics industry ought to consider. There are about 13 million color-blind males in the United States and another million or so females. All devices with red or green signals will cause them confusion. Any printed instructions with black print on a red background will cause problems. All color blindness is not the same and no color-blind person can explain to you what he sees or can’t see. Don’t ask us (I’m one). We’re not interested in entertaining you with answers that make you snicker. If you think it’s funny that we think carrots are green, keep it to yourself.
Accordingly, all devices manufactured ought to be examined by color-blind consultants before they are sold to the public by the millions. All signs as well. I’ve seen billboards that were nearly half invisible. I would be happy to work as a color-consultant for the companies that don’t seem to get it.
I would describe the color of my remote as “midnight” with almost no additional color.
The numbers are one of the darker 50 shades of grey. I have to turn up the lights to read the numbers. Is that “user-friendly?”
But here’s the tip that any honest remote user will have to agree with. Remotes ought to be yellow. Yes, yellow. How often have you heard the question “where’s the remote?” Usually it’s within 3 feet of the person asking the question –- in plain sight. They disappear into the furniture so often that elderly owners think their cleaning person are stealing the remote.
If remotes were manufactured in yellow, thousands of wasted hours would be saved and folks would not claim that someone is stealing them. You don’t have to study engineering or re-write user manuals to solve that problem. Nontechnical simpletons could help solve many technical problems if somebody would only ask us.