Monday, September 17, 2007

How to Design a Usable Remote Control

Designing a usable remote ...

"A somewhat older (2004), but insightful story in the NY Times on the development of the Tivo remote control. We all know the omnipresent, but disaster-like remotes, that have an overload of functions neatly arranged in a 7 by 14 matrix of small buttons with even smaller text labels.

A typical remote may have some 40 buttons, with functions that are hard to divine. Often the labels -- ''toggle,'' ''planner'' and the like -- are no help. The device can feel like an afterthought, thrown together without any planning at all.

The TiVo remote control, however, is a device that is so easy to use, it even has the blessing of Mr. Nielsen (no first name needed I presume):

''They did a really good job,'' said Jakob Nielsen of the Nielsen Norman Group, a technology consulting firm in Fremont, Calif. Mr. Nielsen called the oversize yellow pause button in the middle of the remote ''the most beautiful pause button I've ever seen.''

A very interesting accomplishment of the design team was to be able to keep the number of buttons on the device as low as possible. 'Less is more' is a slogan that many designers use, but that is not always reflected in the designs these designers make. However, the design team of the Tivo remote managed to hold the fort:

''Buttons proliferate on remotes like rabbits,'' Mr. Newby said, adding that he and his designers, who ranged in age from 25 to 45, had ''bloody battles'' over which ones to include. They managed to hold the number at 30, a considerable achievement given how many functions the TiVo receiver performs.

I think that the remote control is more and more getting the attention it deserves. If I walk into a audio-video store these days, finally they don't just display the tv sets, but in most stores they also show the remote."    (Continued via the product usability weblog)    [Usability Resources]

Tivo Remote - Usability, User Interface Design

Tivo Remote


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