Usability in your private life

We have just upgraded to a new television. A 32″ Samsung smart TV. It feels enormous. I hasten to add that the only reason that we did this was to be able to watch cats falling off sofas in high definition. After all, what other reason could there be? Apart from watching people walk into lampposts.

The sad thing about being a usability engineer is that you look at controls all the time. And the Samsung ones are dreadful. The manual tells you which connector for which input – excellent. Except it does this by having a little diagram of a connector (HDMI, USB etc) and it doesn’t tell you where the damn thing is on the television. Or even in relation to the other connections. There is no helpful location information such as – the USB connector is on the side and the Ethernet is the third on the left. And you have to remember that this is a large item and I have a small house. You really want to have it set up and then plug in the cables so you can squeeze them into the available space. Instead, what you have to do is drag this smooth black item over to the light source, stare at all the little slots and try and work out which one is which one, according to the label. Presumably they envisaged it being set up by someone with a head torch in a warehouse, rather than in a small sitting room with subtle mood lighting and no space to turn the screen round.

Anyway, this could generally have been seen to be successful, the TV works, connects to the internet, connects to my netbook, and we can get YouTube on it. But the handset is dreadful. It has an up/down/left/right set of arrows, with an enter button at the centre point of the cross. (No, I’m not going to take a photo and upload it – be grateful that I’m even typing) and there is absolutely no haptic information that tells you which the entry key is. I have already made several million erros by getting the entry key instead of the down key when I am attempting to move from Samsung’s default plan (Family TV or something equally inappropriate) and go straight to YouTube. I am developing a hatred for this. And you can’t change (as far as I can tell) what the default SmartTV option is. It  has the “Samsung-approved” set of options in BIG icons, and the other apps in little icons. And you can rearrange the little icons and put them in folders, but you are stuck with the BIG icons. Pah, I hate it.

But the good stuff is – yes, I can fritter away hours of my life in watching people fall off ladders.

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