Nice rant on knobs

| No Comments
The puppy-blender has a great rant on the use of knobs and their disappearance in today's equipment:
Bring Back Our Knobs: Analog vs. Digital
Sometimes you just want to reach out and touch something. But product designers don't always want to let you.

Not so long ago, if I wanted to adjust the heat in my car, or the volume on my car radio, I could grab a nice, simple knob. Turn it to the right, and the car got warmer, or the radio got louder. Turn it the other way, and the opposite occurred. I could always sense how far I was adjusting things � without ever taking my eyes off the road � because millions of years of evolution have produced a neurological feedback mechanism that lets me know just how much I'm turning my wrist.

Easy, effective, intuitive. That's simply good design, right? You'd think. But in most late-model cars, making those kinds of adjustments requires pushing buttons multiple times, or navigating menus within menus, and � almost always � taking your eyes off the road.

That's the trouble with buttons: Instead of working in a continuous analog motion the way knobs do, they only operate in discrete digital steps. And, since there's no tactile feedback, the only way to tell what the button is doing is to squint at an LCD readout.

So what do product designers have against knobs? Several things. First of all, most designers like a smooth, uncluttered look. Tiny buttons blend in better than a bunch of big knobs. (Of course, blending in makes the buttons hard to see, which is part of the problem.) Second, the utility of a knob is precisely its main flaw: It does only one thing. If you have a lot of things to control, you need a lot of knobs. With nested menus and a few buttons, you can duplicate the functions of dozens of knobs in much less space. Trouble is, what's saved in space and clutter (and gained in elegance) is lost in terms of usability.
What he said -- I know that knobs are much more expensive to manufacture than push buttons and that, as Glen says, today's devices have much greater function set but still, some time needs to be given to usability and to put some thought into the layers and menus...

Leave a comment

August 2019

Sun Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat
        1 2 3
4 5 6 7 8 9 10
11 12 13 14 15 16 17
18 19 20 21 22 23 24
25 26 27 28 29 30 31

Environment and Climate
Cliff Mass Weather Blog
Climate Audit
Climate Depot
Green Trust
Jennifer Marohasy
Planet Gore
Science and Public Policy Institute
Solar Cycle 24
Space Weather
Space Weather - Canada
the Air Vent
Tom Nelson
Watts Up With That?

Science and Medicine
Derek Lowe
Junk Science
Life in the Fast Lane
Luboš Motl
New Scientist
Next Big Future
Ptak Science Books
Science Blog

Geek Stuff
Ars Technica
Boing Boing
Don Lancaster's Guru's Lair
Evil Mad Scientist Laboratories
Hack a Day
Kevin Kelly - Cool Tools
Slashdot: News for nerds
The Register
The Daily WTF

The Argyle Sweater
Chip Bok
Broadside Cartoons
Day by Day
Medium Large
Michael Ramirez
Prickly City
User Friendly
What The Duck

Awkward Family Photos
Cake Wrecks
Not Always Right
Sober in a Nightclub
You Drive What?

Business and Economics
The Austrian Economists
Carpe Diem
Coyote Blog

Photography and Art
Digital Photography Review
James Gurney
Joe McNally's Blog
The Online Photographer

A Western Heart
American Digest
The AnarchAngel
Anti-Idiotarian Rottweiler
Babalu Blog
Belmont Club
Bayou Renaissance Man
Classical Values
Cold Fury
David Limbaugh
Defense Technology
Doug Ross @ Journal
Grouchy Old Cripple
Irons in the Fire
James Lileks
Lowering the Bar
Maggie's Farm
Marginal Revolution
Michael J. Totten
Mostly Cajun
Power Line
Questions and Observations
Rachel Lucas
Roger L. Simon
Sense of Events
Sound Politics
The Strata-Sphere
The Smallest Minority
The Volokh Conspiracy
Tim Blair
Weasel Zippers

Gone but not Forgotten...
A Coyote at the Dog Show
Bad Eagle
Steven DenBeste
democrats give conservatives indigestion
Cox and Forkum
The Diplomad
Priorities & Frivolities
Gut Rumbles
Mean Mr. Mustard 2.0
Neptunus Lex
Other Side of Kim
Ramblings' Journal
Sgt. Stryker
shining full plate and a good broadsword
A Physicist's Perspective
The Daily Demarche
Wayne's Online Newsletter

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on March 31, 2007 8:14 PM.

Ethanol is not that green. was the previous entry in this blog.

Iraq battlefield slang is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Monthly Archives


OpenID accepted here Learn more about OpenID
Powered by Movable Type 5.2.9