December 4, 2008

Viking Dishwasher Problems

My colleague, Ben Shneiderman, recently moved into a new apartment with a fancy dishwasher (that had been installed before he had any say) with a real interface blooper.

The Viking Design Series dishwasher has a feature to emit a short beeping signal to indicate that the washing is done. You might think it logical to have a toggle switch or button to set this signal on/off as well as indicate its current state. However, the complex steps and lack of feedback of state are described in the user manual:

Activating the End-of-Program Signal

The unit can be programmed to emit a short signal when the program is finished. To program this feature, follow the steps below:

1. Turn off the power to the machine.
2. Press and hold down the Delay Start button as you turn on the power of the machine. The Delay Start button will flash.
3. Release the button.
4. Press the Program button. The Pots/Pans button will glow to indicate the end-of-program signal is activated.
5. Press the start/stop button to store the settings.

To deactivate the signal, repeat the steps above. The Pots/Pans button will go out to indicate the signal is off.

Incredibly enough, to activate the program done signal, you have to deal with five buttons: Power, Delay Start, Program, Pots/Pans, and Start/Stop in a manner that completely overrides the buttons labeled usage. This is an expensive dishwasher so saving manufacturing costs was not a serious concern for the designers, but obviously neither was their concern for users.

The fight for usability continues...