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Monumentally Stupid UI Design Award #1

2005-11-02 21:24:40

This is the part where I get to make fun of people I don't know, in order to vent my frustration at their crappy products.

Item #1 on my list is the "screen saver" feature on Sony DVD players. This idiocy was introduced a number of years ago, presumably to prevent burn-in on plasma and projection televisions. OK, that is maybe a worthy goal, but that is not what I am complaining about.

The geniuses at Sony said "screen saver... existing paradigm from computers: the computer stays in screen save mode until the user moves mouse, or hits any key. that input is swallowed up, since the user can't see what they would be typing or mousing, and the screen saver exits."

So the Sony screen saver acts exactly like that. If the screen saver is "on" then you can hit any button on the remote or on the DVD player itself, and nothing will happen, except that the screen saver goes away, and you get back to the DVD menu or whatever. Here's the funny part: suppose the TV is turned off. You can't see the screen saver, and you hit the EJECT button to open the disc tray. Nothing happens. You wonder why. You hit EJECT again. The tray opens. Eventually you learn this behavior, and you tend to hit EJECT, wait 1.3 seconds and hit EJECT again. However, sometimes, the screen saver is already OFF (but you can tell, because the TV is off) and the tray starts to open, then you hit the second EJECT, and it closes again. So THREE hits are needed to open the freakin tray. Why must I be subjected to this will-it-open anxiety?

The problem is, of course, that the screen saver notion of eating input works for a computer, because you can't possibly know what a the "Z" key would do if you can't see what is on the screen. So it's right to eat all input. However, the EJECT button on a DVD player does one thing. It ejects the disk. There is no dangerous ambiguity to avoid.

Every time I use my DVD player, I seethe: the design team on this feature should be retroactively fired and banned from ever doing industrial design.

Gosh I feel better now.