Trapped in the menus of the electronic world

A very amusing program on how designers of electronic gadgets rarely take into account user friendliness was showing moments ago on DW-TV, a german satellite TV channel.

The program demonstrated that incomprehensible menus, made by Korean workers for German users of a life-saving electronic machine in a hospital can have dangerous consequences.

Everyone has fiddled with the menus and remote control of our television set, and everyone agrees, even the computer savvy persons, that setting the right background or the right color can be a very frustrating experience. So many arrow clicks! (sideways or up and down). And how can I please get back to the main menu?

It really doesn’t have to be this way. Life would be simpler if manufacturers of electronic goods could agree on a universal standard for their menus.

The following is just a proposal for such a standard:
For our electronic appliance to work, we only need a numbers keypad, an OK button, an Esc button, a small window indicating what numbers we have typed, and a small help window.

We begin with the premise that most electronic appliances offer us 99 features at most. (Some will have sub-choices of course)

The user’s manual will consist of at most four pages listing, in order, the 99 choices.

Below is an example of what my television user manual would have looked like:

01 Setting Channels
011 Automatic setting of channels
0111 System
01111 BG
01112 I
01113 DK
01114 M
0112 Storage From
01121….9 (nine choices)
0113 Normal Search
0114 Turbo Search
012 Manual Setting of channels
0121 System
01211 BG
01212 I
01213 DK
01214 M
0122 Channel
0122100…999(Hundreds of choices)
.
.
.
02 Picture Parameters
021 Contrast
02100…2199(about a hundred point)
022 Brightness
02200…2299(about a hundred point)
023 Color
02300…2399(about a hundred point)
024 Sharpness
02400…2499(about a hundred point)

You get the picture, simply enter the number and press OK and voila.

Esc cancels any numbers entered.

Of course the BG and the I and the DK and the M choices must be explained in short, comprehensible phrases. A cross-index would be helpfull. Eventually, we all have the tendency to memorize the three or four numbers we most commonly use.

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