I've had to fix the TV for my grandmother about 10 times over the last two months. These visits have been like an informal usability test. The problem is that technology features are driven by different tv companies and departments. Each contributes to the problem but doesn't take resolnsibility for the entire user experience.
Here are the core issues with televisions. I believe this is a problem across the whole industry and although the specific examples are from my grandmothers living room I know the issues effect all ages and experience levels.
- Turning the TV on should not be complex - Although the TV, VCR, Cable box are made by different manufacturers and each perform different functions they are perceived as a single unit. Because they are a single unit they should have a unified on/off switch. If I turn the VCR on the TV should be on. If I turn the cable box on the TV should be on. There is no common scenario where you don't want a unified on/off operation.
- The TV/Video button should not exist - Many modern TV's and VCR's have a button labeled TV/Video. The buttons only purpose seems to be to put the TV into a state where it can not be watched. I believe the intended purpose of the button is to switch between multiple video feeds however if pressed inadvertently on either the TV or the VCR it becomes very difficult to find the permutation of the buttons that will return the TV to a normal state.
- VCR's should not have TV tuners - There may be a reason why VCR's tend to have built in TV tuners but this actually causes a lot of problems. Even though it's conceptually possible to watch one show while recording another it's practically impossible for the typical person. Similar to the TV/Video button the VCR/TV combination must be tuned to a specific channel to ensure that the combination will work. (Usually channel 3 or 4)
- Remote Controls are a mess - Each component VCR/TV/Cable Box comes with it's own remote control. Each one claims it's a universal remote, but for each one to work it has to be programmed to work with the others. This makes them all not so universal. Each one also includes buttons for every feature you could imagine making them that much harder to use.
- Too many cables - There are way to many cables for any novice to figure out. In a simple configuration of Cable, VCR and TV there can be a whole collection of different cables, colors and instructions. Additionally the order that these are added can impact the functionality that is available to the end user.
It's ridiculous. We can send satellites into space but we can't figure out how to make TV's easier to use.
How hard is it to get the heads of Phillips, Toshiba, Sony, Comcast, Direct-TV, Mitsubishi, Hitachi, JVC, Panasonic, Zenith, Pioneer and RCA to agree that there is a serious problem and that the solution to the problem can both improve the customer experience and save millions in support costs?
Top 10 secnarios that should be enabled by these companies:
Users can turn on the TV and related electronics with a single button Users can connect any two components with a single wire. Connections should always be transative. Users can combine components from different manufacturers Users can record a show and play it back User can use adjust the volume with the same button regardless of the content being played Users do not need to worry about agreement of TV/Video and channel number to have their electronics work properly. Users can add new electronics without worrying about the order that they are added (Cable->TV->VCR) should behave the same as (Cable -> VCR ->TV) When a user inserts a VCR tape or DVD and hits play the TV should display the video regardless of the previous mode of the TV/Cablebox. If I add stereo equipment, DVR or other components to my TV I shouldn't have to re-program my volume controls or other settings. Adding equipment should be plug and play
I should be able to change the settings and correct problems for my grandmother remotely.