Friday, September 18, 2009

Yet more rubbish UI design on a telephone

What is is about telephones that inspires such awful design? Is it any wonder that the iPhone is a success? It must have been like shooting fish in a barrel to design a phone that works (if you happen to be Apple).

My desk phone is a Cisco IP Phone 7960 Series which is apparently "designed to meet the communication needs of professional workers in enclosed office environments--employees who experience a high amount of phone traffic in the course of a business day".

Right now I've got voicemail. This is shown by a big red thing glowing on the handset and a message that says "You Have VoiceMail" on the display, and a flashing envelope symbol.

Right next to the flashing envelope is a soft button. Since it's pointing to the envelope, doesn't it seem like that should take me to voicemail? Well, it did to me, at least, but nope, it's the equivalent of pressing the "PickUp" button and asks me what number I want to dial.

And then, why, when I get into voicemail, do I have to use the number keys to navigate and not all the nice soft keys on the phone? For crying out loud.


marksany said...

I have one of these at work. It has an Ethernet connection to my PC, but IT won't install the software that allows you to control the phone from the PC. It is a terrible UI.

Jay said...


Most of the UI stuff on those phones are managed on the server-side. As long as you're running in "skinny" mode (attached to a Cisco Call Center), the admin can control softkeys, etc to do what he pleases.

If you're running in SIP mode (the screenshot doesn't look like you are), then you can modify a small amount of the behavior via the config file sent during tftpboot.

Hopefully this is helpful!

Guy said...

I have this same phone on my desk at work. You are absolutely correct -- the interface is counter-intuitive & as a result most of my colleagues ignore most of the features.

The only tech category I can think of that is even more in need of a UI makeover is kitchen gadgetry. Almost everything in the modern kitchen from the refrigerator to the range to the microwave oven to the simple blender appears to have been designed with no thought at all for the convenience of the user. Where is the company that can do for the kitchen what Apple has done for the personal computer?

Jonathan Histed said...

Ahhh... well "Ergonomics": its an expensive extra I presume. ;)

My latest foam at the mouth example was a UK Mercedes Sprinter Van (approx 2007/2008 vintage), which I had as a hire vehicle. The dash board was a disaster. Looked sleek and elegant (the speedometer binnacle in particular), with an identical looking rev. counter to its side. Wtih exactly the same digits on it. Of course, the units were different (as indicated in 6 point text at the bottom of each dial.) As I was careering towards a speed camera, I couldn't tell what speed I was gonig at. And indeed, was it mph or Kmh ?

As if that wasn't bad enough they have a natty fuel guage, with a 10 LCD bar graph. Great. It seems to suddenly eat 10% of the fuel instantly. Mm. Nice. You have no way of knowing when you are near empty. Completly useless. Never mind non linearity: it simply has too wopping a quantum of measurement.

Given thi must be an evolution of earlier instrument displays sis the designer say "no I don't like those, they are too clear..."?!?!?!

Insane. Mercedes I thought were into the concept of well desinged and executed bits of kit. I don't think so.