Why usability studies are important

This is the time of year in Colorado when you you crank on your cars air conditioning for the first time in several months. For me it’s the time of year when I need to remember how my cars AC button works. It’s confusing because the AC button has:

1. A red light that turns on when the button is on (good)
2. “AC” printed in large letters (good)
3. “off” printed in much small letters (bad)

So, you need to turn on the ‘AC off’ button to turn off the AC and turn off the “AC off” button to turn on the AC. When the AC is on, there is no light that turns on to clearly assure you that the AC is indeed on. The differences in font size between “AC” & “off” adds to the confusion…it would have been the lesser of two evils if they had at least made them the same size. The small ‘off’ label makes you think that it’s just a reminder that turning off the AC is a secondary function of the button.

Most cars simply have an AC button with a light on it. Simple, right? Turning on the button, means turning on the AC. Until now, I’ve never seen a button that turns on when something is turned off…not counting that big red ‘OFF’ button at gas stations that one should hit immediately if they notice that their “AC Off” button is on fire while in the vicinity of a gas pump.

At any rate, I’m sure at the time the button label was decided on there was a big disagreement and the less comprehensive force unfortunately won out.

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