Friday, May 23, 2008

Worst. UI. Ever.

It looks like a normal clock radio - it's got a snooze button, and dial to set the stations. It's got the standard LED display and black plastic case.

It is, in fact, the user interface from hell.

For the life of me, I can't figure out how to disable the alarm from going off. If you plug in the alarm, set it to alarm at 8am, as far as I can tell, for the rest of its life, it will do so.

And every time it does this (go off, when I don't want it to) I spend 20 minutes pressing different combinations of buttons. I think, if I hold down 'cancel' and 'sleep' at the same time, it'll work. It never does. I always give up and pull the plug.

It turns out, innovative user experiences aren't always a good thing. If this clock used the same approach every other clock radio had used, it would be just fine.

What on Earth were the designers of this clock thinking? And did they ever test it out first?

Moral of the story: even the simplest user experience can be broken if you aren't careful.


Update: Specifics about this device:

 Brand: GE
 Model: 7-4837B
 Frustration Level: Very High

Thanks Nick for suggesting I provide this info.


  1. come on, you've got to at least post the brand and model, I see GE on the picture, but which one.... now if you ask why I want to know the brand and model info... well how else am I suppose to go pick one up to play with..... lol and if you ever need a method with some finality... you can always throw it at the wall... that always works....

  2. Yes, that device certainly put aesthetics above usability! Clock radios (and, to a lesser extent, digital alarm clocks in general) are notoriously difficult to actually use. They're so inconsistent, from one model to another, it's ridiculous!

    I've got three in my house right now, and they are all quite different from one another (even though two of them are different models from the same brand, and were bought at the same time).

    Have you read Donald Norman's "The Design of Everyday Things"? If not, you absolutely must! I definitely remember the [lack of] usability of alarm clocks/clock radios being discussed in that book.

  3. DOET is totally on my reading list, and I even have a copy of the book my bookshelf. Perhaps this can be the motivation I need to squeeze in time to read it?

    What's amazing too is how the poor design decisions get carried over from one generation to the next.

    When my wife and I want to turn on the radio, we hit the 'sleep' button - why is that? What does that even mean? Why does my alarm clock even have a sleep button?

    It just is. And I expect other clock radios that I buy will also have a sleep button with this ridiculous behavior.

  4. Anonymous1:30 AM

    I had the same crappy experience with this model. Mine is in an upstairs bedroom and every day either the radio or the alarm comes on at midnight--and the alarm noise is sooo annoying. It's easy to shut off, but just try figuring out how to turn the little sucker off for good. I finally went on-line and found the key. I guess I won't throw it out of the window after all...

  5. Do you have a URL to the instructions?

    Or should I just use this one: ?