Saturday, January 19, 2019

Adventures in UX disasters: The Pioneer AVH-2440NEX dimmer control

To provide a display for the backup camera I recently had installed on my car, I had a Pioneer AVH-2440NEX head unit installed in my dashboard. The display was distractingly bright at night, so I set out to dim it. The unit supports automatic night dimming, so I figured this would be easy. It is, but only after you've endured a UX hazing ritual of the kind that's distressingly common in the software industry.

On the AVH-2440NEX (and related models), there is a display setting called Brightness. It does not control the brightness of the display. It controls the blackness of the display. The brightness is controlled by the Dimmer setting. Dimmer has a range of 48 values, 1 to 48. Larger Dimmer settings decrease the dimness of the display, because Dimmer controls the display's brightness.

Values for Brightness (which do not control the display's brightness) are -24 to 24.

To summarize: The display brightness is controlled by a setting called Dimmer, which has a range of 48 values starting at 1, with higher values decreasing the dimness. The display blackness, in contrast, is controlled by a setting called Brightness, which has a range of 49 values that start at -24.


Think of all the professional developers--UX designers, programmers, QA people, managers--who had to sign off on this before it shipped to customers. I don't understand how they could collectively believe that this is a reasonable (much less intuitive) design for mainstream consumers.



Leo Heinsaar said...

Well, these go to 11.

Anonymous said...

What they call Brightness would elsewhere be called Contrast? (ha! your "in contrast" is a nice pun.)

To be fair, household lightswitches with integrated dimmers also usually follow the model of "positional value of dimmer has inverse relation to the dimness of the light" and likewise have the naming model of dimmer control rather than brightness control.

Scott Meyers said...

@Anonymous: There's a separate control for contrast. The Brightness control is specified to "Adjust the black intensity."

Dan said...

I've seen this so many times, and agree 100% with your sentiments.

Usually when I see this kind of trainwreck, I figure that:
- the UI has probably been designed almost exclusively by engineers in open loop mode (no feedbak)
- no one outside of the development group has used the product and weighed in with feedback (or it was simply discarded)

Either way, pretty sad.

Anonymous said...

Having spent the past several years doing UI design & development for a process automation system, I can definitely related to your angst. Sometimes, despite the pleas of the development team, management puts roadblocks in place that inhibit good design and implementation.

In six and a half years of working on the process automation system, and seeing it go into production, no UI development team member been permitted to go on site to see the system being used by the customer, or even to see how the customer's process works before automation.

Surprisingly, we did win a 2018 "best of show" award at our annual major industry conference. I'm torn between crediting that to astute design, crappy competition, or just dumb luck... and leaning to the latter.

BTW, I still recommend your Effective C++ to our fresh out of college new hires. It helps them to realize that the C++ they learned in college was just scratching the surface.