It’s always the last button

As we gain knowledge over the years about the things we design, the design get better and better. When you look at the first web sites and compare them to the things we create today you can say that we made some improvements. This rule, that design gets better over the years, does not apply to remote controls for DVD players.

There are a few things I want to do with a remote control for a DVD player: skip unskippable trailers, go to the menu, and play the damn movie, finally. You’d think that three buttons would be sufficient. Mine has 33.

Conventions

A few conventions emerged in the world of DVD remote controls and button placement in general: (1) the Enter button is surrounded by four arrows, (2) the 0 is placed directly below the 8, and (3) play and pause are one and the same button. I do agree that conventions must be challenged every now and then and that they have to be replaced if we come up with something better.

Creativity vs originality

Some designers believe they have to reinvent the wheel every time they design something, even if the thing they created is an oval without an axis. I see that a lot in the web design world where people come up with an alternative way to navigate or an unconventional way to scroll. They think it’s brilliant and original because they’ve never seen it before, but the reason they haven’t seen it before is not because they’re the first to make it up, other people did so before them and found out that it just doesn’t work. Removing the Enter Button from the center and placing it somewhere else is a good example of misplaced originality.

Numbers

I never understood why you’d want numbers on your DVD remote. Apparently you can use them to quickly set the time. A rather obscure function for a DVD player, definitely not worth one third of the space. A good designer would have removed all numbers from the remote, but this bad designer decided that the 0 should be placed below the 7.

Internals

The first thing I do when I start a DVD is press the Menu button (which for some odd reason is not allowed, most of the time). When I press the Menu button I want to be taken to the menu where I can choose to play the damn movie, finally, or choose some useful settings like language or subtitles. I never want to be taken to a different menu. On my new remote there are three menu buttons. I’m sure there’s a rule with a name that describes the following: if you’re not sure which button to press, the correct option is always the last one.

Do you know the difference between the Menu, the Home Menu, and the Top Menu? Me neither. These are internal functions, probably, they are the bowels of you DVD player. We need bowels, without knowing we use them all the time, but only surgeons need to see them in extreme cases, normal people should not have access to them. Well, not too much anyways… So, just give me one Menu button and don’t confuse me.

Random WTF

On my computer there is no difference between Return and Enter, both words are printed on the same button. “Hit Return” or “hit Enter” have exactly the same meaning for most people. Obviously not for DVD remote designers.

Is the DVD/USB button the most important one on the whole remote? Is Stop unrelated to Play? What’s an Angle? What’s Zoom for? And Display? Clear?

The only thing they actually did right on this thing is labeling Prev and Next, I always confuse them with Fast Forward (see the law I defined above). The problem is that it’s not clear if the label is placed below or above the corresponding button, some simple Gestalt theory would have helped here.

Priorities

Sure, DVD players are definitely not the top prioritiy for hardware giants like Pioneer, other crappy systems like Blu-Ray are taking over its place. So I understand that you don’t hire a world class designer to design your remote. What I don’t understand though is that you hire a designer at all. Just copy a remote that already works!