Ovens have terrible user interfaces

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I think that the primary reason is the non-tactile buttons are cheaper than knobs. they’re also easier to clean. A friend pointed out that you can often creatively reduce the number of button pushes to work the microwave…If something is supposed to heat for a minute and a half, instead of pushing 1,3,0, cook you can press 8,8,cook, so instead of three number all different, you double press one button, because 88 seconds is the same a a minute and a half for practical purposes…


my microwave is the last appliance I want connected to the internet-of-things. just sayin.


There was a post by a redditor a few weeks ago where he talked about his work hacking appliances to add feature. He explains why the controls we get suck. The TL;DR? They’re contracted out to the lowest bidder.


If the user interface was good for anything, it’d be possible to set the energy delivered and the energy delivery rate. In joules and watts. Then one could take a look at the tables of material properties, approximate the weight of the object, and from the desired temperature estimate the energy to set.

Today, we have “intuitive” controls, and if the oven has different magnetron with more or less power than what we’re used to, our time and relative power based estimates are off.

For that, even the simple power and time knobs would suffice - if calibrated in proper units, e.g. actual watts of output thermal power. For the calculations, a nomogram printed on the oven panel will do.


This… does not seem like an intuitive UI


Thermal capacity (J/kg*K), mass (kg), power (J/s), time (s), desired temperature (K, or 'C, that’s just an offset and we go for a difference anyway). Elementary school grade physics. What’s not intuitive on that? Do the schools really fail people THIS bad?

Okay, it’s a linear approximation when we work with uneven absorption and temperature difference dependent heat losses, but still better than the uninformed guesswork The Wise Designers doom us to now.

The oven of course can be calibrated using a cup with known amount of water and measuring temperature difference achieved with known power setting for known time…

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You’re so cute, Shaddack!

Deluded, but cute.


As someone who lives in apartments, I have to deal with new appliances (generally without user manuals) every time I move. Not only microwave ovens, but even conventional ovens have opaque and overcomplicated interfaces these days. Just trying to figure out how to preheat a conventional oven or change the power setting on a microwave is a frustrating experience of trial and error.


I have a microwave which is old and total crap, no timer, no keypad, no turntable, no light.
It has been stripped by me to an intact latch, enclosure, and transmitter.
A momentary connect, as in hold button for as long as you want it to cook, connected to the transformer and magnetron.
My kids can’t forget stuff to explode inside.


Crappy interfaces seem to have become the norm for almost everything. I got a new, aftermarket car stereo 2 years ago, and I still can’t do anything more advanced than change radio stations without pulling out the manual. And I have an M.S. in Aerospace Engineering. And I can’t figure out why it’s like that. It doesn’t really do anything car stereos 30 years ago didn’t do, but the controls were a lot simpler. It’s just a CD player and a USB connection now instead of a tape plater. But the basic functions are the same. Play, pause, volume, etc. I think the designers are falling victim to the temptation to do things because they can, not because they should.


When we were buying a stove the lack of extra buttons and built in computers was probably the most important feature we looked for. Its a gas stove, it just need to turn on and off, thats it. We found one, but it was not easy. (or cheap!)

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Believe me, as someone who has just finished a university course in interaction design, I’m in the middle of a Baader-Meinhof nightmare of clumsy, poorly thought out, and in many cases just outright irresponsible design.


Someone thought it necessary to have a chicken nuggets button?


I think that you need to look at the truly cheapo kind that’s installed in my apartment. It’s the absolute bare minimum


See thats usable though! No bells or whistles it just does what its supposed to do! If i was in an apartment I would want that!


Mine does something similar - you can have the ‘intuitive’ settings - quick start, defrost etc., but you can also choose the power and time manually if you don’t want full power. Different foods cook in different ways, so you can set the microwave by weight and type of food rather than time. The time setting is also a dial, which seems much more practical than a button. It really isn’t all that complicated, and there can’t be more than about 15 buttons. It’s also over 12 years old, so I guess I’ll have more trouble finding a decent oven when it dies.

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it really disturbs me when i agree with you, and this is a great example of why. i was just thinking about mapping this out for the office microwave yesterday after i had a cold-in-the-middle burrito for the kajillion-th time.

i think there’s an approximate discretized version of this they try to push every so often but it mostly fails because the food manufacturers don’t want to bother printing the program index on their products.

The point of feature-jamming is to sell the product, as the article suggested. Apparently many potential customers are attracted by a large number of features even when they don’t know what they do. Most of the features will never be used, but this doesn’t matter because the product will have already been sold. I don’t think this is a novel practice. The interface can be called ‘crappy’ if it’s what the customer preferred and paid for. The customer’s mental processes may be crappy, but that’s not a problem the appliance manufacturer can solve.

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The best microwave UI I’ve ever had was a single large knob marked with increments of 10 seconds. A single gesture could put the bake time with decent precision at any point from 10s to 10 minutes. Give me a slider for power output (marked in wattage, not percent), and it’s perfect.

This microwave was from the early 1980s, I’d guess.