Coding Horror

programming and human factors

A Lesson in Control Simplicity

I was struck, the other day, by how much I had to think when attempting to heat up my sandwich in the microwave. There are so many controls: a clock, a set of food-specific buttons, defrost and timer controls, and of course a full numeric keypad. Quick! What do you press?

Controls on a newer microwave   Controls on an older microwave

I wonder if older microwaves weren't a better, simpler design, with their single giant analog knob. I noticed that every microwave for sale at Target, even the most inexpensive ones, now use a complete set of digital controls.

This is progress?

Maybe something to think about, the next time you're about to add just one more field, button, or link to that form.

Written by Jeff Atwood

Indoor enthusiast. Co-founder of Stack Exchange and Discourse. Disclaimer: I have no idea what I'm talking about. Find me here: