Thursday, 3 September 2015

It Was The Best Of Timers, It Was The Worst Of Timers

Long time ago, we bought some kitchen timers from Ikea. We liked them. They were simple, rugged, and worked well. At some point, we acquired another timer, a rip-off of sorts, which was almost but not entirely the same, different in several annoying ways. So when our last of the old Ikea timers died, we went out and picked up some new ones, happy that some things stayed the same.
Except they didn't. Turned out our memories had been playing tricks on us, and the "rip-off" timer was actually the redesigned Fantast timer. The changes were small, and one might think change aversion was the deeper issue. But if that was the case, half a year of use would surely make us get used to them. Instead, they annoy me every time I use them. In just a few changes, they have gone from the best timers to the worst. Well, not technically the worst, they still work, but they have changed from objects I like to use to objects I dislike.
What were the changes? The alarm beep changed, becoming more shrill - mayhap intending to be easier to hear? It certainly ensure that we react quickly, to turn off that infernal noise. The buttons changed feel, not responding as reliably as the old ones. But most importantly, they changed the button layout. Before, the three buttons were "Minute", "Second", "Start/Stop", in that order. An order that makes sense - first you set the minutes, then you set the seconds, then you start. Intuitive. The new buttons are "ºC/ºF - S/S", "▵ - Minute", "▽ - Second".
Yes, temperature. They added a temperature sensor to the timer, and a metal stick with a cord intended to be stuck into meat. A nice idea in theory, but when we tried it the temperature meter worked really poorly, so we just threw away the stick. Extra feature, not needed, not desired, but forced upon us because they could. It complicated the buttons and added extra hardware for something that's only useful a small fraction of the time and which is better done by a tool that can actually go inside the oven.
But why the change in button order? Why should the Start/Stop functionality go first? Unclear.
They removed another feature that I found handy - no longer can I click on "Minute" while the timer is running to add an extra minute. I suspect that change was based on feedback that some people didn't realize what they were doing and got the wrong time out of it, but I used that feature with some regularity.
Now I may have to scrounge around for old-style timers at garage sales, or get the funny round Stäm timers, or (gasp) get a non-Ikea timer!

The morale? Be careful when adding new features to a great product, if they interfere with the core functionality. Or, alternatively, this situation made for too good a blog post title to pass by.

1 comment:

  1. And here I was assuming you were talking about Javascript timers. :) Otherwise, good cautionary tale.