Geeking Out

The Terrible User Experiences of Modern Kitchen Appliances

About a year ago I was on a smoothie kick and was about ready to boot my blender out the window. It was your standard big-box-store model, with a dozen buttons with descriptives like “pureé” and “Liquify”. An extra switch activated a sort of “turbo” mode, in case you need to go, as Nigel Tufnel would say, one higher. Unfortunately none of the buttons did what I wanted, namely take various solid and liquid ingredients and make them into a tasty smoothie.

So I threw it away, and bought this:

Osterizer Beehive Blender

I have never been happier with a blender. It has one mode, “on,” and when I turn it on, it blends things. No mix, no crush, no frappe, and no whip. Just blend.

A couple months ago we needed to purchase a new washing machine, and I went searching for the one with good ratings. Sadly Consumer Reports has no rating category for usability. I eventually settled on this nice Maytag, which offers 11 buttons, a dial with 10 wash modes, a customizable “my cycle,” and ten additional custom options and settings.

Maytag 2000 Washing Machine Control Panel
Maytag 2000 Washing Machine Control Panel

All I want is one button that says “make my clothes clean,” but sometimes I have to put normal clothes on “heavy duty” mode or switch from “high” spin speed to “extra high” to get what I want. I have no idea what prewash does — isn’t it just more washing?

This is my toaster oven.

Toaster oven from Costco
Toaster oven from Costco

It’s fine I guess. I’ve pretty much figured it out, but guests are always confused. When I make a pizza, I put it on the temperature recommended by the recipe, not whatever mode offered by the dedicated “pizza” button. I have never defrosted anything in my toaster oven. And the clock is never correct. I have on multiple occasions got everything set, walked away for the predetermined period of time, and returned to uncooked food — only to realize that I never pressed the “Start” button.

After about three minutes of thought, I came up with a better interface for this toaster. Here it is.

My Imaginary Toaster Control Dial
My Imaginary Toaster Control Dial

For toast you go to the left, and for bake you go to the right. Seems pretty straightforward to me, there are even words that say “bake” and “toast” to clarify. There is no keypad or selector arrows, just a simple dial. And there is no clock. Because I have an iPhone. And there is no cook timer, because, right, still have the iPhone. No pizza button, because, not only do I have an iPhone that can tell me at what temperature to bake a pizza, but also because a pizza button is not a real thing.

I would buy my toaster in a heartbeat, I’d pay double what a comparable toaster costs. But I guess no one else on the toaster market is like me, and I think that is sad.

At least coffee makers are still generally pretty straightforward. Maybe I should start drinking coffee.