Here is a great example of usability: my microwave.
We got a new microwave a few months ago, and it came with a feature I thought was pointless, but has turned out to be about the only way we use the thing now. It’s a button, innocently marked: “Add 30 Seconds.”
If you put something in the microwave and press the button, it starts on normal power for 30 seconds. Keep pressing it and, you guessed it, 30 seconds get added to the time on every press. So to warm something up for a minute, you just throw it in there, close the door, and press the magic button twice.
Here’s why this is a big deal for us: my father-in-law lives with us. He’s 79-years-old. This button is a gold mine for him.
Johnny could never figure out how to work the old microwave. He never knew what time to put anything in for in the first place, but then he couldn’t remember what combination of buttons to push to make it start at that time.
Annie, my wife, rummaged through our box of Band-Aids for the brightest one she could find (we have two girls, aged 4 and 2, so we have plethora of cartoon character Band-Aids), and put a bright yellow one over the button. Now Johnny just has to estimate the size of his food, and press the yellow button a corresponding number of times. For something small, he knows he has to press it once. For something bigger, he presses it two or three times.
And it’s not just Johnny. I know that my oatmeal takes six presses of the button. Microwave pancakes take two, then you add the butter, and they go for one more. Popcorn is about four. In fact, I can’t remember the last time I actually used the time entry and “Start” buttons.
So, there you have an example of a seemingly small thing that completely changes how everyone uses a device. If you’re looking for a microwave, find one with this button. Not only is it ultra-handy, but the usability nut in me smiles every time I use it.