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Jeff Brandenburg <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Jeff Brandenburg <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 3 Mar 1999 14:14:51 -0500
text/plain (45 lines)
John O'Neill wrote:
> Challis Hodge wrote:
> >Imagine if each time we got into a different automobile, the ignition
> >switch were in a different location.
> I wish we could dispel this myth that automobiles have their controls in the
> same place.
> I have found wipers, blinkers, headlight buttons, radio controls distributed
> in different places all across the dashboard - all in new cars built over
> the past 5 years.

As have I.  I wish the placement of these controls were more standardized,
too.  Last time I rented a car, it had a floor gearshift and a lever for
the windshield wiper/washer; I kept washing my window when I wanted to shift
into reverse.  When I got back to my car, with the gearshift on the steering
column and the parking brake on the floor, I kept setting the parking brake
instead of shifting into reverse!  I maintain that this is a *bad* effect,
and useful as an illustration.

> Having recently arrived in the US from Australia I can take this a step
> further and say that the location of the controls are in different places in
> relationship to the driver (yes the gearstick is in the same place, but I
> now use my right hand instead of my left hand; yes the rear-vision mirror is
> in the same place, but I now must look up and to the right instead of up and
> to the left).
> The only thing that is consistent in cars is the position of the
> accelerator, brake, clutch and steering wheel. Any other controls rapidly
> becomes a discovery quest for first time drivers of that type of automobile.

So perhaps the analogy works better if we stick to the accelerator, brake
and steering wheel.  I think we all would agree that substitution among
these controls would lead to an unsatisfactory user experience.

> So why do we keep using the metaphor of the automobile for HCI?

It reaches people with an experience that many of them have shared.  It
is, however, flawed, particularly when we apply this metaphor to Web
design.  For one thing, if I get into a car in the parking lot and can't
find the controls, it's not very easy for me to hop over to another car
that's easier to use... :-)
        -jeffB (Jeff Brandenburg, Persimmon IT)