Dashboard Confessional

Another example of terrible user interface. The automobile dashboard. Here is the what it looks like in my car (a 95 Ford Probe):

Probe Dash

It’s pretty clear how to read it, right? Speedometer/odometer on the left, tachometer on the right.

Now here’s the dashboard of our other car (’01 Passat):

Each and every time I drive this car, I get mad at the manufacturers. How hard is it to screw up a dashboard?

1) Quick how fast are you going? I don’t know, because I always look at the tachometer first. Why would they put the tach on the left? The most important thing goes on the left. It’s more important to know how fast you are going than how fast the engine is going. This isn’t a matter of opinion. Just about every country on earth reads from left to right. So the important facts go on the left.

2) Why on earth would they express the tach in hundreds of rpms, rather than the standard thousands? The only thing that does is make it so that the tach is expressed in the exact same units as the speed. It couldn’t be worse if it they had set out to intentionally confuse the driver.

Here is the dash of the rental car I happened to be driving after my accident:

Now that’s an interface! The most importan information is up front and center, and the circle is even accented to draw the eye there even more strongly. A terrifically clear font. There is zero chance of confusing one readout with another.

The Passat has another feature, that many other cars seem to share nowadays. Below is a picture of the window controls. Which way do you press a button to bring the window down?

Who the heck knows. There is no natural mapping. This is because they chose to put all the buttons on the horizontal plane of the door, rather than on the vertical door itself. And it’s not as if the icon helps matters. Can you see how that is a picture of a window? You might as well print a Magic Eye image there for all the good it does.

Speaking of icons, how about the lock buttons above the window controls? The lock picture is a picture of a key, and the unlock button is a picture of a car with a door open. At least that’s what I think, it could equally well be interpreted as a word balloon that says “Unlock here Stupid American!” in heiroglyphics.

2 thoughts on “Dashboard Confessional”

  1. The thing that strikes me most about this post is the variety of displays between cars. I can’t say that I’ve ever paid much attention to this. However, it seems rather odd to me that after approximately 100 years of auto manufacturing that there hasn’t emerged some industry standard way of presenting info on the dash. By now, I would have thought this sort of thing would have been figured out by now.

  2. Dude you’re funny! We can put you together with Jeremy Clarkson’s shoes there. Now I like to tell something, the speedo to me, looks good when it’s right in front but to the right of the rpm there. Coz when I step on it I first give a damn of at what speed I am and what speed I will be at! But I am a petrol head so I need to be controlling the engine speed with the boost and the speed of the car, to extract the best back there and manage the fuel average precisely. You know what i mean?

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