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Difficult-to-use products: the niggles that let you down

Some products are great at the job they’re designed for: microwaving food evenly or helping you get every crease out of your ironing. But if the product’s awkward to use, it could make your life a nightmare.

Problems with products, such as fiddly buttons or hard to manoeuvre handles, can make using them more of a pain than a pleasure.

Looking through the comments made by Which? members, niggles with the usability of products are a common complaint.

Which? member product reviews

Frustrated with an iron they’d purchased, one member commented:

‘I find that even on the highest heat, I have to press so hard to try and iron out creases that it makes very hard work. I also have to refill it very often as the steam depletes quickly on highest setting.’

Another member left feedback on a tablet, saying:

‘The tablet is sluggish and slow, has a worse battery life than the worst smartphone, has a nasty habit of turning itself off in the middle of an action and cannot multi-task to save it’s life.’

Another member, who had bought a digital radio, told us:

‘The buttons are small and close together so it’s not easy to operate, and I can’t see the time on the screen as it is too dark and not adjustable.’

And unhappy with a vacuum cleaner, one member said that:

 ‘It blocks every single time I use it, the filters have to be washed almost every week and it blows out more dust then it collects. I spend more time cleaning filters than cleaning floors!’

 What makes appliances a pain to use?

To help you avoid these and similar issues, we recently selected the most easy-to-use home and technology products. It includes the easiest to use washing machines, vacuum cleaners, toasters, televisions, tablets, steam irons, simple phones, microwaves, laptops, kettles, digital radios and more (phew!).

But before you check out our selection of easy-to-use products, we want to know what gets your blood boiling about the gadgets that are horrid to use. It might be a kettle that’s awkward to pour, a tablet that’s confusing and complicated to use, or maybe a vacuum cleaner that’s difficult to manoeuvre. Whatever it is, we’re keen to hear your comments on what really frustrates you about your home and tech gadgets.

Have you stopped using a product altogether because it was difficult to use?

Yes (68%, 740 Votes)

No (32%, 356 Votes)

Total Voters: 1,097

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I have a Pure Evoke-1 radio with a 12V power supply and a rechargeable Pure Evoke-3 radio with a 9V power supply that looks almost identical and has the same power connector.

I wonder what would happen if I plugged the 12V supply into the 9V radio.

That’s my nomination for dodgy design.

Ben Clark says:
19 July 2014

I have a Sharp combination microwave that I purchased mainly because of the large cavity – passing-on a perfectly good Panasonic combi. Frankly, I am considering selling it off, at quite a loss, and getting a new Panasonic. What drives me up the wall? It is the stupid feature that switches off the display – after only a minute or so of lack of input. After 5 – 10 minutes might be acceptable, but I ask you – How much electricity does a display use running 24/7/365? Certainly not as much as my GEC Nightstor electric boiler takes charging (overnight) for one minute.

Pol says:
19 July 2014

A store brand food processor. It does all the things it says it will do, but bloomin ‘eck, cleaning it’s a nightmare.

Also, stopped using my bluetooth earset as it kept falling off my ear.

Also, i keep hitting the caps button instead of ‘a’ on this ipad!


My old and cumbersome Murphy Richards Coffee Machine has sadly almost reached its final days and I need to replace it. I have looked at the new models on display in various stores with some disdain as to me they slightly resemble something I would expect to find in a sci-fi movie so the new purchase has been put on hold for the time being.

However, during a recent spring cleaning session I came across an old Cona Coffee Maker I had kept because of its beautiful and elegant design with its two glass bowls and arced handles I had been reluctant to throw it away. I set about cleaning it up and it now has pride of place on the kitchen worktop and still makes a perfect cup of coffee. Fortunately I had kept the instructions as it is quite complicated and a bit scary to use with its hubble bubble action but it is a joy to watch the whole coffee making process through the glass bowls from start to finish. I doubt very much whether it would pass today’s stringent Health and Safety regulations though.

pol says:
20 July 2014

it may be just me, but car clocks are a pain to reset. there are these tiny controls that never seem to move if one can actually get hold of them between finger and thumb in first place. I give up each time the clocks change and what ever the first time it gets moved on to is the one I end up using so am always having to work out what the real time is with deducting or adding on so many minutes. I actually tried again to alter it before seeing this subject on here and now know my clock in the car is about 15 minutes slower now.

Marie says:
23 July 2014

You are so right. My car clock is right for 6 months of the year, the remainder I add an hour. Life is just too short to suffer the pain of changing the clock


I guess that Pol and Marie may have Toyotas. I end up doing the awkward job of correcting the clock in a friend’s car, otherwise it would remain an hour out until the next time the clocks changed.


My disappointment of the year has to be the You View box that Talk Talk persuaded me to have. It promised to do all sorts of things that my Humax recorder could not do. So long as I use it regularly it is OK up to a point, but it will not let me do catch-up on BBC or the commercial channels for more than an hour. And it is so slow to get started. It has to wake up for a start and it is slower even than I at that! Once it has woken up it then takes ages to get “ready”. I have often given up trying to receive channels through the box and reverted to the remote that came with the TV. Do not be talked into having one of these boxes.

Barbara says:
21 July 2014

I bought my husband a Nokia Windows phone and the writing was so small and in either red or blue on a black background that he could not read it. He hated it. He now has a Samsung galaxy ace,and loves it.