On a visit to our TV test lab, I spotted a dreadful remote control. The uninspiring plastic baton came with buttons labelled in writing so tiny, it looked like the fine print on some never-ending contract.
We’ve started testing the 2013 range of TVs, and I can’t wait to bring you the results. But while TV designs generally improve every year, one thing remains a sad constant; terribly designed remote controls.
There are lots of TV remote controls that are easy to use, well designed and – dare I say – easy on the eye.
But equally, there are many others that appear to have been designed in the dark.
The more buttons, the better?
Conventional thinking with TV remote design seems to be – the more buttons, the better. You get the feeling that companies would rather provide a giant stick, lined with every button a person could ever need. Personally, I’d find such a device more useful for manually jabbing the channel-change buttons on the TV itself, which kind of defeats the point.
I bet if you thought about it, there are buttons on your TV remote that you’ve never used and have no idea what they do. Come to think of it, I bet there are buttons on some remotes that no one has ever used, apart from the engineers.
Things get even more complicated with Smart TV remotes, where you’re introducing trackpads, keyboards, triggers and goodness knows what else to the mix. This can lead to contraptions so complicated that even Mr. Spock would struggle.
Time to be bold
Manufacturers may be worried about dropping a button off their TV remotes that customers love and regularly use. From many years of experience reviewing TVs, I can certainly understand and sympathise with that. Then, of course, there’s the danger of limiting ease-of-use; something we’d never encourage.
But maybe it’s time to be bold. Google has, in part, stayed on top of the search engine game for more than a decade by hiding complexity behind simple design. So rather than dazzling us with buttons and features, why can’t TV manufacturers spend more time refining and simplifying the remote control?
I don’t see why we can’t have sparser, better designed remotes backed up by more useful on-screen user interfaces. And would it hurt for them to look good in the process? Or am I asking too much?