Product Evaluations, part 1: Alarmingly Bad Design

**Steve Tengler is Altia’s User Experience Director. This post is the first product he’s reviewing as a part of an on-going series. For context and explanation of his grading criteria, click here. If you’d like Steve to perform a comprehensive User Experience Evaluation on your product or for other available reports, contact us at


Philips AJ3935 Compact Disc Clock Radio
Philips AJ3935 Compact Disc Clock Radio

I should know better. I bought a product without reading any reviews, user recommendations, or industry comparisons. In fact, the only variables that weighed into my purchase decision were features, convenience, and styling.

The poor purchase? The Philips AJ3935 Compact Disc Clock Radio that featured “Gentle Wake” (i.e. gradually increasing volume), snooze, compact disc (CD), and AM/FM radio. No, it doesn’t have digital or networked connectivity, nor does it have a built-in docking station for my smart phone, which means it’s kind of like Uncle Joe: we’re too tolerant to throw ‘em to the curb, and so we’re just waiting for him to kick the bucket or leave on his own schedule.

Criteria for Evaluating HMIs

**Steve is Altia’s User Experience Director. This post is the introduction to a series where he’ll be evaluating the user experience of many common consumer products.

Let’s Start From The Beginning …

“Go get me some HMI,” emphatically declared one of my less-informed bosses of yesteryear. When I followed-up on that demand, he didn’t truly know what product, use cases, or users he was trying to satisfy; only in Dilbert-esque fashion he knew to parrot his management’s need for a competitive HMI. And — true story — he didn’t even know HMI stood for Human-Machine Interface.

So what does that have to do with the price of beans in China, you ask?

Going forward I will occasionally be lending an informed eye, ear and hand to various products in the field, and explaining why they either hit the mark or missed the boat on usability and HMI. To do such, however, I want YOU to enjoy the ride by understanding what HMI is; not just the acronym, but the basics and the method to my madness when giving the thumbs up or down. So for full disclosure, I’ll spell out the evaluation categories, the underlying science, and the rating system. For future blogs, I’ll simply explain how they fared in each of the “Usability Decathlon” events and, to bring the evaluation full-circle, we’ll occasionally provide a revamped simulation in Altia with some of these core principles in mind.

Evaluation Categories (and the Underlying Science)

Each product will be judged  in five categories which have underlying requirements, but will be bubbled up to a score for that category and eventually an overall score. By definition, user experience is a blending of objective and subjective (e.g. user satisfaction), and so shall be my evaluations. The categories are as follows:

Webinar: User Interface vs. User Experience

Register for Webinar

Products like the iPhone are proof that great User Interfaces differentiate brands and win market leadership.  But is it the User Interface itself that claims hearts and dollars?  Or is it the User Experience? If you’re like most companies, you’ve heard the terms, but are left wondering:

  • User Interface, User Experience — what’s the difference?
  • User Experience is more than skin deep.  How do you know if you’re getting it right?

In our upcoming webinar, “User Interface vs. User Experience,” Altia, experts in User Interface Engineering since 1991, will explain these two commonly misused and misunderstood terms.  We will explore the method for understanding your end user and their interaction with your product “in the wild.”  Finally, we will share our secret for developing dazzling user interfaces with enhanced user experience.

About the presenter: Steve Tengler, Altia’s User Experience Director, is a proven authority in this field with over twenty years of expertise in UX and UI development.  For more information about Steve, click here.

Flashback to Ward’s Auto Interiors Conference…


A couple of weeks ago, Steve Tengler joined many other automotive industry experts as a presenter and panelist at the Ward’s Auto Interiors Conference. The people at Ward’s were kind enough to share this follow up information.

1. Watch video of key moments from the conference. The team at Ward’s has placed several videos online at, so you can see the keynotes from Ralph Gilles of Chrysler and Robert Gelardi of Ford, remarks from Bob Lutz, the Ward’s 10 Best Interiors Ceremony and the Student Design Awards.

2. Download presentations. Presentations from some of the breakout session panelists are available for download. Simply click on the panelist’s name (in red font) to open their presentation. Check out Steve Tengler’s presentation, titled “User Experience vs. User Interface.” You can find Steve in the group for Panel 4: A Fresh Look at the HMI and Center Stack.

3. Check out Ward’s coverage of the event. Read Ward’s full coverage of the conference speakers and sessions.

Many thanks to the Ward’s conference organizers for such an excellent event!