The UX of Toasters

Last month, my brother and his wife got us a new toaster. Our toaster was old and crusty, but it had a simplicity that I liked. It had a dial for temperature and “toast” lever. You pressed the toast lever and when you heard the bell, BING, the toast was done. It was a small toaster too, so you couldn’t do anything complicated. We liked the toaster just fine.

The new toaster was a large convection oven toaster whizzbang doohickey. It has 12 buttons and a digital LCD display. It had all kinds of trays. The manual was over 100 pages. I stared at the new toaster with distrust. “I don’t know who you are, Mr. Fancy Pants Toaster, but you aint welcome round these parts.”, I thought. The toaster was daunting. At first, I couldn’t even figure out how to make it turn on and off. I Said, “It’s a freaking toaster! Why can’t I make it turn on?!”

Fast forward one month. I figured out how to turn it on and off and discovered some new things. One was that it had a button called Bagel. The bagel button toasted for 3 minutes on a lower heat. The bread actually tasted better and was warm on the inside without being too hot on the outside. I really appreciated this feature. It made good toast.

Although, I still don’t know what most of the buttons do and I still distrust the thing, I have to give it credit. It makes good toast. Ultimately web applications have to pass the same test. Adding buttons and features will scare the hell out of normal people. But if it makes good toast, then all will be forgiven.

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