Poorly designed stove tops

A couple months ago, I started using a new stove. Instead of the traditional electric coil-top, it features a glass top.

The basic interface isn’t that complicated. Corresponding to the four circular burners, there are four knobs that control the heat.

This is where the first major design error is. The back-left burner is smaller than the front-left one, and so is positioned to the left of the front-left one.

Naturally, therefore, one would expect the left-most dial to control the back-left area, and the second most left dial to control the front-left one.

This is not so – instead, these are reversed. The situation is similar on the right side of the stove.

The second obvious design error is with the burner light. There is one light on the left of the stove top that indicates that the heating area is hot. There is another light on the right of the stove top that indicates that a burner is on. The only thing that distinguishes these lights is where they are (left or right side of the stove) and the small text next to each. The left one says “Hot Surface,” the right one says “Element On.”

The first problem is that it’s intuitive to think that a given light is indicating something about the burners on its side. The second problem is that the lights have the same colour. Since the only way to keep them straight at a distance (because the text is small) is to remember one is on the left side, the other on the right – which is not something easily remembered – an obvious solution to this design problem is to colour-code the lights. Perhaps yellow and red could be used to distinguish.

In a way, it’s baffling that these basic elements of the stove user interface could have been gotten wrong.

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