Don’t touch for touch’s sake

2 minute read

ever since the IPhone made touch screens the most disruptive change in the world of technology, product makers seem to have gone overboard with touch. It seems like every product has to have a touch screen. But is touch always the best way to interact with a product?

I had the opportunity to travel business class on Air India over the weekend. I was excited about the flat bed seat and a small cubical with its own door and was getting ready to lie down. I looked around for the ubiquitous round buttons you use to recline the seat. What I found was a small rectangular screen about 2 CM by 6 CM . I looked a little more and there was a larger screen on the wide arm rest. I called the flight attendant who kindly showed me that the screen had icons that you need to touch . The smaller screen just had arrow icons to recline forward and come back up and the larger screen had some pre-defined recline settings .

These touch screens were completely inaccessible, of course, and completely unnecessary at the same time.

Imagine in your half awake tired state on this 16 hour long flight, you get up and try to adjust the recline angle a bit to get comfortable. you have to first remove your blanket from the screen, make sure you are wearing your glasses, if required, and squint at this tiny screen to find the arrow icon. Also, make sure you don’t touch the larger screen with your hand or elbow in your sleep, or you might find yourself in a completely different position when you wake up.

What was more ridiculous was that the icons were fixed and the screens were not really required to present any other UI. The seat had a large TV screen for all that.

So, someone had designed this touch interface just for the sake of touch where it is not required, is a nuisance for all users and is an accessibility barrier.

This was not the first time I have seen touch for touch’s sake.
Last year I went on a Disney cruise and all the elevators on the ship had touch screens instead of buttons. That one is just an ADA suit waiting to happen. I don’t know how they got away with it. If you are blind , my advise is that you stay away from the Disney Magic or you may end up spending your cruise stuck in an elevator.

i stayed in a hotel in India some time ago and all the room light, fan, and AC controls were placed on a touch screen switchboard. I cannot fathom WHY!!

I can keep going but the point is that if you are designing experiences, please don’t touch for touch’s sake!