March 2, 2004

Mystery Interface

Okay, there are very low consequences for getting this wrong, but this interface still annoys the hell out of me. See the accompanying picture of a gas pump.

Your morning quiz is, Where do you press this thing to start the pump going?

  1. The big, black sticker that says PUSH (because it stands out so much from the rest and is all in uppercase)
  2. The word Here (because it’s Here)
  3. The word To (for no reason)
  4. The word Start (because it’s button-shaped and that’s were the arrow is pointing)
  5. All of the Above
  6. None of the above

The answer is…

The word Here is the actual button. All the rest is distraction.

Am I crazy or is this a such a bad interface that it isn’t funny? Why not have the white rectangle around the word Here? Would that be so hard? And it’s clear that there wasn’t always a sticker there with the word PUSH on it, but did they have to go and make a bad interface worse?

Please feel free to attack or defend this amazing accomplishment in the comments. Really, I want to know if any of you have any idea what these people were thinking.

Posted by James at March 2, 2004 2:37 AM
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Comments

I was hoping the arrow pointing to Start would light up or something when you did it right. I can picture simple minded drivers jumping up and down with delight when rewarded with some LED animation.

Posted by: Mike L. at March 2, 2004 8:39 AM

That is the absolute worst I've ever seen.

A lot of gas station pumps are bad, and there are many different setups, so each new pump is a new challenge.

It is worse if you use diesel because sometimes the diesel pump will be there with the gas pumps but have a separate payment thingie off to the side that I don't see right away.

Posted by: Julie at March 2, 2004 9:01 AM

I drive a diesel and I've pushed the wrong button. It was an expensive lesson.

Terrible signage! I vote for "Start" because it's right after the arrow, but "Push" and "Here" are intuitive choices as well.

Why aren't there standards for pumps? Would that there were a NIST-type of organization in charge of such things. http://ts.nist.gov/ts/htdocs/230/235/owmhome.htm

Posted by: Patti M. at March 2, 2004 11:56 AM

Standards are a bad idea, but, really -- it doesn't take much brains to come up with a halfway decent interface for a problem like this.

Make the whole thing a button. Or:

Push -->HERE

Come on. This isn't rocket science. That's why it's so shocking.

Posted by: James Burke at March 2, 2004 12:04 PM

I don't think standards are a bad idea. When I was a web developer I would have given my right arm for software companies (netscape, microsoft) to follow the standards that they fucking came up with themselves!

Now that I'm a photographer, I'm glad F5.6 means F5.6, not something different depending on who the lens manufacturer is.

Anyway, the worst to me are ATM interfaces. Like theres two pads of buttons and often a touch screen. Bleh.

Posted by: David Grenier at March 2, 2004 12:35 PM

Selecting the grade can be tricky too. I typically use the middle grade and most pumps have that grade selection ... in the middle. Low grade on left, then mid, then high.

However, one gas station had the low on left the HIGH in the middle and then mid on the right. I absent-mindedly whacked the middle button and later realized it was high grade.

Tricky bastards.

Posted by: Brandon at March 2, 2004 12:38 PM

> Selecting the grade can be tricky too.
> I typically use the middle grade and
> most pumps have that grade selection ...
> in the middle. Low grade on left, then
> mid, then high.

According to the manufacturer, my car requires high grade gasoline, I've been tripped up by the gas stations who put it in the middle too. It bums me out not because I'm concerned about price, but that I worry about damaging my engine by putting a lower grade of gas in my tank. Mobil is one of those companies that pulls the switcheroo.

Posted by: Chuck S. at March 2, 2004 1:23 PM

I meant "standards aren't a bad idea"

Oops. :)

Posted by: James at March 2, 2004 2:43 PM

>I'm concerned about price,
>but that I worry about damaging
>my engine by putting a lower grade
>of gas in my tank.

Just don't pee in it (after the last D&D session I worry that peeing in vessels is a widespread phenomenon ).

Posted by: Patti M. at March 2, 2004 2:44 PM

You missed the denouement where Brother Calandell asked Abacquer if he could kick him in the junk, to which Abacquer responded "Do I get to kick you in yours?"

Posted by: Chuck S. at March 2, 2004 3:04 PM

I do something similar to myself when I link stuff on my page. Every once in a while I'll write "Click here for something cool" and end up putting the link tags around the "something cool" rather than the "here".

And Chuck, unless you drive some high performance European car with a six figure pricetag, I don't think you have to worry about the occasional lower grade fill-up.

Patti, that was one of the weirder comments I've read in a long time!

And by the way, I guessed "START". I prefer the ones where you press the button with the octane you want on it.

Posted by: Bil at March 2, 2004 3:06 PM

Abacquer is a dragon, by the way. Among rules to live by: "Never punch a dragon in the junk."

Posted by: James at March 2, 2004 3:14 PM

and i thought software designers were the only ones making bad interfaces

Posted by: ryan at March 2, 2004 3:16 PM

I would have gone with "Start" because the arrow points to it and it is highlighted. My second choice would likely have been the arrow because it looks like it has little lights on it, possibly to indicate it has been pressed. Third would have been Push because it looks like a button. I might have gone with "Here" eventually. I might also have gone to another gas station. :)

I obviously don't have a future in interface design.

Posted by: briwei at March 2, 2004 3:31 PM

> And Chuck, unless you drive some high
> performance European car with a six
> figure pricetag,

How did you know? ;) Just kidding... nothing so grand.

> I don't think you
> have to worry about the occasional
> lower grade fill-up.

That's a relief. It's the first time I've ever owned a car with a turbocharger, and it's my first new car, so I want to pamper it.

Posted by: Chuck S. at March 2, 2004 3:42 PM

Chuck, is it a Saab?!

Posted by: Bil at March 2, 2004 5:36 PM

No nothing that fancy, but I love it.

It's a PT Cruiser GT 2.4L Turbo, and it is a lot of fun to drive. --> My Baby.

Posted by: Chuck S. at March 2, 2004 11:21 PM

>Patti, that was one of the
>weirder comments I've read in a long time!

Bil, if I told you all that went on at our D&D sessions, you wouldn't believe me.

Posted by: Patti M. at March 3, 2004 12:53 PM

wow. that is a spectacularly bad interface. and it looks as if the 'push' is a late addition on electrical tape... wonder if the original was even worse? the mind boggles...

Posted by: beth at March 3, 2004 6:25 PM

> wow. that is a spectacularly bad
> interface. and it looks as if the
> 'push' is a late addition on
> electrical tape... wonder if
> the original was even worse?
> the mind boggles...

It probably said something like "Depress". They had to switch it because people were standing around at the pumps looking sad and waiting for the gas to start flowing.

Posted by: Chuck S. at March 3, 2004 6:48 PM

I would just push my car to the next gas station.

Posted by: Monkeyspit at March 4, 2004 1:32 PM

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