Doing research on camera user interfaces and design, we discovered a design problem present in an embarrassing amount of digital cameras: wheels that not behave like wheels.
Back side of a typical digital camera. In this case the Canon Digital IXUS 80.
What you see in the picture above these lines is a typical digital camera. Last week we went to a huge store to check camera models and we found out that many of them use the following wheel design:
Typical digital camera wheel.
The problem with this design is that the wheel does not behave like a wheel, meaning that it can not be rotated in any direction. In most cases, we saw that wheels were actually 4 buttons put together. Even worse, those buttons usually had totally different functions.
A test with users
During our user research finished recently, we tested several cameras (digital and not) with some users. Basically, we gave them different cameras to try and we observed them playing around. Most of the users were not expert in the use of cameras, what we could call “standard user” for these cameras (not professional).
For the digital cameras, almost all users tried to navigate through the user interface displayed on the screen trying to turn the wheel. Some never noticed that they could actually press the fictitious wheel.
This is the users’ voice: something that looks like a wheel must behave like a wheel, not like a button.