Sunday, January 25, 2009

What's driving the Mini's audio system?

Two colleagues of mine (Naseem Hasan and Jared Jeffers) and I recently conducted an evaluation of the Mini Clubman's dashboard user interface. A good portion of the 'eval' focused on the Mini's powerful and feature-rich audio system.

Most of the controls for the audio system and the car's computerized settings are situated near the oversized analog speedometer. Although most controls are well-labeled (including 'Audio' for switching modes and 'Main Menu' for navigation), the system suffers from an inefficient layout of controls and poor error recovery.

The main selection dial for the audio system is located just below the FM tuner buttons and could be easily mistaken for the separate volume control, which sits below the CD player outside of the main area of interaction. This volume control seems disconnected from the rest of the audio system.

The system has direct iPod and iPhone connectivity providing users versatility and flexibility with inputs for both auxiliary and USB cables that can double as device chargers. However, when we tried using the iPhone in both AUX and USB modes, a message read "This accessory [cable] is not made to work with the iPhone". The Mini's user manual says that the cable is only made to work with some iPhone models, but it does not say which ones it works with or where to find out which models it does work with. It is important for users to be able to recover from errors and build trust in the systems that they use.

You can read the full article here.

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