NFB Jernigan Institute Consumer Electronics Shopping Guide

How do you find a usable appliance in a big box store? It's a question we get all the time - and we have tried to answer it in this brief guide of what to look for:

  • A clear, documented start over control: a button or feature that allows the user to return to a known state and which is described in the manual for the appliance (e.g., an oven might start at 350ºF every time you start it); this may be referred to in documentation as the Clear or Reset button
  • Different sounds for menus, selection, and error conditions: there should be different sounds for different errors, so that the user knows what the problem is (e.g. incorrect entry, door not closed, power outage – clock needs resetting). The menus should provide audible feedback when the user moves up and down, reaches the end of the menu, or makes a selection
  • An easy way to determine the position of rotary controls: a rotary control, such as a cycle selection knob on a washing machine, should provide a detectable indication of its position. Because of the varying ways in which these controls can be used, we recommend consumers extensively test them before purchasing any product
  • Controls with good tactile feedback: the user should be able to locate the button (e.g. by different texture or height), and feel that it is pressed
  • Each item in a multi-layer menu is accessible with a predictable sequence of steps: if the user knows which steps he or she needs to follow to get a certain result, then the machine is usable; if, on the other hand, it is impossible to know where one can start, or if the steps change, the device will be very hard to use