I have owned domestic electronic timers for turning appliances on and off for many years now. I mainly use them for table lamps which sometimes need to be turned on or off before the programmed time and then left to run automatically on the next day. They used to be extremely simple to use but in the last five or so years all manufacturers have "improved" them with the result that they are very inconvenient to use -- so much so that I am looking at the usability of the mechanical ones with motors and pegs. My difficulty centres on being unable to override the new timers without reading the LCD display.
My question is how did the industry get the user experience so wrong? Or, am I missing something obvious?
It used to be the case that all the timers had a simple override button. When pressed, it changed the state from on or off to the other state. When the timer reached its next on/off time, normal service resumed. If the light had been turned on, it stayed on until the next off time. If the light had been turned off, it stayed off until the next on time. There was no need to read the LCD -- the timer clicked when overridden and the controlled device turned on or off.
Now the things have a mode button labelled "On/Auto/Off". They also have a faint 2mm-tall LCD legend telling you the current mode. To override the current state you have to press the button more than once. The best situation is that it is "on" and in "auto". Pressing the button once turns it to "off" but the button has to be pressed again to change the mode back to "auto". The worst state is that the last manual change was to "off", the mode is "auto" and you want to turn it off. The button then needs to be pressed four times -- "on", "auto", "off" and "auto". If you don't press the button firmly enough or if your hand shakes you are in trouble. You have to get down on your knees and may have to shine a torch on the legend to determine the state you are leaving it in. Alternatively you could unplug it, take it to a well-lit place, sort it out, bring it back and re-insert the timer and the controlled appliance.
The "improved" version has the advantage that it can left "on" or "off" for more than 24 hours. Even this was easier with the old one: to leave the appliance on, you took the timer out of the circuit; to leave the appliance off, you unplugged the appliance, or turned it off.
I'd pay ten times the price for a timer that still used the "unimproved" design!