Playing around with my heat in my new Volkswagen GTI, I noticed when you press the heated seats button once, it starts you off with maximum greatness (3 / 3) press it again it goes down ( 2 / 3) (1 / 3) then off. In this instance it makes sense to have it adjust to the max on first press and work down for when you are super cold and want to heat the seats up you want max first, ideal for that functionality.

This took me a couple tries to get used to this, for it is a norm to go up in integers while pushing a button, such as speed of a fan, brightness of a light, etc..) I have been conditioned in this case to know pressing once makes it, it's max heat

Is it a good practice to condition users to go against certain norms, if applicable in the situation?

  • You have here the question whether you are designing for new or experienced users. Some solutions might be counterintuitive at first to new users but more practical to users who are trained.
    – Pieter B
    Dec 4, 2012 at 8:04
  • This approach could save clicks - Starting with the maximum power enables the user to get an faster response, since it takes a while for the seat to heat up. If it starts getting too hot, another click turns the power down, thus preventing the chair from getting hotter (or turning it off if already on minimum power). Using a dial would be more intuitive, however, 1. there is a limit to how many dials you can have in a car, 2. dials are more expensive than buttons, 3. overloading dials to perform more than one operation is a really bad practice. Dec 4, 2012 at 10:41

2 Answers 2


I don't see it as breaking any norm. Giving your customers the most likely or safest option first is usually the best choice, and this is exactly what has been done.

In answer to your question though, the choices that are made are almost always a tradeoff between a number of factors. Of those factors, two are:

  1. what they are used to (or the norm as you put it)?
  2. what is more efficient?

There is always a balance between which is more important, and that changes with each situation. As an example, for a casual computer user, it probably isn't a good idea for them to learn a better keyboard layout (such as Colemak or Dvorak). In other words, what they are used to wins out.

But for someone who will be typing every day for the rest of their lives, learning a better layout is probably a good idea. Efficiency wins.


It's great practice to deliver the best solution quickest, and if it's against certain norms, then jump right to it unless it's a long process. In a longer process, laying down and following a path of education would be necessary.

Fortunately it's not necessary in this case of button pushing.

By the way, regarding your mention of fans and lights going up incrementally: every ceiling fan I've experienced in my life, that is operated by separate pull chains for speed and direction, the speed setting went: off, high, medium, low. Same as your heater. :)

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