this question is derived from a personal battle with technology;

why don't commonplace wifi and bluetooth devices have interfaces that provide more feedback than just if the device is on or off? is this a potential usability issue or do this devices provide such minimal feedback with reason?

just to provide further context, with my personal dilemmas:

1) i have 5 devices that I like to hot-swap with 2 bluetooth audio sources (a set of headphones and a speaker) depending on my context, and it gets to a point where I can't pair an audio source with a device without disabling bluetooth on the other 4. why not just have some sort of utility on each device that says "hey, i want to make some noise!" allowing like a takeover or something, if the bluetooth device is in use.

2) my wifi router, also "screen-less", one day just disconnected and remained in a disconnected state to the point that I had to completely reset it since I had no feedback beyond the orange "hey, i'm disconnected" light.

and there are probably other interfaces like this, i'm sure. So I wonder; what's the methodology behind this design decision for these types of devices.

(and if products like this do exist, please let me know. searching "bluetooth speakers with screen" has been rather ineffective)

1 Answer 1


You're observing the tension between usability, cost, form factors, and standards. Cost dictates things like part count -- a single LED is cheaper than two, a tri-color LED is cheaper than a 7-segment display, a display screen is more expensive still. Form factor determines how big the UI can physically be, limiting space for components like memory and antennas; battery size determines power availability. A headset can't support a screen and has limited space for buttons and knobs; a remote UI might be too costly or inconvenient, etc.

But interoperability standards are the trickiest part. They have to be written so they can be implemented on the cheapest solution, the most limited UIs, as well as provide utility to the most expensive devices. They have to be agreed upon by fierce competitors, who all want to include features that play up their strengths while minimizing the ability of their competitors to implement them. They have to accommodate the present hardware limitations while supporting the future. They have to be secure. And at the end of the day, they still have to interoperate.

The end result always compromises usability to accommodate one or more of the limits.

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