Too much of a good thing

I bet this rings a bell for many people:

It’s a gazillion degrees in my house right now, but I can’t figure out the thermostat controls, so the heat’s still on and the air conditioning unreachable. My new Denon receiver/tuner sounds amazing–good thing I’m using it mostly with my iPod; I have no clue how to tune in a radio station. When I bring up the newer versions of Microsoft Word, it looks so utterly foreign and overwhelming to me now that I give up and close it. And all I wanted to do was type a simple letter…

The opening sentence rang a bell for me as I had a new thermostat installed at home a few months ago which has a nice big LCD screen with a drop-down panel underneath which reveals an amazing array of buttons and dials each with multiple functions, some requiring a PC-like control-key combo to do things. I still have no idea how to work it unless I read the manual. The previous thermostat had a couple of buttons and switches and a rotary dial that made temp adjustments dead simple in about 2 seconds. And no need for a manual.

There’s more:

[…] My new Subaru factory-supplied car stereo uses that most evil of designs–modes. With so many features to support, they ran out of controls… so every control does multiple things depending on which mode you’re in. None of it is intuitive or natural. Lose the manual and I’m screwed. Ten years ago, if you’d told me I’d one day need a manual to use my car radio, that would have been inconceivable. All I want to do is find a frickin’ radio station!

This post about "featuritis" by Kathy Sierra on the Creating Passionate Users blog illustrates what happens when manufacturers over-feature their products, and offers some good advice – listen to customers.