Too Many Buttons

We've all been frustrated by remote controls with too many buttons.1 2

Now cars are morphing into entertainment centers.  And they're developing the same problem remotes have.

Take the Ford Focus.  On the first gen Focus, Ford simplified the center console, with 3 easy dials for heat/air, and a minimum of buttons:

1st gen Ford Focus: 19 switches & buttons

On the second gen Focus, it blew up into this:

2nd gen Ford Focus: 49 switches & buttons
(including 3 placeholder buttons that do nothing)

That's 19 controls on the original Ford Focus, and an incredible 49 on the next gen.

Quick, you need your windshield defrosted.  What do you do?  On the 1st gen, you keep your eyes on the road, and flick the middle and right dials to the right.  

2nd gen?  Feel around for the circular button in the lower middle, and then push smaller buttons like mad until the windshield hopefully clears.  Or take your eyes off the road and figure out which of the tiny mass of similar-sized buttons clears the windscreen.

But it gets worse:

On the 2012 Focus, Ford's gone bananas with their MyTouch touch-activated controls.  Now the "buttons" feel exactly the same!

3rd Gen Ford Focus: Unlimited buttons - Wheee!
No wonder Consumer Reports called Ford's MyTouch system "overly complicated and distracting", pulling their recommendation from two Ford models.  And it's so buggy it has to be restarted automatically every 24 hours.

A commenter on DailyTech says it best: "Trying to cram everything into a touchscreen just because you can is the sign of a designer who is trying to follow a trend rather than making the user's experience his top priority ... None of the options as implemented works as well as a simple knob and dial."

Now I'm not just picking on Ford here.  (I love their cars and their desire to bring new tech down in price.)

Other automakers are just as guilty:


2011 Chevy Volt: 41+ buttons & switches
(including touch screen)
2011 Acura MDX: 48 buttons & switches



At least Volvo is restoring some sanity in their 2011 S60 with an easier to use pictogram control:

A bit better: 2011 Volvo S60: "Only" 32 buttons,
and pictogram HVAC controls

Hyundai copies Volvo's pictogram and makes the buttons larger:

A bit better: 2011 Hyundai Sonata: "Only" 33 buttons,
and pictogram HVAC controls
(Photo credit: familycarreview.com)

Jaguar reduces the number of buttons and makes them bigger:

Improved: 2010 Jaguar XF: 21+ controls,
large clearly marked defrost

And Scion angles the controls toward the driver, like old BMWs and the 1st gen Focus:

Much better: 2011 Scion tC: Just 20 controls
and simple, traditional HVAC

Hopefully more automakers follow Scion and Jaguar's lead.  Take a hint from Apple - it's not just the touchscreen that makes iPhone a hot seller, it's the ease of use.


Distracted driving resulted in 448,000 accidents and more than 5,400 deaths last year.2  Reducing the number of buttons, knobs, and switches can only lead to safer roads.


Who else is frustrated by the complexity and number of controls in modern cars?  Should you really need a 516 page manual to figure out how to operate this stuff without taking your eyes off the road?  Post in the comments.


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