Up is down?
March 27, 2006 1:52 PM   Subscribe

User interface question: When I'm simply watching TV, pushing up on the remote's channel changer button moves me to a higher-numbered station. Yet when I'm viewing the channel guide, pushing up brings me to a lower-numbered station. Why the discrepancy?

This happens with my Comcast service, and I've experienced it on DirecTV as well. Is it that people generally prefer a visual representation of numbers to run low to high from the top down, and yet prefer the opposite where there's no visual?
posted by schoolgirl report to Technology (12 answers total)
 
Yes. I work for a TV provider that uses set-top receivers, and the design team for the guide system we used answered this same question for me about 5 weeks ago. It's a psychological thing, like you say.
posted by chudmonkey at 1:59 PM on March 27, 2006


On some receivers you can switch this.
posted by kindall at 6:02 PM on March 27, 2006


Mine does that, and it drives me crazy. Up should be up.
posted by Malor at 6:08 PM on March 27, 2006


Up should be up.

But up is up. When there's no visual indication, you press the up button to move the current channel "up" -- to the next higher number.

But when you're looking at the menu, if "up" acted the same way, pressing up would move your selection down, which is no good.

So why not flip the menu around? Because people prefer seeing lower numbers at the top, getting higher going down.
posted by CrayDrygu at 6:34 PM on March 27, 2006


Well, when you see a list of numbers, you generally see it for lowest at top to highest at bottom. Clicking the bottom part of the button makes visual intuitive sense to see the numbers hidden below the bottom of the screen, and clicking the top part of the button makes visual intuitive sense to see the numbers hidden above the top of the screen.

But if you just have a single number displayed, it's intuitive for the top part of the button to increment the number (top is higher), and the bottom part decrement (bottom is lower). But this isn't a visually intuitive, it's intuitive based on our understanding of numbers.

So there's a conflict on which way is intuitive, depending on how the numbers are shown.

So, unless there are separate sets of buttons for changing a single channel, or scrolling through a display, there will be always be this problem.
posted by ShooBoo at 6:37 PM on March 27, 2006


I agree with the original poster and Malor. Pressing up should always move to the next highest channel. Different conventions for different screens is confusing and unnecessary.
posted by malp at 7:02 PM on March 27, 2006


Different conventions for different screens is confusing and unnecessary.

Most people don't even notice the conventions are different in these two scenarios, and if they do they have no difficulty with it. Although my dad did have trouble with the entire concept of menus when he got satellite TV a couple years ago. "What button do I press to move down?" "The DOWN button!" "But that only moved down one, what do I press if I want to move down three times?" "..." I am not even making this up. He went back to cable TV, where he didn't need to deal with that.
posted by kindall at 7:18 PM on March 27, 2006


If the remote controls were designed with a leftward button for decrementing the channel number and rightward button for incrementing it, this problem would go away. But they're not, so whatever the UI designers do is going to be wrong for somebody.

The same problem happens with spinbox controls in computer GUI's (like the Year control in the Windows clock-setting screen). Do I click the little up-arrow to the right of the spinbox to go to the next biggest choice, or the next choice up the list? I can never remember and it drives me nuts, which is why I've never put a spinbox into any UI I've ever built.
posted by flabdablet at 7:30 PM on March 27, 2006


Actually, my Dish Network receiver puts lower numbers at the bottom of the screen, so "up" is up, either way. That said, I don't pay much attention to the channel numbers, so I didn't even notice it until just now.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:55 PM on March 27, 2006


Condensed version: We consider larger numbers to be "higher," but we are very used to numbered lists starting at the top.
posted by abcde at 11:26 PM on March 27, 2006


But when you're looking at the menu, if "up" acted the same way, pressing up would move your selection down, which is no good.

So why not flip the menu around? Because people prefer seeing lower numbers at the top, getting higher going down.


I don't prefer that, and I was pleased when I switched from Comcast to Dish that the satellite guys did it sensibly. Comcast often annoyed me by making incorrect assumptions about what I *wanted*. They, and all facets of the video-delivery industry, should spend less money on those "design teams for the guide system" and come up with a standard interface and remote control. If I can get out of my car and into my wife's car, and use the same set of controls that I used when I first learned to drive, why on Earth do I have to learn a different control system with each VCR or DVD player I buy?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 3:45 AM on March 28, 2006


The online channel guide is viewed/created along the lines of a webpage. In this view, a numbered order of items will have the lower-numbered entries at the top of the page (you read down a list) It is treated as a physical thing.

Your remote uses the concept of "counting up". A mental exercise. 52 is higher than 12. This is a more spacial conceit.

Which one you prefer is, perhaps, more dependent on whether you are more spacially or physically oriented.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:11 AM on March 28, 2006


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