19 May 2015
From the design of recent Garmin products, I’m guessing they fired their UI/UX team and delegated this activity to overseas outsourcing or something. To understand where I’m coming from with that sentiment, let’s fire up the new Garmin Express for Mac app and take a look.
At launch, you’re presented with this distinctly non-Mac, way-too-tall yet unresizable window (it’s long, so be sure to keep scrolling):
The design of this window, and importance given to the “Add” action, suggests that Garmin believes the average customer owns several devices, and adds them frequently. I have only one device, so this screen just slows me down. Let’s click “Forerunner 910XT”.
I’m comfortably reassured that my device is syncing my queue—as opposed to, say, someone else’s queue.
And thinking about it, I have no idea what other activities could happen here in parallel that would even justify the use of the word “queue”. Perhaps it’s related to the assumption that I’m using multiple devices? Is the expectation that I would typically arrive to my desk with an armful of Garmin products needing to be synced? Anyway…
Syncing is now complete, and we see that my queue was last synced “@ 7:16 AM”. The slight cognitive load of having to interpret the symbol “@” is presumably justified by the saving of one character on the screen compared to just writing out the word “at”.
And although I last synced “Today” @ 7:16am (capitalized, of course, because Today is special), it appears that I last “checked” @ 7:12am—an unexplained discrepancy that, if nothing else, serves to conclude the sync workflow leaving me feeling slightly uneasy.
Now let’s go visit the Garmin Connect website, where my data has been sent.
The Connect website presents me with an environment of multiple “dashboards”, each containing multiple informational “cards”—configuration and flexibility taken to the extreme.
I’ve created a new “untitled” dashboard, so let’s go see if we can figure out how to add some cards to it.
Well, it’s not done by clicking the dropdown menu to the right of “untitled”. That’s for renaming and deleting the dashboard.
And it’s not done by clicking the “plus” icon to the right of the screen; that adds an entirely new dashboard.
What about that hamburger menu control on the left? If we hover over that, a menu slides open exposing three gray-colored, and unfortunately unlabeled, icons.
Since I’ve otherwise run out of things to click on, I’m expecting that surely one of these options allows adding of dashboard cards. But clicking each in succession, I unfortunately discover that’s not the case.
I’m guessing at this point most people would give up—but I’m a product guy dammit and I know there has to be some way add cards to this new dashboard!
In a frustrated flurry of clicking, I finally crack it — It turns out that the hamburger menu control icon has a double function! If, after hovering over it, you actually click the menu control icon itself, a sub-menu appears containing a list of cards that can be added to the dashboard!
So here we have a hamburger icon that, on hover, triggers the opening of a slide-out menu—a common UI pattern we’ve all become accustomed to nowadays from mobile apps. Inside this menu, we find three gray-colored icons—visually communicating access to three functionalities. But in reality, although it’s visually hidden, this menu area actually provides access to four! And rather than simply adding a fourth gray-colored menu item, the designer of this interface chose to hide the fourth, perhaps most important, functionality behind the menu control icon itself.
So confusing, so illogical, so undiscoverable—it’s honestly quite difficult to imagine how one could even come up with that. But on reflection, perhaps it’s not so surprising coming from a designer who would abbreviate “at” with “@” elsewhere in the interface. In any case, this is a prime example of the deterioration of design at Garmin. And for a company that’s likely to find it increasingly harder to compete on hardware, software design is pretty much all they have left!