From The Ergoweb® Learning Center

For Satnav makers, Bumps Ahead in the Route to Usability

The makers of in-car satellite navigation systems have a way to go with certain usability issues, but are winning applause in one significant area. They attach “easy to use” to the description of most features, and reviewers appear to agree. A research team in Britain is one of several around the world that are helping the industry complete the usability journey, and one team member is optimistic that solutions are in view.

Satnavs, Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers, are clever little tools. They use satellite information to work out the position of a vehicle and plot its position on a dashboard- or windscreen-mounted electronic map. Garmin describes its Street Pilot models as “no larger than a baseball,” a description that’s apt for most makes and models. They deliver route-finding instructions verbally and also visually on a touchscreen.  Generally, maps and thousands of Points of Interest (POIs) along the route are pre-installed.

A small sampling of descriptions from product catalogs and reviews is an indication of the attention being paid to ease of use.

TomTom One stars in the class of receivers generally described as basic. “The latest version has just one button

This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2006-11-22.