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December 21, 2006 12:03 AM

Broken: Light dimmer buttons

LightdimmerNic Price asks:

Which button do you press to turn the lights out?

If you guessed the black one, you are correct - however, I still think that the icons should be made more obvious.


Well, I guess it's just me being a broke american.. but I usually think of up being on down being off unless the light has too switches.. on something like this I would go to it and think well, let me try the top 1 and see if light goes on... or to turn off lights I would most likely try the bottom switch first..

Posted by: Infinity306 at December 21, 2006 02:24 AM

Although a Sharpie fixes this pretty quick.. and writing off next to bottom 1 and on(ful brightness) next to top 1

Posted by: Infinity306 at December 21, 2006 02:26 AM

The icons look like gradation levels. Top is full on, next down is half lights on, next down is one on (so it's not totally dark), and bottom one is full off.

Posted by: klew at December 21, 2006 02:51 AM

The dark symbol makes the room dark. The light symbol makes it lit. Anyone familiar with the function of a light should understand these symbols.

Also note that the higher settings rise on the panel.

"On" and "off" labels don't help illiterates or people who speak another language -- or tell you that you are operating a light. If they were labelled "on" and "off," you would claim it broken because the other buttons are not labelled.

A slider would be better, but this is great labelling for a series of buttons.

Posted by: J H at December 21, 2006 04:23 AM

I never thought I would say this, but.... "NOT BROKEN!"

These icons, and their meanings, are absolutely clear.

Posted by: Glenn Lasher at December 21, 2006 06:43 AM

"'On' and 'off' labels don't help illiterates or people who speak another language -- or tell you that you are operating a light. "

No, but symbols of lights with varying degrees of rays (5 rays, 3 rays, 1 ray and black) would be unambiguous.

Nonetheless, my vote is 'not broken'. The varying degrees of brightness on the panel when seen IN CONTEXT are not ambiguous or confusing.

Posted by: DavesBrain at December 21, 2006 10:35 AM

I can understand how this could be confusing to some. The obvious interpretation is as others have pointed out: lighter means brighter. But some people may look at it and think the meaning is described by the contrast, not luminosity. The "background" color is off/dark and the "foreground" color is on/lit.

(I suspect some of us also relied on the fact that "up" tends to be "on" to help drive away the confusion. In some places this is not the case, however.)

I don't know that I'd go so far as to say this is "broken", but potentially confusing for a non-zero minority, certainly.

Posted by: Fastolfe at December 21, 2006 12:01 PM

You can't say that it's not broken, because if someone thinks it's broken... it is. So, it's broken.

I would say that it's not broken to the majority. If you guess wrong, there are only three other choices. Can't you can infer the desired button once you have tried one of them?

Also, it's not like pushing the wrong button will electrecute a family member. You're just adjusting light levels here, people.

Posted by: Ben Thoma at December 21, 2006 12:18 PM

Actually, this can be broken or at least confusing.

Most people would probably guess correctly that the dark cirlce means off and the light circle means on.

But, an unfilled circle is also the universal symbol for "off" on switches (the "|" means on). A person from a foreign country (where up may not mean "on") may see the switch knowing that, and therefore press the wrong button. Add that to the fact that it would be perfectly logical for a full circle to mean full light and an empty circle to mean no light, and I can see how someone could get confused by this.

But it's not that important, as it's just a light switch.

Posted by: TIBE4ME at December 21, 2006 06:53 PM

NOT BROKEN - but very small. even tho the buttons are small, the icons next to them could be larger, some ppl can't see that well (as us computer users)

Posted by: n1nj4 at December 21, 2006 09:54 PM

Just try different things until the light is the way you want it.

It's still broken, though.


Dylan Dewenter

Posted by: Dylan at December 21, 2006 11:02 PM

Ben Thoma says: "You can't say that it's not broken..."

I can and I did.

Posted by: Glenn Lasher at December 22, 2006 01:43 PM

Here's an easy way to fix this one:

Next to the top button, put a light bulb with rays coming from it, and next to the bottom button, put a light bulb without said rays.

That would clear up any possible confusion.

Or, better yet, why couldn't they just use a slider?

Posted by: TIBE4ME at December 22, 2006 02:42 PM

I'm on the side that says it's not "really" broken. Yes, it could clearer - but it could also be far more confusing.

Has anyone seen a nice, new high-tech room, with a control panel of four buttons. Clearly labeled 1, 2, 3, and 4. . . ?

Posted by: Nutsy at December 25, 2006 11:19 AM

What's broken is that this is yet another control device for someone to learn. What's wrong with a continuously-adjustable dimmer switch? (Y'now: the round ones that you turn and that everyone knows how to operate). Maybe some types of bulbs shouldn't be operated with dimmer switches. What if if the dimmer switch had four positions with detents and labels at each position. Maybe there's a reason to have 3 discrete lighting levels?

Posted by: I-am-Usable at January 31, 2007 02:34 PM

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