I listen to the radio. I listen to the radio in bed. So I have a clock-radio.
For many years, I had a Pure Siesta DAB radio. I liked it a lot: it worked well, it sounded good, and it was easy to use.
Particularly, its buttons were clear and easy to use. Kind of important in the dark.
But then, about a year ago, it stopped working. I couldn’t work out why it wasn’t working, so I bought a replacement. I thought about just getting the same again, but decided instead to try something else.
So I bought a Roberts, since they had a good reputation.
This one. It’s called Dreamtime.
A much smoother, more stylish design. Sleek, streamlined even.
And almost immediately I found out it was awful to use. The buttons, sitting level with the surface, are impossible to differentiate in the dark. Not a single day went by when the radio didn’t make me swear at it. Not necessarily conducive to a restful night. I was forever hitting the wrong button, and there wasn’t a way to cancel the operation without switching it off. Sometimes hitting “Select” actually reset the default settings so I’d have to reset them to my preference.
It might have looked good, but the Dreamtime was a real nightmare to use. Whoever designed it hadn’t used it in the dark. I doubt if they had used it at all.
Last week I finally cracked, pushed over the edge by it dreadful way of working. And so, whilst it was functioning much as it always had, I decided to get myself a new clock radio.
I bought a John Lewis Spectrum Clock. This.
It is small, it is simple, and I love it. It doesn’t do anything flash, it sounds fine, and it is a joy to use, even in the dark. The buttons are clearly laid out in batches, and feel different. Not once have I hit the wrong button by mistake. It sounds fine, too.
I’m not sure what the lessons are here. Maybe that “good” design is far more than eye-catching design: design has to include function; and good-looking might not necessarily by good design.