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Author Topic: Why all the hatred for menus on radios  (Read 22575 times)
AF5CC
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« on: September 15, 2013, 01:31:28 PM »

In reading some of the eham.net reviews and for sale ads, it seems that a lot of hams have a real hatred of menu driven radios?  Why?  They aren't that hard to use, just read the manual.  The menus also the radios today to do so much more than the old ones did. So, what is the problem with menu driven radios that makes so many people hate them? 

John AF5CC
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N3HFS
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« Reply #1 on: September 15, 2013, 07:27:33 PM »

I see that you have double-posted and that I feel like an idiot having posted my response here (see below) when everybody else has posted theirs on a different forum.  Angry

Why would you double-post the exact same question in multiple places?  It just greatly confuses things!

Quote
There is a wide range of useability of menu systems in radios currently being sold, in my opinion.  But, I do believe that some folks are better suited to manipulating menus and accessing options than others.  Most, like me, probably fall in the middle...I can manage menus for most of my radios, so long as I am provided with an obvious and consistent way to access and maneuver the software.  

I also greatly appreciate a good bit of thought and insight on the part of the engineers and marketers who determine what functions are instantly accessible and which require multiple steps through a menu.  

Menus are a compromise that I can live with quite easily if properly implemented and thoughtfully executed.  Menus are an evil and confounding operational obstacle when not.
« Last Edit: September 15, 2013, 07:33:23 PM by N3HFS » Logged
N5INP
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« Reply #2 on: September 15, 2013, 08:23:49 PM »

A physical switch that has two labels "on" and "off" has a "menu"  Smiley
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KG4RUL
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« Reply #3 on: September 15, 2013, 08:32:02 PM »

A physical switch that has two labels "on" and "off" has a "menu"  Smiley

A physical switch that has different functions at different times has a "menu" - otherwise, it is just a switch.
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K1CJS
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« Reply #4 on: September 16, 2013, 05:27:31 AM »

A physical switch that has two labels "on" and "off" has a "menu"  Smiley

A physical switch that has different functions at different times has a "menu" - otherwise, it is just a switch.

I agree.  A menu usually means multiple choices--not just two.  BTW, I also replied on the other post in Misc.  Why two postings?
« Last Edit: September 16, 2013, 05:35:45 AM by K1CJS » Logged
KD8MJR
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« Reply #5 on: September 16, 2013, 08:04:25 AM »

I figure several reasons are at play.

Probably half the older guys can't see the menus clearly but they know their button layouts or can learn them much quicker.

Menu's are typically done very poorly, the first company that mastered a good Menu system was Icom.  Other companies are getting better at it.  A good menu system only has seldom used items in it.

Displays for the menus are often very poor.  Icom was once again one of the few to realize this and make bigger clearer menus back in the days of the 756Pro.

Personally I prefer a radio with a good menu system but it's got to have a lot of knobs and buttons also.  The balance is hard to get right, IMHO the best example of proper balance is the Icom 7800 and a case of under use of the menu and too many buttons is the 990.
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KE7TMA
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« Reply #6 on: September 16, 2013, 06:18:52 PM »

It all depends on who designs the menus.  Japanese manufacturers seem to follow bizarre conventions, requiring odd combinations in order to use the menus effectively.  I have been more pleased with American-made menus but this could just be cultural preference.

I can see how blind or poorly-sighted operators would dislike menus, especially ones that do not give good feedback when used.  Most radio manufacturers throw a bit of a bone to the blind but a lot of improvement could be made there.
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W2WDX
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« Reply #7 on: September 19, 2013, 02:19:17 PM »

Menu's are for feature sets, not human use.

The more features you pack into a radio the more menus become necessary to make the unit functional. However this makes the unit less usable from a human ergonomic perspective. Using menus to find functions is not intuitive. I generally prefer intuitive activities over having feature sets.

Look at this simple explanation of human perspective. When VCR's first came out, how many people did you know had the clock blinking at 12.00 the entire time they owned it. This was because this was the first piece of consumer electronics that used a menu to set a basic function. Most people couldn't intuitively set it, so they ignored it. It is this aspect of human behavour that makes people dislike menus.

Human beings generally do not want to think about one task while performing another. It's distracting. Also, scrolling through menus is time consuming, when you are doing something that is for enjoyment.

I would bet you, if Yaesu or one of the others would design a modern radio with much less feature sets and direct button or knob for each of the basic functions, they would have a huge seller. A basic radio with the most basic functions, not a feature rich non-intuitive radio with no dispalys other than metering. I know it would sell. However here's the thing ...

With modern electronics, a basic radio with no feature sets and no menus would have a reatil price the same as a complex radio with menus and feature sets. So manufacturers thinking is, to be competitive they should add menus and feature sets since they cost nothing to them or the consumer.
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WX7G
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« Reply #8 on: September 21, 2013, 04:30:29 AM »

Some hams like driving the radio and others like communicating.

When using a radio I want to focus on communicating and not on the radio. The radio should be a natural extension of me and that means simply turning the frequency and volume knobs. Having to mentally disconnect from communicating to dig into a menu takes me away from communicating. Try driving a menu driven radio for several hours while contesting and see how fatiguing it is. Try driving a menu driven radio while driving a car and see how dangerous it is. Would you like to drive a car that required delving into menus to change gears? I thought not.

That brings us to radios that have menus but don't require delving into them constantly. The FT-857 is an example of a menu driven radio that requires one to go into the menu to change the CW keyer speed. Or the TS-480 where a knob can be dedicated to CW speed or the KX3 that has a knob dedicated to CW speed.

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W1JKA
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« Reply #9 on: September 22, 2013, 07:05:27 AM »

Re:  WX7G    
 "the radio should be a natural extension of me and that means simply tuning the frequency and volume knobs"

   Three years ago I did extensive research for a rig that would meet these exact same requirements and I came very close in finding one, but it had an additional control function button, the on/off power switch. I decided that I could live with 3 controls instead of 2 so I bought three MFJ Cub kits. They are fun to build, I seldom have to refer to the operations manual and as a bonus you can actually communicate with them even three years later. I f you get on the internet and are willing to do a little searching I think you can still find them.  Yeah, I know, but it's a slow rainy Sunday, bands are quiet and the Patriots game isn't until  1::00 PM.
« Last Edit: September 22, 2013, 07:09:17 AM by W1JKA » Logged
W4KYR
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« Reply #10 on: September 22, 2013, 07:13:38 AM »

 I don't know why manufacturers don't take more advantage of Youtube and post a step by step tutorial on how to program their radios. Usually you will find hams making 'how to videos' (in varying quality).

Another thing, why don't the manufacturers have a direct entry option for the menus? Either through an on screen direct entry 0-9 keypad or through a USB to use with a keyboard? I'm well aware that the manufacturers do sell programming cables and software ...that is if you want to spend over $100+ on both.


 Have a knob that will take the 10 most needed options that YOU need and then program them into memory like you would a frequency.  So you can assign option #25 to 1, option #8 to 2, and so on...this way once its set...you have your top 10 shortcuts just a twist away.

There is nothing really wrong with menus, there just needs to be a better way to go about accessing them...with the least amount of steps.
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K8GU
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« Reply #11 on: September 23, 2013, 06:23:16 AM »

Some hams like driving the radio and others like communicating.

When using a radio I want to focus on communicating and not on the radio. The radio should be a natural extension of me and that means simply turning the frequency and volume knobs. Having to mentally disconnect from communicating to dig into a menu takes me away from communicating. Try driving a menu driven radio for several hours while contesting and see how fatiguing it is. Try driving a menu driven radio while driving a car and see how dangerous it is. Would you like to drive a car that required delving into menus to change gears? I thought not.

That brings us to radios that have menus but don't require delving into them constantly. The FT-857 is an example of a menu driven radio that requires one to go into the menu to change the CW keyer speed. Or the TS-480 where a knob can be dedicated to CW speed or the KX3 that has a knob dedicated to CW speed.

That sums it up entirely.  Menus are great for seldom-used settings.  But, things like power output, DSP bandwidth, keyer speed, etc, should be on the front panel.  Although a lot of people don't like the "ergonomics," I think that Elecraft K3 managed to pack just the right amount of capability into the four knobs to the left of the big knob.  They each have multiple functions that can be set on the fly.

Regarding the two-knob, no-menu radio...I have a Small Wonder SW-40 that has two knobs.  That's a fine little radio, but it leaves a lot on the table when it comes to some kinds of operating.
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N3HEE
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« Reply #12 on: September 24, 2013, 04:28:43 AM »


Although a lot of people don't like the "ergonomics," I think that Elecraft K3 managed to pack just the right amount of capability into the four knobs to the left of the big knob.  They each have multiple functions that can be set on the fly.

I'll second the K3 comment...

I'm a cw OP and casual contester and DXer.  Once I set my K3 to the way I liked it I rarely access the menu's.  There is a knob or a button for nearly every function on the front panel.  The K3 is very easy to operate and pretty intuitive.  I really don't have any issue with the ergonomics.   Can you tell I really like my K3? 
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WA3KVN
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« Reply #13 on: September 27, 2013, 07:41:16 AM »

I don't think the hatred is so much for menus but for their often very poor design.  A good menu system should be the result of serious human factors research and engineering to menu the correct functions in the best order.  To be sure, details of this structure could be optimized differently for different individuals; but there's got to be a happy medium, where things are "best" for everyone.

This engineering has, to my experience, not been done.  Thus, the hatred ...

Charlie, WA3KVN
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WB2WIK
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« Reply #14 on: September 27, 2013, 02:34:39 PM »

I don't think the hatred is so much for menus but for their often very poor design.  A good menu system should be the result of serious human factors research and engineering to menu the correct functions in the best order.  To be sure, details of this structure could be optimized differently for different individuals; but there's got to be a happy medium, where things are "best" for everyone.

This engineering has, to my experience, not been done.  Thus, the hatred ...

Charlie, WA3KVN

Ten Tec pulled off this miracle quite well in the Jupiter, Orion, Orion-II and Omni-VII.

The "menu" fills an entire, large TFT display with one press of the MENU button.  Each function available is written out in plain English text.  Turn the main tuning dial to highlight the one you want and "adjust" that one, then push MENU again and you're done.  And you can do that in the middle of an active QSO on any mode, including while you're transmitting, as it doesn't interrupt anything about operations.

I found that to be so intuitive I never even looked at the manuals.
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