Observation – UI of a Door Buzzer

It’s been somewhat of a stressful week.  Homework piling up compiled with the joy of moving apartments and all of the appointments and purchases that come with it.  On Saturday I moved the rest of my belongings from my old apartment in Williamsburg to my new apartment in BedStuy.  I packed everything into the car and drove over before unloading what I could manage onto the sidewalk outside of my street.  With arms filled with bags of clothes I buzzed my apartment so my boyfriend would let me in.  Nothing. Buzzed again.  Then I got intermittent noise from my boyfriend, Graham. He was trying to tell me something but it kept cutting out.  So I start talking to him “Let me in!  Press the key button!” After some more garbled messages the door buzzes and I make it through the doors and make my way upstairs.  This scene repeated itself throughout the day.  I ever more and more annoyed because I know I’m wasting time and should be doing P-Comp homework and let’s be frank, moving sucks.


The next day our friend Kerim came over to check out our new place.  He arrived early when I was in the shower.  The door buzzed and I heard Graham run over and try to buzz him in.  I could hear Kerim’s voice coming in and out of the intercom “Nope, not yet”.  Then a buzz.  Then a pause. Then his voice again “Second door didn’t open. Press it again”.  Then a longer buzz and he finally made it up the stairs.  At this point I had an idea.  Personally I think shower ideas are the best ideas. This pcomp homework assignment of observing people using a technology was right under my nose. I could do it WHILE moving.  I just needed another subject.  


We ordered some food while I was unpacking. When it arrived I told Kerim that he should buzz the delivery man up.  First you could hear the buzzing but see nothing else.  Once he pressed the talk button to ask who it was the video turned on.  While he was waiting for the response he was still holding the talk button and you could hear nothing.  You’re only supposed to hold the talk button down when you’re talking yourself.  Not when the person outside is talking. You need to unpress the talk button to hear the other person speak.    Then he pressed the key button.  You could hear a buzz come on and off.  That didn’t open the door for long enough.  Then he realized you need to hold the key button for the entire time you want the door to be openable.  You could see and hear the delivery man walk in and out of the building but then it didn’t turn off.  We listened to the sounds from the street until I hit talk again to shut it off.



I really couldn’t hold it against them for not understanding the video intercom buzzer system.  I had had it in my old apartment.  I’m not exaggerating when I say it took me about 6 months to get it right.  Something never quite worked with the talk button it was always cutting in and out at both ends.  The environment in which it’s encountered is also not one that is conducive for learning.  Someone is waiting for you to let them in as you frantically try to open the door.  Then you leave the appliance to run to open the front door.  
The makers of the video intercom system were clearly trying to keep it simple.  There are only 4 buttons that can be pushed.  I think it could have been made better by adding an on/off feeling or some more indication of the exclusivity of the talk button (can’t talk at the same time). It has one purpose and therefore would be defined as an appliance not a platform. 


Although upon looking at the instruction manual I have realized there are way more things you can do with it. Personally I think they should cut the other options – why do you need to ring the doorbell for below? To surprise someone?  Also the time for how long you press the talk and key button should be specified or have more of a reference on the appliance.  Even in the instructions it sounds confusing. “Press the talk button within the set time (see something else) to response and talk handsfree” What is the set time? “If you press the talk button for at least one second while talking handsfree a beep will be emitted and you can communicate by press to talk communication.” The lengths are not intuitive as well – at least one second  to start press to talk communication, then you have to press it again to talk each time, and then you have to hold it for a minute to end it. One talk/listen button and an key button or one talk and one listen and one key button would work best I believe.




Lab HW – Bubble Machine!