The piece of household technology that breaks the rules of nudge

The always clever Rory Sutherland puts chapter 5 of Nudge to excellent use.

Amazingly there is a single item in your home which defies all three of these Nudge principles. It is the DVD player — a hateful example of bad design.

1) Feedback. Every input to a DVD player has no observable effect for four seconds. Simply ejecting a disk means pressing ‘eject’ then making a cup of tea while you wait for the machine to wrestle with its inner demons. ‘HAL, open the disk bay door!’ ‘I’m sorry, Dave, I can’t allow you to do that.’

2) Choice architecture. The standard DVD remote control is covered by 37 buttons all of an equally fiddly size, 32 of which perform no useful function whatsoever.

3) Defaults. When I load a disk, it’s because I want to watch the film. From the start. In bloody English. The remote is by now somewhere under the sofa, so the last thing I need is a menu screen asking whether to ‘a) play the main feature? or b) watch 17 minutes of unreleased footage with a spoken commentary and Flemish subtitles?’ Default to a), damn it!

While we’re at it, kill that advertisement at the beginning of every DVD which suggests that piracy is no different from car theft. First, this admonition only appears on legal DVDs, so the target audience won’t see it. Second, it’s insane to claim piracy is equivalent to physical crime. ‘You wouldn’t desecrate a cemetery,’ it suggests, ‘and you wouldn’t burgle a pensioner’s flat while smearing excrement over the walls. So what makes you think Cameron Diaz doesn’t deserve a bigger yacht?’


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3 Responses to “The piece of household technology that breaks the rules of nudge”

  1. dimitri poppeliers Says:

    You’re so right! Why doesn’t Apple manufacture a dvd player??? It would cost 10x as much but maybe the rest of the industry would take notice! Is the time that one hits the eject button and the actual-eject a function of price? My $30 Philips takes forever – it’s ridiculous!! Remotes need to use menu type systems similar to cellphones, etc. Get rid of all those friggin buttons definitely.

  2. Tristan Says:

    These are clearly things that have been covered by usability and human factors experts for decades… why does is seem like it’s new? I guess we’re not as good at selling ourselves as Economists and Lawyers. Don Norman published this in the design of everyday things in 1988! I’d like to see nudge make a move back the the big picture issues – health cars, elections and pensions. No more Urinals and DVD players!

  3. Rory Sutherland Says:

    I didn’t claim to have written anything new. I merely pointed out the amusing fact that one single device, the DVD player, illustrated three Nudge principles being violated in one single device. I would have posted something original like a cancer cure

    But, dammit, not every battle needs to be original or new. Should we stop fighting overty and disease because these problems are, like, really tritel!

    Keep up the urinal suggestions, too, folks. What I like about Nudging is that the concept is scaleable.

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