ADMIN NOTE: not sure what happened to the original post, but somehow it was replaced with spam - YO

Did anyone define “good”? I mean, other than a mind reading remote.

Also, was there any discussion on why they are all “bad”? Not the superficial “difficult to use” crap, but actual root cause. Why is it difficult to use? Why are there too many features.

And finally, this is not a new phenomena. Was there any discussion about what can be done, or was there just a lot wringing of hands and general smugness?

Defining why something is bad is useful.

For example I’ve used Logitech remotes and LG remotes that I’ve found to be rather good.

In general: All remotes which serve to be “universal” will be burdened with extra functionality that many users may not use. The flip side would be something like the Apple remote which requires every function to be either handled on screen, or by another controller.

Is having something “universal” bad? Most complex home theater remotes (AV receivers tend to be the worst offenders) are stuck with hundreds of functions. How do I change inputs across 8 devices? How do I switch between an Xbox and a Cable box? How do I control my smart TV features which are now often based on uniquely designed apps?

It’s easy to say “oh I could design a better solution” until you realize the number of variables and eliminating those variables to make the product good for your target might just alienate a power user like me who has a whole shelf of expensive AV equipment.

Ultimately the problem with teaching your mum is that she isn’t just using the TV. She’s using the TV, the “computer” inside, the cable box, the stereo, the VCR, the DVD player. Even with my mother in law who only has to use the TV and the Youtube TV app she struggles because the app has library, live TV, suggested TV and not just “Channel up or down”

Could’ve been interesting pumping the discussion and be followed up with a little solving phase, just to get to the core problems like iab says. I think (one of) the problem with remotes is that they always have to evolve in a ecosystem of constantly changing and always adding “new” functions and make sure they work well with every product a consumer might attach to a tv screen. Maybe it’s matter of evolution on how obsolete functions will disappear towards a virtual UI/UX and the remote just being the hard nexus. And the story about purchasing a blank remote control to just attach a sticker feels like disrespecting design in general.

The core problem is cost vs perceived value. Having run up that hill many times. I worked on 4 remotes I’ve been proud of and many many more that have been brand slapped “credit card remotes”.

When I’ve been successful at convincing organizations to do something with integrity has been when I’ve made a clear case around these 3 points:

  1. improved UX leading to higher amazon reviews, critical reviews, and other peer reviews (increased NPS)
  2. improved industrial design leading to remote being left out (not hidden) and not replaced (not integrated into a third party universal remote)
  3. increased cost being negligible if tooling can be amortized across portfolio (IE use the same remote for everything, takes a lot of feature planning)

The design principles I’ve used to evaluate the designs themselves are:

  1. feature prioritization (making most frequently used features most dominant)
  2. tactile navigation for high priority features (feel your way to key features without looking)
  3. recognizing remote is the only physical touchpoint for the product so adding both visual and physical mass in a sculptural way

From there you can start concepting, evaluating, user testing, and refining and minimize the whiny complaining and personal bias

Arriving in yet another anodyne hotel room and reaching for the remote, I always think of this:

I hope you Sani wiped it first :wink:

For the sake of curiosity, do you remember if it was a cable company’s remote?

A major problem that I’ve observed in my short tenure in the video industry is that the cheap off the shelf solutions are all that OEM cable companies were willing to spend money on for a long time. Since they generally have minimal competition and are including remotes for free with a subscription, they’ve had no incentive to apply design solutions focused on UX. Additionally there are tons of back end services and other devices that often make extra buttons a necessity. I mean pairing all of the devices that may be in a theater into one remote and having enough feedback to allow confidence that everything is indeed paired is a logistic nightmare.

A lot of this is changing though. With the new up and comers like Roku (who has a great remote) , big enterprises are doing all they can to stop the cord cutting. The company I work for very recently started applying real design thinking to improve the UX and the brand as a whole. So hopefully, remote controls will become significantly better very soon across the board.

I actually enjoy the Samsung Smart tv remote…

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Here are a couple of remote projects I executed while working for Dish Network over a decade ago.
The silver remotes (in various configurations based on number of TV’s in the house) were the default offering, and the dark gray remote was offered as an ‘easy to operate’ option. The silver remotes were universal, controlling up to 4 devices. The gray remote controlled a TV and the set top box.
Universal Remote = complex (evil)
Simple Remote = less complex (less evil)
Each of these projects came with a load of requirements and conditions, including legacy concerns, usability and interface issues, set top box interfaces, etc.
But our over riding criteria for design were almost identical to these from YO:

  1. feature prioritization (making most frequently used features most dominant)
  2. tactile navigation for high priority features (feel your way to key features without looking)
  3. recognizing remote is the only physical touchpoint for the product so adding both visual and physical mass in a sculptural way

While the success of the final design is up for debate, those remote control projects were great design problems.

I remember when those came out! I think Dish and the TiVo remote really pushed that idea of being unmistakable in the “remote bin” which is really good, especially if you want to be the primary remote. The remotes I worked on for Polk and Definitive were sometimes tossed as the products had IR learn features and later HDMi added pass through commands for power and volume, relegating the remote to occasional use for bass,voice and EQ modes… but, still fun projects. Super challenging because of the BOM constraints!

The Roku remotes that frog initially and then I think Bold or New Deal designed were also interesting with the little Roku tag on them. It gave the remotes some personality.

Only remote I’ve ever seen that doesn’t suck:

It’s actually also a universal (B&O) remote for several types of TV/Audio systems, plus it’s cast (?) metal so has great weight.

Had one of these with a TV while living in DK. Haven’t tried any of the newer ones.


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Here’s your design brief:

I need to preview what’s on 300 channels for at least 3 weeks out
I need to know info about all of those shows, brief and indepth
I need to record 1 show or the whole series
I need to randomly channel surf
I need to quickly go to favorites
I need volume
I need mute
I need to exit
I need to go back and forward
I need to manage recorded/on demand content (save, delete, forward to other device)
I need categories for recorded/on demand content
I need to search recorded/on demand
I need to play, pause, rewind, fast forward, repeat content
I need shortcut keys
I need power
I need to change settings
I need access to apps
I need to navigate apps

There is absolutely no creep in that list. That is what is used on a weekly basis. No whining. No sanctimony. Good luck.

Yes, they all suck. Not as bad as thermostats in the pre-Nest era, but they have much to improve.

Whatever else it has, it needs to:
*Have backlighting
*Protect the user from accidentally clicking on the dangerous Power, Stop, Skip (|<< / >>|), Exit, or Eject commands. This means a tactile or physical separation from safer commands like Play, Scan (<< / >>), and Pause.

A truly great device would combine touchscreen and really good tactile buttons. Some logitech units come close.

I’d love to see the return of Sony’s jog/shuttle dial.

Rubberized coating is a plus for grip and not sliding on leather.

A beeper for finding in between sofa cushions.

Put all these things together you could have a pretty amazing unit.

That Sony jog dial was amazing. Most likely very costly.

Have you seen the Savant remotes? Very nicely done with a combo of touch screen and tactile buttons. But it only works with their propriety smart home system which is very expensive

So much great input in here! Call me utopian but cant we secretly team up and make the ultimate control remote? Like being the Justice League of design? ok that’s too much, sorry [emoji113][emoji20]

At the last company I worked for I pitched to do a universal remote. Bose had done one that ships with many of their products, and I thought it would be a good thing to be the main remote that people use and give them a better experience. The effort didn’t move forward, but I would have loved to have completed that!

That would be a great idea! Hijack the process so people use your remote (and brand) as the main touchpoint for their experience. Instead of getting people to use your remote to program another master, absorb the functions of the other remotes and make yours the master. I’m thinking there must be other use case scenarios like this but can’t come up with anything at the moment…

Funny how Apple really has pretty much fixed all the remote issues by just focusing on the software and keeping the remote simple. Original iPod did the same thing taking the shitty physical UI of MP3 players and replacing it all with a simple scroll wheel and lots of simple layered menus. Say what you want about the programming or features of Apple TV, but I can use the remote to do anything I want pretty easily. Maybe password text typing is a bit of pain, but happens so rarely and there’s always the remote app if I seriously need to enter a bunch of passwords and account info on first set up. Apple remote has 3 buttons?


That was exactly the idea Richard. One of the other efforts in parallel that came out of the same innovation workshop was making a sounder with a voice agent. That product was announced at CES last year and is probably one of the last under my direction in the pipeline.

The Apple TV remote did get more buttons in the current gen. You can see the evolution here. Don’t forget the blank space at the top is a D Pad and a gestural input… it is still mega simple and lovely. Plus it recharges via lightning and has voice input. Of course it doesn’t have to handle any audio settings.