Author Topic: Why is test equipment UX so awful?  (Read 3104 times)

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Online nimish

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Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« on: October 20, 2017, 11:25:22 PM »
This is more of a question for the mid-range scopes ($1k+) from the big scope manufacturers like Keysight, Tektronix and R&S: for a machine whose internal engineering are basically fully depreciated (Don't tell me that a 100MHz scope internals are complex to engineer even to a cost if the Chinese can pump them out for a fifth of the price) where is my 2-3k going? I'm looking at the scopes costing 3-4k and have poorer screens and user interfaces, particularly automated ones (SCPI is kind of terrible to program, but standardized I guess) than an android tablet I can buy for $100. Really.

Is it bad sourcing and manufacturing? I don't really expect Apple quality (well, if I was spending 100k+ I would) since no one is at that scale, but I do expect proper screens and proper capacitive touch -- a $2000 scope that gleefully advertises a 800x480 screen is shameful IMO, with aliased fonts and graphics straight out of 1996. A smartphone SoC < $20 at scale and includes a GPU! Give me some detailed plots and text that doesn't make my eyes bleed! The low end scopes could easily be implemented on a single chip + maybe an FPGA for some of the difficult stuff! (Hell, xilinx has a sheet touting how siglent did it with a Zynq)

Is it bad engineering? Well, the recent and excellent series of videos with the Keysight engineer tells me that there are still people who care about engineering--but few who seem to care about user experience, which incorporates more than just UI design. It's like they spend a ton of time on the internals and then give the one software dude (let's face it, it's probably all guys in there) an underpowered processor and 1k of RAM to handle what people actual interact with daily more than that super mega sweet niche signal analysis feature that's easier and better done on a computer offline.

I'm mad because despite being a hobbyist I'm lucky enough to be able to afford decent scopes, and yet I cannot get something that rivals cheap shit that gets pumped out of china daily.

Now I'm gonna get the folks who'll say: well suck it up, it's a tool, it's for pros. Well to them I say that's a false dichotomy. You can get tools that have care put in to more than just the spec sheet that are used by professionals daily: look at ThinkPads or Macbook Pros, or even stuff like the saleae logic series which is just nice to use and own and beats the pants off the logic analyzers included in most MSOs for sometimes less than the license cost!

I mean, look at the BenchVUE UI: http://www.eevblog.com/forum/testgear/t57461/ . It's not meaningfully better than the red pitaya UI and it's in many ways worse since it is quite expensive and still requires expensive hardware. Sure there are margins to protect and profits and such, but that's the kind of talk that gets you disrupted by someone without your legacy costbase and concerns. How do you expect newbies--who are coming in from places like the arduino community or "maker" community--who don't have big expense accounts and dedicated procurement teams -- to stump up the cash for a keysight or tek or r&s when the Chinese are offering more for less? The experimenter today is tomorrow's startup is the next big customer of yours.

The closest HW scope I see to actually having a decent experience is the RTB2000 series, which still does the whole nickel and dime for features that the Chinese will throw in for free, but that's probably due to the cartel like behavior in non-Chinese branded scopes.


I'm tilted here.
 

Offline sokoloff

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #1 on: October 20, 2017, 11:57:49 PM »
Imagine you're a TE manufacturer and you sell a handful of 100MHz scopes every working day (closing in on 1000/yr).

Someone comes to you and says, "If we re-spun the hardware, included some higher spec components [CPU, GPU, screen, and support accessories], we could make the user experience on our scope a lot better for our users."

"What would that cost, all-in?"

"I bet we could do it for $1-1.5MM."

"OK. How many more scopes would we sell then?"

"Probably about the same number; maybe we'd see an initial spike, but then it would tail back to the same number we sell today."

"What is the return on spending $1.5MM to sell a few hundred extra $2500 scopes?"
 

Online Mr. Scram

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #2 on: October 21, 2017, 12:01:56 AM »
Imagine you're a TE manufacturer and you sell a handful of 100MHz scopes every working day (closing in on 1000/yr).

Someone comes to you and says, "If we re-spun the hardware, included some higher spec components [CPU, GPU, screen, and support accessories], we could make the user experience on our scope a lot better for our users."

"What would that cost, all-in?"

"I bet we could do it for $1-1.5MM."

"OK. How many more scopes would we sell then?"

"Probably about the same number; maybe we'd see an initial spike, but then it would tail back to the same number we sell today."

"What is the return on spending $1.5MM to sell a few hundred extra $2500 scopes?"
Why do you think that it wouldn't boost sales to do so? Technical folks are almost like ordinary people in that they like to use equipment that's pleasant and comfortable to use.
 

Offline sokoloff

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #3 on: October 21, 2017, 12:11:31 AM »
I don't know with certainty of course, but I think most users demand the technical functionality and can live with any UX that doesn't actively and completely prohibit them from accomplishing their technical task.

I agree a lot of TE has terrible UX; it's generally functional and reliable, though.

Further, most people who need a $2500-ish scope already have one. (Most of the addressable market is already satisfied.) So you're selling into a market where your customers probably already have working equipment and your sales pitch is that your product is functionally identical on a technical level, but has a more pleasant UX. That's a vitamin sales pitch, not a painkiller sales pitch.
 

Online Mr. Scram

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #4 on: October 21, 2017, 12:23:43 AM »
I don't know with certainty of course, but I think most users demand the technical functionality and can live with any UX that doesn't actively and completely prohibit them from accomplishing their technical task.

I agree a lot of TE has terrible UX; it's generally functional and reliable, though.

Further, most people who need a $2500-ish scope already have one. (Most of the addressable market is already satisfied.) So you're selling into a market where your customers probably already have working equipment and your sales pitch is that your product is functionally identical on a technical level, but has a more pleasant UX. That's a vitamin sales pitch, not a painkiller sales pitch.
If you can shave and save time, the investment quickly pays for itself. Even a small gain multiplies many times, and often across well paid people. There is a reason companies pay extraordinary amounts of money for support on CAD hard- and software, and that reason is that any downtime costs a lot of money in lost wages, and possibly even more money in missed deadlines. So companies pay huge sums for 24/7 support, well tested drivers and near instant solving or replacement of any defects.

I can't imagine TE being much different.
« Last Edit: October 21, 2017, 12:26:41 AM by Mr. Scram »
 

Offline coppice

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #5 on: October 21, 2017, 12:41:49 AM »
Why do you think that it wouldn't boost sales to do so? Technical folks are almost like ordinary people in that they like to use equipment that's pleasant and comfortable to use.
Development resources are always limited, and more resources put into a better user interface means less resources put into performance. As long as the user interface allows quick access to the things people use a lot (i.e. it doesn't badly slow them down) do you think people will go for higher performance or a better user interface?
 

Offline bd139

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #6 on: October 21, 2017, 12:43:04 AM »
Going to be honest, a lot of the UI I have seen on test gear is actually pretty nice to the bespoke commercial software industry. There are some real turds in that.
 

Online Mr. Scram

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #7 on: October 21, 2017, 12:47:19 AM »
Development resources are always limited, and more resources put into a better user interface means less resources put into performance. As long as the user interface allows quick access to the things people use a lot (i.e. it doesn't badly slow them down) do you think people will go for higher performance or a better user interface?
I point once more to other markets that do invest in keeping people working as efficiently as possible, and make good money doing so.
 

Offline coppice

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #8 on: October 21, 2017, 12:50:48 AM »
Development resources are always limited, and more resources put into a better user interface means less resources put into performance. As long as the user interface allows quick access to the things people use a lot (i.e. it doesn't badly slow them down) do you think people will go for higher performance or a better user interface?
I point once more to other markets that do invest in keeping people working as efficiently as possible, and make good money doing so.
You referred to CAD, but CAD software is just like most current test equipment. It has a horrible non-intuitive user interface, but they make sure the features you use a lot are quick to access.
 
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Offline fonograph

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #9 on: October 21, 2017, 12:52:35 AM »
The chinese brands are complete thrash.Look at rigol PSU with overheating mosfets,look at Dave video review of their new DC load,look how Siglent handles bug fixes.

Overheating transistors,bugs,chingchangchongXon capacitors,bugs,retarded ergonomics and aesthetics in front panels,bad build quality,more bugs on release that there are stars in milky way,significantly less performance than fake specs suggest,bug ridden nightmare of software written by team of highly trained monkeys,releasing products with unfinished software then using customers to report and find bugs for free

Chinese brands have terrible track record,buying anything from them is only for poor people,its like playing russian roulette,you never know what you are getting into,you cant trust the equipment.

After watching countless reviews,I witnessed so many extremly poor hardware and software design choices that I believe they arent even honestly trying to make good product,its not like they just have less money and less experienced people,its like they dont give a f word and release crap on purpose,its ridiculous and at first unbelievable,no serious company would ever do that.They also steal and copy ideas from big brands,if it werent decades of research done by companies like H&P and Tektronix,these immitations would have not existed.

You get what you pay for
« Last Edit: October 21, 2017, 01:00:11 AM by fonograph »
 

Offline bd139

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #10 on: October 21, 2017, 12:53:42 AM »
I rather like my Chinese shit :)
 
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Online Mr. Scram

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #11 on: October 21, 2017, 12:58:13 AM »
You referred to CAD, but CAD software is just like most current test equipment. It has a horrible non-intuitive user interface, but they make sure the features you use a lot are quick to access.
Most serious CAD applications can be completely customized to your own preferences. More importantly, companies pay huge amounts of money for occasionally needed support. This means that companies are willing to pay big bucks if it ensures their engineers can do their jobs happily and efficiently.

Again, TE shouldn't be any different. A more streamlined and pleasant experiece equates to more productive people and therefore a better bottom line. That's certainly worth a few bucks.
 

Online Mr. Scram

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2017, 01:00:43 AM »
The chinese brands are complete thrash.Look at rigol PSU with overheating mosfets,look at Dave video review of their new DC load,look how Siglent handles bug fixes.

Overheating transistors,bugs,chingchangchongXon capacitors,bugs,retarded ergonomics and aesthetics in front panels,bad build quality,more bugs on release that there are stars in milky way,significantly less performance than fake specs suggest,bug ridden nightmare of software written by team of highly trained monkeys,releasing products with unfinished software then using customers to report and find bugs for free

Chinese brands have terrible track record,buying anything from them is only for poor people,its like playing russian roulette,you never know what you are getting into,you cant trust the equipment.

After watching countless reviews,I witnessed so many extremly poor hardware and software design choices that I believe they arent even honestly trying to make good product,its not like they just have less money and less experienced people,its like they dont give a f word and release crap on purpose,its ridiculous and at first unbelievable,no serious company would would ever do that.They also steal and copy ideas from big brands,if it werent decades of research done by companies like H&P and Tektronix,these immitations would have not existed.

You get what you pay for
At least you get what you pay for. If I'm to believe the experienes people have with recent Tektronix equipment, you get a lot less than what you pay for.
 

Offline fonograph

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2017, 01:08:46 AM »
I had Keysight and Rohde & Schwarz in mind as current big brands,Tektronix isnt what it used to be.The Anritsu and Yokogawa seem good too
 

Offline NottheDan

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2017, 01:38:10 AM »
Most serious CAD applications can be completely customized to your own preferences. More importantly, companies pay huge amounts of money for occasionally needed support. This means that companies are willing to pay big bucks if it ensures their engineers can do their jobs happily and efficiently.

Again, TE shouldn't be any different. A more streamlined and pleasant experiece equates to more productive people and therefore a better bottom line. That's certainly worth a few bucks.
AFAIK TE is not any different. If you pay big bucks for it you can get customisations. If you don't you don't.
 

Offline MrW0lf

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #15 on: October 21, 2017, 01:38:39 AM »
Well if people still buy stuff there is no problem commercially. Commercial success is only vaguely related to good product in many cases.
Also, who is supposed to design T&M GUI? It requires at least 3 different skillsets:
- technical, to understand little nuances about device function
- usability specialist
- gfx designer
Unlikely that these all are concentrated in single person. Last skillsets probably missing in-house. Also being a specialist is not enough, you have to be talented and worst of all, motivated.
Then fact that there is a problem must be communicated up in hierarchy.
Marketing morons may kick in demanding some fashionable feature despite poor usability (nowdays mostly touch related).
Mix that is likely to turn into tasty dish in only very rare cases if ever.
Currently I see no midrange scope on market that has both good UI and feature set not castrated by marketing or other natural cause.

 

Online lundmar

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #16 on: October 21, 2017, 01:41:23 AM »
There is still truth to the old saying "made by engineers for engineers".

Many engineers simply don't understand the principles of good UX design.

Also, some manufacturers just don't invest enough resources into doing a good UX design.
https://lxi-tools.github.io - Open source LXI tools
https://tio.github.io - A simple TTY terminal I/O application
http://dc-power-supply.github.io - OSHW DC power supply project
 

Online nctnico

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #17 on: October 21, 2017, 02:40:06 AM »
1996. A smartphone SoC < $20 at scale and includes a GPU! Give me some detailed plots and text that doesn't make my eyes bleed! The low end scopes could easily be implemented on a single chip + maybe an FPGA for some of the difficult stuff! (Hell, xilinx has a sheet touting how siglent did it with a Zynq)
When it comes to oscilloscopes you are making a valid point. For an oscilloscope to be a step up it needs lots of processing horsepower to do things like math, signal processing and protocol decoding. Except for the various models from GW Instek, the low end 2 channel one from Siglent and the new Tektronix MSO5 series no manufacturer seems to have picked up on that yet.
BTW: please no anti-aliased fonts though. I can't focus on it (Windows 10 and a lot of new M$ software is utterly useless for me because of that).
There are small lies, big lies and then there is what is on the screen of your oscilloscope.
 

Online Mr. Scram

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #18 on: October 21, 2017, 05:27:34 AM »
There is still truth to the old saying "made by engineers for engineers".

Many engineers simply don't understand the principles of good UX design.

Also, some manufacturers just don't invest enough resources into doing a good UX design.
To make matters worse, many people in technical fields don't even know what they don't know about design and UX. If all the buttons are there and work it's well enough and off the product goes.

Maybe because it's less of a hard science, it's also valued less. And, obviously, you generally don't have every skill within a single person. It's quite rare to find someone with the technical expertise to make things work and the vision and knack to make it both work well and attractive.
 
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Online Specmaster

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #19 on: October 21, 2017, 06:24:03 AM »
The chinese brands are complete thrash.Look at rigol PSU with overheating mosfets,look at Dave video review of their new DC load,look how Siglent handles bug fixes.

Overheating transistors,bugs,chingchangchongXon capacitors,bugs,retarded ergonomics and aesthetics in front panels,bad build quality,more bugs on release that there are stars in milky way,significantly less performance than fake specs suggest,bug ridden nightmare of software written by team of highly trained monkeys,releasing products with unfinished software then using customers to report and find bugs for free

Chinese brands have terrible track record,buying anything from them is only for poor people,its like playing russian roulette,you never know what you are getting into,you cant trust the equipment.

After watching countless reviews,I witnessed so many extremly poor hardware and software design choices that I believe they arent even honestly trying to make good product,its not like they just have less money and less experienced people,its like they dont give a f word and release crap on purpose,its ridiculous and at first unbelievable,no serious company would ever do that.They also steal and copy ideas from big brands,if it werent decades of research done by companies like H&P and Tektronix,these immitations would have not existed.

You get what you pay for


You paint a picture of Chinese goods that just isn't true. Yes of course there are some products and brands that are utter rubbish, but the same is also true of any country. I can remember when people were saying much the same thing about Japanese cars and their electronics at one time did not have a good reputation either but you can't say that now, their products are as good and in many cases better then others. 
Who let Murphy in?
 

Offline metrologist

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #20 on: October 21, 2017, 06:25:09 AM »
It's easy to talk about it semantically, but quite difficult to conceptualize and actually implement. A lot of times there are competing interests.

Maybe pick on something specific. For an example most will be familiar with, I absolutely abhor what MS has done to Windows File Explorer. There have been some incarnations that had good usability. In Win7, the file preview button was cleanly available to toggle on/off, and you could enable the status bar along the bottom to cleanly see many of the selected file details. In Win10, now you have layers of ribbons to navigate to get that info, and the way it's displayed is disgusting. Furthermore, the search sometime seems OK, but often it just shows me no results when clearly there are results if start over. Sometimes it shows details, and others thumbs. It's frustrating and dysfunctional. And when I open my picture folder, I have to wait at least a minute for it to do something mysterious - so sick of seeing that green address bar.
 

Offline Kire Pûdsje

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #21 on: October 21, 2017, 06:27:33 AM »
I am hardly using scopes in my work, but use microwave equipment all day.

[Edit: Sorry, I had written about some frustration of mine here. removed it.]

Finally a general remark about the UI. it seems to me that the GUI's are more and more developed by software engineers that do not have access to the equipment itself. Instead of operating the equipment they develop the GUI on a desktop PC. Although a lot of equipment still has physical buttons, it becomes ever more impossible to operate instrument without keyboard and mouse. Touch screen and onscreen keyboard are no substitutes. My fingers are just far too big for a windows menu-bar on a high-res screen. I have no objection to touch screens, but just make nice fat buttons to push.
Also for touch screen, fortunately most devices allow you to enable/disable it. But most of the time there is no way in between. For a scope, I could imagine that it can be easy to zoom in/out on a trace, but for spectrum analyzers/network analyzers, please include options to disable zooming. I carefully setup the range/scale and by accidental touching the screen everything is shifted. Zooming should be disabled, but moving a marker should be enabled.
I would really urge companies to try and test if it is possible to operate their equipment without adding a keyboard and mouse, also by just using the physical buttons. This way it should be possible to use most functions of the equipment. (having had setups needing 4 keyboards and mice in front of me, always grabbing the wrong one.)
« Last Edit: October 21, 2017, 07:49:10 AM by Kire Pûdsje »
 

Offline fonograph

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #22 on: October 21, 2017, 06:50:50 AM »
The chinese brands are complete thrash.Look at rigol PSU with overheating mosfets,look at Dave video review of their new DC load,look how Siglent handles bug fixes.

Overheating transistors,bugs,chingchangchongXon capacitors,bugs,retarded ergonomics and aesthetics in front panels,bad build quality,more bugs on release that there are stars in milky way,significantly less performance than fake specs suggest,bug ridden nightmare of software written by team of highly trained monkeys,releasing products with unfinished software then using customers to report and find bugs for free

Chinese brands have terrible track record,buying anything from them is only for poor people,its like playing russian roulette,you never know what you are getting into,you cant trust the equipment.

After watching countless reviews,I witnessed so many extremly poor hardware and software design choices that I believe they arent even honestly trying to make good product,its not like they just have less money and less experienced people,its like they dont give a f word and release crap on purpose,its ridiculous and at first unbelievable,no serious company would ever do that.They also steal and copy ideas from big brands,if it werent decades of research done by companies like H&P and Tektronix,these immitations would have not existed.

You get what you pay for


You paint a picture of Chinese goods that just isn't true. Yes of course there are some products and brands that are utter rubbish, but the same is also true of any country. I can remember when people were saying much the same thing about Japanese cars and their electronics at one time did not have a good reputation either but you can't say that now, their products are as good and in many cases better then others.

not true you say?
 

Online Mr. Scram

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #23 on: October 21, 2017, 07:14:27 AM »
not true you say?
I'm sorry to say, but we haven't seen a proper argument yet. The former post was an emotional argument, this one is anecdotal, neither of which are considered proper discussion etiquette.
 

Offline bd139

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Re: Why is test equipment UX so awful?
« Reply #24 on: October 21, 2017, 07:16:45 AM »
Turd are turds!  That’s where we are.
 


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