Touchscreen vs. Buttons & LEDs - A tale of two Keurigs

Which is a better user interface - touch screen or buttons? I recently became the owner of two Keurig coffee makers, with very different user interfaces, one of each. So which user interface is better? This isn’t a coffee maker review, but rather a comparison of the user interface on both, to help guide you in what to use on your product.

First is the fancier unit, K250, which sports a nice little black and white touchscreen. The display has little active areas for the various features and shows the status of the device. The other unit is the K-Select which uses dedicated buttons and LEDs.

Benefits of the touch screen are:

  • Easier to modify, add features, etc.

  • Easier to change languages

  • Animations (not that this uses any, but you could)

  • Supports paging (press one button 3x to get the 12 ounce pour)

Benefits of buttons & LEDs:

  • Tactile response (as long as you aren’t using evil cap sense buttons; more on that later)

  • One button per function (press one button 1x to get the 12 ounce pour)

  • Larger click target

  • Greater viewing angle

  • Less Expensive

So which is better for this application? I’ve found that the hardware interface works much better in this product, for the following reasons:

  • Small touch screen means small click targets

    • If a user has a big hand then they’ll have a hard time

  • Small touch screen means small text

  • Paging

    • To get to 12 ounce pour you need to press the same button 3 times

Additionally, I found there is confusion over touchscreen indicator vs. button. See the round “Ready” graphic on the screen? The first time I used the unit, after setting options on the touchscreen for pour size, etc. I kept pressing that graphic. But it’s not a button. The real start button is the Keurig logo, below.

Which approach is best for your product?

  • When determining your UI, consider the factors above and these questions:

  • Will you be adding new features?

  • Will the click targets be large enough for the intended user?

  • How will you deal with rarely used features (e.g. how to reset the Descale timer?)

  • What does user testing say?

  • Do you know your feature set well enough to be limited by buttons?

  • What are the cost targets?

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Derek Smith