Office phone

UX FAIL: Office Phones

Other than your computer, your phone is probably the most used piece of equipment in your office—yet I can almost guarantee you that most people still don’t know how to use 80% of its features. I know I don’t.

Taking even the most cursory glance at this phone, I can only surmise that no user was ever involved in the design of this phone. Asking any user to perform the simplest function (besides making a phone call) would reveal just how unusable this phone is.

Confusing office phone buttons

The orange buttons circled in the above photos appear so similar that most users would think they are related – but they are not. The orange button on the left places a call on hold while the orange button on the right hangs up a call. Meanwhile, pressing the green button places a call on speaker – but to hang up the call, you don’t press the green button again (that places the call on mute), you have to press the orange button on the right.

Another feature that is undoubtedly used several times within the day is the volume adjust buttons. In the phone pictured above, there is no indication as to whether the adjuster will affect the volume of the handset, speaker or ringer. Unfortunately, it does not adjust the ringer volume at all. To adjust the ringer volume, you have to use a switch hidden on the side of the phone.

Popular features on a phone should be the most self-evident and usable. For example, how many times have you needed to get two callers joined on a conference call? Unfortunately, a lot of people never use this feature because it’s simply to difficult to figure out how to use it. To avoid the embarrassment of accidentally hanging up on a person, more people turn to a conference call service rather than using a feature that already exists on their own phone. Continuing in this evaluation, what does “Flash” mean on a phone? Ironically, Flash is often used for making conference calls but why do phone’s use the term “Flash” when it usually has nothing to do with making something flash.

iPhone UX add call and merge calls

Why not just call things what the are? In the photo above, the iPhone uses a button called “Add Call” to add a caller while you are already talking to someone and then to join the two calls, you simply press “Merge Calls”.

In addition to “Flash”, what does “Shift” mean? Why is there a “Dial” button? Do I need to push the “Dial” button to make a phone call? Or, can I just pick up the handset and dial? Why are some buttons labeled and other buttons  not labeled? Does the manufacturer of this phone assume that some features are so obvious that they don’t need to be labeled? The design failures of this phone go on and on.