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My recently-acquired car is a bit of a sore point at the moment, as it’s recently had to be repaired following a close encounter of the another-motorist-failing-to-stop-at-a-red-light variety. I shouldn’t hold that against it, because I’m actually really pleased with it. It’s not had any real faults over the 6 months since it arrived with me, and it’s really driveable.

But, Ford really dropped the ball when it came to user experience. There’s a few quirks to the car which are really annoying, where they’ve tried to be clever but not quite pulled it off, one of which is downright dangerous.

So here goes on my top 3 UX issues with the new Ford Fiesta.

Dancing in the Dark

I’m driving along, and other motorists are flashing at me. Hmmm… I wonder why. The dashboard’s illuminated, so my lights must be on…

But, they aren’t. You see, whereas the dash illuminating USED to be a great visual clue about whether your lights are on or off, when Ford designed the new Fiesta they decided to be clever and make the dash light up automatically when you start driving in the dark.

The problem is, this is a false positive. You look at the dashboard, think your lights are on, then 2 miles later pull out of the street lights and realise it’s actually pretty dark.

In UX terms, Ford have violated a basic expectation – that a brightly lit dashboard is an indicator of a brightly lit (and safe) car – and their desire to be clever is giving drivers false, and unsafe, information. Tut tut.

Of course, the less serious corollary to this is that if you leave the lights on then get out of the car, it sounds an alarm then turns the lights off. When you get back in, it sounds the alarm again then turns them on automatically. So, the safest way to use the car (leaving the lights on 24/7) causes annoying alarms. Ooops!

Blowing Hot and Cold

It took me several weeks to work out why I kept driving around with the heating on full and the air conditioning on. As well as being terrible for fuel consumption and the environment, it’s probably on course to blow the air conditioning up.

So why was I?

Well, it seems that when the air is blowing onto the windscreen, the A/C turns on automatically on start – whether the heating is on or not. It seems to be a cunning plan to clear the windows of condensation, and to be fair, cold air does indeed seem to work much better than hot.

But, surely it’s not TOO huge a step to expect the good people of Ford to check the heating is off before turning the A/C on?

Buttons Everywhere

So, just like the adverts, I can talk to my car. And most of the time, it’s pretty reliable – though there has been the odd occasion of “Oh for heavens sake for the 8th and final time just CALLLLLL SETTTTTTT!!!!!”

But when NOT using voice control, the buttons are all over the place.

You dial a number in the hands free, centre right. Then to dial, you have to press a button bottom left (not OK, that does nothing, and not Call because that changes the CD track). Then to hang up, you have to press the Call End button on the steering wheel.

Then, you can receive incoming calls with the stereo off, but have to turn the radio or CD player on to make an outgoing call. Which is really annoying when you need to make several calls – particularly if that means you get an insanely loud blast of music each time you dial.

As if that wasn’t enough, the multifunction buttons (whose functions are shown on the screen at the TOP of the dash) are actually located at the BOTTOM of the 2 split keypads and as far away from each other as possible. Why not group them together, near the screen?


These are the sort of things us UX professionals look for in websites, software, and even cars and planes – anything where people and technology meet. A great idea can be let down by not fully understanding users and how they will interact with your product. And this is where the services of UX professionals can be invaluable. Using a range of techniques, UX helps to see a product – software, web, hardware or anything else – through your users’ eyes and help you resolve issues before they alienate your users.


March 2015

Posted by Rob Walters on 15 March 2013

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