One person’s bloat is someone else’s feature

Most people are familiar with the way that indicators work in a car: you have a stalk sticking out of the steering wheel, and you knock it up or down depending on whether you want to indicate right or left. After you’ve finished your turn, the indicator will automatically turn off.

On a motorbike, it’s a bit different. There’s a control on the left handlebar, so you move that with your thumb. However, turning is mainly done by leaning, rather than just using the handlebars, so the bike doesn’t really know when you’ve finished; this means that you have to turn the indicator off yourself. When I first took motorbike lessons, the school bike had a horizontal slider for the indicators, with three possible positions: left, centre, right. As you’d expect, left and right would indicate in those directions while the centre position meant that the indicators were off. The snag was that it was quite easy to overcompensate. For instance, I’d intend to move the control from right to centre, but I’d push it too far and wind up indicating to the left. Bear in mind that you wear gloves on a bike, which reduces the amount you can feel, and you can’t hear a gentle ticking noise like you can in a car. Looking down at the controls is strongly discouraged, so I did make mistakes every so often. When I bought my first bike, it was the same model as the school bike (a Suzuki GN125) but from a later year. One subtle change was the way that the indicator worked: the slider control would now spring back to the centre after you pushed it left or right, and to turn it off you pushed it inwards. It’s just a small thing, but it made my life easier for a feature that I used frequently.

It’s unusual to see motorbike adverts at all, but car adverts rarely mention anything like this; they prefer to focus on glamorous locations (and actors). I think there’s a similar issue with computer programs: the most useful changes don’t get much publicity, as compared to the superficial changes (e.g. the “Aero” interface in Vista).

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