Hidden buttons - sometimes designs can be too sneaky
My internet stopped working again today. Actually it was my wireless connection that just disappeared. I didn't notice it right away and at first thought my connection was just slow, then maybe the video player I was watching had some bug. After checking another window, I noticed my email was not working either. Then I noticed the status icon showed no connection. Ok, no problem, I would just reconnect. Except there was no wireless access point listed. So I checked the access point and it was ok. Finally after a couple more minutes of checking, I discovered the real problem was my laptop's wireless communication was disabled. I was just using it! How could it have been turned off?
Then I thought back to what I was doing - watching a video interview about outsourcing and remembered that at some point the video had stopped downloading. Exactly when was hard to determine because it was loading while playing and had built up a good sized buffer. What was I doing when it stopped? Well, besides watching, I had noticed some dust collecting on my laptop and had been gently wiping it off with my finger. That's when I tried wiping my laptop again over the indicator lights right above the keyboard. The wireless light lit up. I wiped it again and it went dark.
Ok, that's ingenious, put a hidden sensor under an indicator light to turn it on and off and not tell anybody about it... Maybe there is a mention somewhere in the manual, but still. The problem I have with something like this is that it's not discoverable except by accident and even then a lot of people probably still would not understand that there is a switch there. I wonder how many people just reboot their computers and think that is the solution to get their wireless connection restored?
I think capacitive sensors (and just about any other technology) are great as long as they are used intuitively and where people expect them. It might have been different if my laptop had other features like this - maybe I should read that manual after all. But as far as I can tell, these indicator lights are the only areas that act as sensors also. Completely unexpected.