The Most Annoying Microwave Ever

The experience of the microwave at my office drives me nuts. I often use it to “nuke” food, add some extra heat to oatmeal or re-heat my coffee. Additionally, I sometimes use it to heat up microwave meals. I like to consider myself a qualified microwave user. I would say I operate a microwave 7-10 times a week for various meals and heat-ups. This use has taken place over many years and with many different makes and models. I would not consider myself a microwave novice. 

So why is it then, that I can’t seem to use the microwave pictured below without exploding my oatmeal, boiling my coffee, or charring my microwave meals?



Sure, as you may be able to tell by my reflection, it’s a positioned a bit high. I’m 5’4″ and I would guess this shelf sits at 5′. So that does play a part in my ability to see into the microwave in time to stop the oatmeal from boiling over the cup and all over the turn table.

However, that doesn’t bother me as much as the programming of the buttons.

To illustrate my frustration with the buttons, I will use the edamame I purchased to have with lunch as an example of my frustrations. See the cooking instructions below.

Cooking Instructions

So this needs to cook for 70 seconds. Pretty simple. According to my past microwaving experience I would probably need to do one of two things to operate the microwave for this item:

1. Press “Time Cook” >  Convert 70 seconds to 1 Minute 10 seconds in my head > Press the buttons 1 + 1 + 0 > Press start.


2.   Convert 70 seconds to 1 Minute 10 seconds in my head > Press the buttons 1 + 1 + 0 > Press start.

What’s the difference, only the Time Cook button. I’m not really sure why they are included in some microwaves, and not in others. I prefer getting straight to the numbers, but I understand that when the button is present, I must press it first.

So looking at the operating panel below, what do you think happens, when I try method #2 above? (there is no “time cook” so I went straight for #2)…

Microwave Controls

I press the 1 button and immediately the microwave starts, and the time is set to 1:00. Woah! I didn’t expect that. I hit Stop. I tried again, just in case it was a button pressing error, and zoom, it starts right up again at 1:00.  I re-review for the Time Cook button, but it is still not there. My next idea is a similar named button like “Cook”, but it is missing too. Finally, I tried to type in 1+1+0 really fast… but this just gave me 1:00 no response from the extra 1 + 0.

So, how the heck do you enter 1:10 ??

I couldn’t figure it out for the life of me. I even asked for help. 3 people, and no one could figure it out. (How many developers does it take to work a microwave? Apparently more then 4.)

So, I did what any hungry person would do, I entered 1, then hit the +30 sec/Start button to get 1:30. Then watched the timer like a hawk until it hit 20 seconds and pressed the open door button.  This works, sometimes… however most people who know me know I like to multi-task, and I’m chatty. So typically, I forget I’m watching the microwave, and you guessed it, my food over cooks.

From what I can tell, the designer was so pre-occupied with making the “express” buttons as express as possible, that the idea of entering a custom time was disregarded. I think if it were up to me, I would add a button titled “Express” and require you to click it then the number to start the express timer. The rest of the time, you could just enter a time, and press start.

What’s the lesson. Know your users, know their context, and know their goals.

Sure, I may not be the primary user of this device. There may be a whole mess of people out there that need exactly 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6 minute cooking times the majority of the time. But for me at least 15 seconds (my coffee), 1:15 (my bacon), and 4:45 (frozen dinner) are definitely more popular.

P.S. After non-stop button pushing, I finally discovered you must press Power, then the cooking time, then start to get a custom time. Hitting Power multiple times will decrement the power level down from 10.