Automotive UX does not have the best reputation. Sure, there have been some wins, and carmakers like Tesla have put interface design front-and-center, but curious problems persist. We've got another bout of quizzical automotive interfacing for you courtesy of Deborah Sommers.

"After giving up being a car owner for the convenience of rentals and city cars, one of the challenges has been finding the buttons for all the little things like tuner, volume, and—in particular—air conditioning," Sommers says. "However, this most recent rental topped them all for poor design. We easily found the AC button on this Renault Captur, but had trouble understanding how to turn it on and off."

"The console features a tiny red light to indicate OFF and no light to indicate on!" she says. "It took a while for this to sink in and I found the need to keep testing to be sure this was actually true. For me it was a real WTF design moment."

Keep these coming. Send them to us via Twitter or Facebook using the hastag #wtfUX or email them to: with "#wtfUX" in the subject line. Include as much context as you can, so we get a full understanding of what the f%*k went wrong.

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My car in contrast doesn't even label the Air-Con button as such, it is labelled as Econ. What this means is, when the little light below the Econ letter is light, the Air-Con is off. The MK5 Golf forum is full of people asking the same question; is my air-con on or off?

It clearly says "AC OFF", so a light on would indicate YES, it's off...

A possible explanation as to why the designer chose this convention is that they were using a 'dark cockpit philosophy' as used by the Airbus in their aeroplanes - popularised in the 90s I think.

Here's an explanation from Avionics News 2003 -

A simple example is a warning annunciator that only illuminates during a failure condition. The annunciator is dark when everything is normal and then when the un-normal condition exists, lets the pilot know the problem. Sounds simple, huh. But, then what do you call normal?. 

Generally I like the 'dark cockpit' idea but obviously you need to understand what your market's idea of 'Normal' is.

David: Wasn't aware of the dark cockpit philosophy. Thanks for the tip."An absence of an annunciation for a 'normal' condition could denote either OFF, ON or AUTO." 

Sure thing. It's the only explanation i could think of.

Honestly, if i saw this, I would be WTF too!


I have the same issue with fridges - what setting is higher or lower 1 or 7, 8,9 or whatever it goes up to. Does higher mean colder or warmer? Or does lower? Who knows?

Guess I'll just try setting it both ends, or wait my vegetables are frozen now, thanks fridge.




Another very confusing thing with new renault cars,

On Manual gear position, to switch to lower gear you need push forward and to switch to higher gear you need to pull backwards,

I can understand the historical reason - they try to imitate first and second classic gears, but ! -

on the screen on front of the driver the arrows point out to the opposite directions !

when you need to switch to higher gear [pull backwards] the arrow shows up. 

very very confusing. 



My Renault Magan perversely offers a red light when the AC is off when logic should dictate the opposite. Maybe a relection of designer traits promoting la difference than users needs.


Yes and no, this is more a behavioral heuertic around priming and expectation. In a way, you could say the human UX breaks down just as much (or more) as the vehicles; the vehicle does exactly as it states.

Same on the Audi TT Mk1; the designer's car of choice.

Same on the Renault Clio!