So many amazing details. Notice how the texture of the trim knob is different than other controls. When cost is no barrier, you can have mechanical switches, toggles, flip-off guards, various shapes and sizes of knobs, levers, color coding, hazard markings, etc. - all made from top notch materials and you bet, the haptics were totally engineered for best possible way to reduce ambiguity. Aesthetics take a back seat.
Also, props to the narrator. She was to the point and well informed.
I hope UI/UX designers (even for web design), industrial designers, architects, ergonomicists, HMI designers be inspired from this with one major take away - stop putting personal taste, aesthetics, decoration, marketing, etc. before functionality and pragmatism. Especially those working in vehicle interior design - people need to realize we drive a deadly 2-ton machine on our roads. Make no mistake, modern regression of UI in cars is because of bean counters - touchscreens are vastly cheaper than physical encoders/switches/toggles, especially automotive grade ones. 
Can you imagine if you had to flip a toggle switch to turn bluetooth on in your car? I know you're smiling from just the thought of it. People make the case that UI needs to be simple for people to use at the expense of density, but remember - we already look at the world which is very messy and navigate it without a problem. Millions navigate through airports. People knew how to use Yellow Pages (extreme density) and telephone books. Making UI more understandable is orthogonal to information density.
Unrelated: It is a shame that SpaceX's dragon crew cockpit design ditched all this in favor of a more sexier (arguable) looking sci-fi aesthetics. IMO it looks like a cheap movie set including the space suits.
For context, in addition to her career as a fighter pilot and squadron commander, Col. Themely was commander of the 80th Flying Training Wing in 2017 and 2018, which encompassed the Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training program (ENJJPT), "the world's only multi-nationally manned and managed flying training program chartered to produce combat pilots for NATO". She retired in October 2018.
Web design is merely in its infancy compared to aviation :)
I am arguing that: Making the UI understantable is orthogonal to information density.
Of course, it is possible to have a complete unorganized mess of information plopped on the screen with no rhyme or reason behind the layout, but a well designed and logically grouped UI full of information isn't going to make it difficult to use.
Contrast that with the cars of a car sharing service I'm using. They have a big circular button with the usual on/off icon close to their screen, encircled by a volume gauge. You understand what it is as soon as you see it.
The problem with modern web UI's and UI's in general is that they're optimized for a minimum amount of inputs at one time, usually one, that is directly accessible in a visible way.
This I think, is what most people are actually complaining about when they complain about 'mobile centric ui's or touchscreen inputs.
The greater the number of direct inputs available for any given single screen, the higher the information density and usability can be. Touchscreen and mouse centric designs ie. most modern web design, are designed with one, maybe two direct inputs, correlating only with things directly visible on the screen, at a time.
Just a little riff on exploitation--
Banking sites need to provide the necessary and sufficient data about your balance and transactions.
To some degree ecommerce sites need to deliver on your expectation. If a site tricked you to buy something you didn't like, you wouldn't return.
This sounds very smart and serious, which must be why someone makes the same point in literally every discussion of a control interface for some kind of vehicle - but I challenge you to provide evidence that fixable UX problems in modern automobiles have led to an increase in accident rates.
In fact, most modern vehicles use touchscreens to solve the very problem that you are supposedly concerned about. Rather than a complicated cockpit full of individual buttons and switches to control every single function, most modern cars have a few easy-to-find buttons and switches for functions you might want to access while driving (i.e. radio volume, climate temperature, fan speed), and use the touchscreen to hide all the more complicated and lesser-used settings out of the way!
Do you really think that putting your grandmother into a car that resembled that F-15 cockpit would be a safer option? What happens if she forgets where the button is to, say, turn on the A/C compressor? Is she going to read every single label while cruising down the highway at 75 mph?
Contrast that to a modern F-150 with a touch screen and also climate control on a matrix of identical wee little switches with labels so small you can't read them from driving position. What rubbish. Trying to hit just one of those switches while driving a rough road without gloves on is nearly impossible. With snowmobile gloves, you might as well just mash your hand on the whole panel and hope for the best.
Why? Just looking at more stuff makes you nervous? Ever been to a library? Ever cooked a meal? Ever walked outside your house? The world is full of complex "UI". This is a total bullshit minimalism case designers make to satiate their own personal taste.
I would like to see data that proves that "seeing" more stuff impedes the ability to operate something. Hiding stuff is detrimental, I would argue. The hierarchy of menus is equally as complicated as a dashboard of logically laid out "containers", each box decidated to a specific group of functions. It is exactly the same! Your vision system scans through the top level hierachy (Climate Control, Radio, Vehicle Settings, Navigation), then focusing in on individual controls (akin to sub-menu items). The benefits are massive - immediate control, haptics feedback, muscle memory, etc. Negatives a minor and can be addressed - cost, reliability and durability (wearing off labels for example). The problem is - if you look at ALPS catalog of encoders, they are rapidly going up in prices because automotive manufacturers are ditching them and they don't have enough volume to sustain production and keep costs down. If we had invested in this industry, we would have kept the costs down too. The sad thing is, they are discontinuining a lot of physical controls.
> Do you really think that putting your grandmother into a car that resembled that F-15 cockpit would be a safer option? What happens if she forgets where the button is to, say, turn on the A/C compressor? Is she going to read every single label while cruising down the highway at 75 mph?
Actually yes. Thank god we have knobs and buttons left for A/C controls. Why didn't hide that in the menus? Apart from a few cars, most cars have physical controls for climate and radio.
Grandma's kitchen is probably 10x complicated than car UI. She does just fine.
Edward Tufte made a career out of writing books that essentially argue this for data design: information density is good. Low information density means you're wasting people's time.
Our visual systems are extremely good at creating and navigating hierarchies, at rapidly switching between levels of detail, and at actively filtering irrelevant information. You don't have to hide stuff, you just have to make the user determine it's irrelevant for the task at hand, and their brain will just filter it out.
(See also: banner blindness.)
I wonder how much would it cost to run a medium scale study around this on Mechanical Turk? $50 to unroot popular choices and get data to prove otherwise? I would not mind spending it.
The sad thing is that there is so much momentum around minimalism aesthetics in UX/UI that it is impossible to make a point even with data - people will always find problems in the aforementioned study just to go about their ways.
I think it made me think about an important point - frequency of use. It has to be taken into account.
I'm fine with some operations being harder. For example, my remote has a dedicated button for entering the size of your room, which adjusts acoustics. How often am I supposed to change that, really? But it still made it harder for me to mute a blaring ad.
Applied to a car, it means that operations performed while driving should have physical buttons placed front and center, while other operations should be hidden away in order to make the former easier to find.
I drive a cheap car that appears to follow this philosophy. Here's how the dashboard look like: https://www.automotiveaddicts.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/05...
I can control the airflow without looking because it's the only knob of that size on the entire dashboard. Before looking at the picture above, I couldn't tell you where the emergency lights button was because I use it so rarely, but every time I needed to use it in a pinch I was able to find it almost instantly because it's basically the only button on the entire dash.
Replacing the touchscreen with a bunch of physical buttons that I never use while driving would be massively detrimental IMO.
(Note: the driver has dedicated volume buttons on the steering wheel, which is why there's no volume knob; the touch slider is for passenger use.)
How about just leave them there, and the most important buttons and controls in a dedicated area at the top of the remote? Perhaps in a red blaring border box?
I think this is a layout problem, no need to hide stuff.
A quick look at the screenshots will give you an idea of the sheer number of settings. Can you fathom the sheer size, and awful daily usability, of a TV remote that would expose physical controls for all these settings?
Cars are becoming this way too. One example is ambient lighting customization in newer luxury cars.
You can't have physical buttons for all this stuff. It just doesn't scale.
Edit: I feel we were stuck for a decade in this worst-of-both-worlds situation where the number of features were exploding but could still be crammed into a 50-button TV remote or car dashboard . Now that features have grown even beyond that, manufacturers are forced to move less-frequently used features into an alternate interaction mechanism. For cars, that's often a touchscreen; for TVs, that can be a remote that doubles as a pointer, allowing to control a TV like a mouse controls a computer. Thanks to that, my current car that I linked earlier  looks much closer to the very simple and usable car I drove as a teenager , both of which are IMO much more usable for an untrained user than . This doesn't mean I think the Mercedes dashboard is bad; it's an AMG car, so targeted to enthusiasts who may appreciate having a physical button for traction control. But I don't think it would make sense to expose this button in an entry-level commuter car like mine.
> You can't have physical buttons for all this stuff. It just doesn't scale.
Definitely. Like in the F-15 video, the controls near the elbows were rarely used (essentially "hiding" them out of sight). So may be a good compromise is pick 50 most used features, create buttons for those and then leave the rest of the 150 features in the menu system.
I haven't used a modern TV in over 10 years, I hope the remotes still have decent number of buttons.
 car appears to do everything right.  is worse because it feels like what you see is just the tip of the ice-berg.  had to be like that because there was nothing more to be done. It didn't need more controls.
Unrelated: A turn signal stalk is a brilliantly designed UI control. If famous designers we know - say Jony Ive - and if they don't know what a car is and you ask them to design a dashboard, not in a million chance that they would come up with a dangling stick behind the steering wheel that translates LEFT/RIGHT signal > DOWN/UP stalk movement > ANTI-CLOCKWISE/CLOCKWISE steering movement. It is totally genius and not obvious at all unless you've seen a steering wheel and a turn signal stalk before.
So originally, the UX wasn't UP/DOWN = RIGHT/LEFT (which btw is reversed on RHD cars). There was a V shaped set of contacts with an arm that pointed to the right or the left and was held there by magnets until you turned the steering wheel.
So it's more likely that someone worked out that mounting the switch on the steering column would save circuitry and expense than it was a UX/UI design decision.
That's the key though: almost everything in life except random websites is operated by users with various degree of training - either through frequency (TV remote) or explicit lessons (cars, planes). If you have to use a tool more than a few times, this minimalist trend is making the experience worse.
Is it because physical buttons are expensive to make?
Or is it because a camera with fewer buttons is easier to use for untrained users?
My opinion is that it's mostly the latter.
It would also be easier to type vowels on a 5 key keyboard with only vowel keys, but then you'd be limited to only typing vowels.
I have one of those awful ~10 button remotes, and it takes about 10 key presses to "add a show to my list" on Amazon, because the remote hides the "green" button behind a soft menu. It was also definitely not "easier" to find that button the first time.
Degrading functionality to make certain functions "easier" or "more obvious" is a bad trade-off far more often than many UX designers seem to assume.
In an interface you're intimately familiar with (like your TV remote, your car, or a plane if you're a pilot), you should spend zero time finding things, because you already internalized where everything is. Low information density interfaces prevent gaining familiarity and remembering where things are.
Airplanes are much easier than cars in that regard - once you’re airborne there’s not much to hit!
Also, neither a car nor a fighter jet assumes an untrained operator. We can't forget that you get a few dozen hours of practical training before you're allowed to drive unsupervised, and that's more than enough to familiarize yourself with the user interface.
So the question boils down to: does the interface facilitate operating without looking at it, or not? Physical buttons do. Non-shit touchscreen UIs could, but they don't exist. Touchscreens used in practice don't.
That sounds easy: if it's your car, so you'll soon familiarize yourself with where the physical controls are, so you won't need to take your eyes of the road for more than a moment (if you need to at all).
If it's not your car, a physical switch is no worse than a touchscreen. Navigating a screen forces you to take your eyes of the road for an extended period of time, since you need to use them to target your touch to the right part of the screen, even if you're already familiar with the UI.
In short: for controls that may be used while driving, physical controls are at a minimum no worse than a touchscreen and typically much better.
The only place where screens have an advantage is for extremely rarely used controls, like configuration settings. Even then, I'd argue that physical controls (like the F-15's castle button) are better for controlling the screen than using a touchscreen, since they allow a user to memorize key-press sequences.
Touchscreens really only make sense on extremely small devices like smartphones.
But apparently a long press of “FLIR FOV switch” pushbutton on the thrust lever to press with the ring finger of your left hand does the same thing.
Since your left hand normally rests on the thrust lever in flight, you don’t need to move your torso or even an arm at all, but the switches are just there in your hand, so when you think you might do it and tension your muscle, it’s already done.
Compare that to touchscreen menus...
The reason this type of user interface exists in fighter jets is simply because the situation requires it. It only works as well as it does because the pilots undergo thousands of hours of training to familiarise themselves with the interface.
The only reason everything is laid out into single function button and knobs is not because it provides a better experience, it's because pilots are in a unique position where their lives might depend on decisions and actions performed in a fraction of a second. It's not really a concept that is transferable to other types of interfaces and shouldn't be glorified as good UX either.
Pilot errors are far too common which is directly related to the complexity and cognitive load imposed by the aircraft interfaces.
These are well documented on several scientific publications. Look up Hossini and Kahneman (some of his stuff has been proved wrong but mainly his motivation ideas).
I agree that putting controls which you need to use while driving behind a touchscreen is not an optimal choice.
How are either of these things solved by hiding features behind touch screen menus? Have you ever seen a 75 year old use a computer? I think physical switches are more intuitive to someone that age.
It is like saying a touchscreen is thousands of switches just because it has that many sensor points.
Huh? This is such a bad counter analogy. Allow me to expand and prove my point.
First, let's clarify what type of an input a keyboard switch is? It is Single Pole Single Throw or SPST. It is also momentary (meaning you have to keep the key pressed to close the circuit). 104 keys on a keyboard, each key is a momentary SPST switch representing the ASCII character set (let's simplify).
On a touch screen, if it had 104 boxes, each representing a monentary SPST, then it is identical as far as the interaction is concerned. The finger went down, pressed inside a box or a key, and a character appeared on the screen. They are identical (in logical sense). The circuit element is the same, see the symbol for SPST here .
You're comparing 104 individual options for character input to a pixel on the touchscreen? Why? I don't follow and what point are you trying to make? The action is taken as a press of a finger in a specific area, not a single pixel.
The comparison with cockpits is meaningless because keyboards are not "104 switches", but a single method to deliver input text (for the most part). The same way touchscreens are a method to deliver input, not an interface on itself.
In my new 2020 car, I couldn't tell you where it is, but I don't need it because I just keep the climate control in "auto" mode and twist the temperature dial to 68 degrees and let the car decide if it needs to turn on the AC or not.
I'll be there within a few years, Dog willing, and don't expect to have any problems.
Here is one:
How do you interact with a touchscreen responsibly while driving? You can’t.
How many people in their 70s or 80s do you know that are on the side of touchscreen controls for vehicles? People I have known in that age range like their iPads and iPhones but drive cars with buttons.
The big reason for physical controls is you can find them without looking by feel and spatial location. Provided you have some experience.
Edit: /ht `mulmen for “combat” hint!
Here’s a photo that I didn’t take:
You can see the MFD’s have buttons on the top and bottom used to navigate menus and sub menus. I found that after 100 or so hours I didn’t even have to read a menu’s title but rather through muscle memory knew the “keystrokes” required to get to it, even if it’s 3 or 4 sub-menus deep.
All of our ordnance and critical aircraft systems (starting engines, putting out fires, arming weapons, hyds, etc) are controlled by the little square buttons you see on the left and right of the MFD’s and the controls themselves contain shortcut buttons to allow us to perform common tasks without taking hands off the controls.
Glass is king but if something is coming off my aircraft or if I’m starting or shutting down an engine I want to touch a physical button.
Coming from a software background, I’m fairly impressed with the UX of the cockpit.
The fighter pilot needs to be focused on fighting the enemy, not managing the hardware.
For comparison, see the job of the B-29 flight engineer.
And in contrast to a civilian airliner, when shit hits the fan, the pilot can eject....
And when operator training time and effort is extremely high.
Please don't dig too much into the bluetooth thing, it is just a example that I want to use to make the more general point.
That is wrong. It makes a huge difference for the overwhelming majority of users.
In addition, you are trying to extrapolate the design choices of
+ an extremely specialized UI,
+ for trained experts,
+ intended to never break,
+ designed decades ago,
+ to be used while in combat,
You may be right or not, but comparing web pages with cockpits does not make any sense at all.
Why not? It is a user interface whether 2D (on a monitor) or 3D (cockpit). It has common purpose - to allow the user to interact with the machine or Human-Machine-Interface/HMI. Why are they fundamentally different?
As the light rays hit your retina, process through V1-V4 regions in the occipital lobe, and your limbic system acts on it - to me, a website UI, a door knob, an audio amplifier front panel or a cockpit are all forms of user interfaces that allow the user to interact with the machine. There is no difference besides the context you mentioned.
I presume all interactions map to:
- enums/ints (dropdowns, DPST, DPDT, rotary selectors, radio buttons)
- bools (toggles, SPST, SPDT, checkboxes)
- floats (sliders and continuous rollers, including 2d pads and 3d joysticks)
Fundamental types in programming languages, I need to think about this a little more - just guessing.
Give me any UI and I can probably boil it down to fundamental types in a programming language. Or a circuit element.
I can't respond to you anymore, so here it is, quoting your comment which I found as personal jab:
> You are taking design decisions made in a wildly different context and assuming they were made that way because it fits your UI vision.
How do know my "UI vision"? I've distilled every response with logical reasoning to which you respond with this?
Pointing out a flaw in your argument has nothing to do with your person or condition, which as you say I have no clue about. You have made your UI preferences crystal clear in this thread, and I disputed your arguments supporting them. Discussion is the goal of this forum, by the way.
If you really believe you have been attacked, then may I suggest we leave the discussion here and please flag the comments you find disruptive and let a moderator work it out.
As a friendly side note: claiming "all someone has to say is attacking ad hominem" is quite ad hominem itself, because you are attributing an implicit trait to that person (eg pushy) or a motive irrelevant to the discussion (eg not "liking you" or whatever).
(I am also sure such software exists, and it fares poorly, otherwise it would be a standard accessory on trucks and everyone would have forgotten how to do it "by ear" by now.)
But there's also a fundamental difference between a fighter pilot and someone driving a car. For a fighter pilot, everything they have to be able to do has to be at a hand's reach in a second. This is an operational requirement for both the "fighter" and "pilot" sides. Driving a car is different; there are many tasks that normal car drivers don't need to do while driving. It's okay for them to do them parked, after fiddling with a bunch of other stuff.
My point: it's not just cost which determines the difference, but training and task requirements.
Point noted. Commercial airplanes also have that in the form a FMS: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Flight_management_system
A menu system just like cars except no touchscreens, although I heard that's changing.
Well, when it comes to complex and confusing environments, it's better to be in a
"TWISTY LITTLE MAZE OF PASSAGES, ALL DIFFERENT"
"MAZE OF TWISTY LITTLE PASSAGES, ALL ALIKE".
It's interesting to learn that F-22 side-stick had to be modded to add more physical deflection movement vs. a sensitive but nearly monolith handle. This was requested by the pilots accustomed to effort feedback common to earlier gen of the planes.
Unlike a fighter aircraft or multi role strike aircraft that might need to change directions or mission on the fly, or extend its mission on a spur of the moment decision by refueling from a tanker, the crew dragon mission is planned out meticulously to the tiniest thruster detail in advance.
Not that military missions are not also planned down to the smallest detail, but systems are also designed to work within the needs of a rapidly changing tactical environment based on opposing force actions. Aircraft intended for tactical roles that can be air to air, air to ground strike, radar suppression, etc, need a great deal more flexibility.
A Touch screen UI can be upgraded without changing any hardware. No new knob panel.
I suppose it also saves cost that could be better put into rocket development too.
I didn't know there were women pilots and colonels flying these craft. The only clear idea about high profile women in the services was them being accepted into marines.
This was so cool!
Col. Themely did a spectacular job explaining all the subsystems and how they worth together. I found this quote by her rather inspiring,
What are you most important daily habits?
My vice wing commander, command chief, and I all subscribe to the “2-10-5-7 philosophy”, which is two hours of alone time, 10 hours of work, five hours of family time, and seven hours of sleep
That must require so much discipline - something to aspire to.
And this link looks like it shows some F-15 displays that a training simulator company makes":
Sadly, the F-15 isn't one of those; you can fly it and operate the systems but it's not a full-clickable cockpit like the F/A-18C you mentioned, or the Harrier, A-10C, etc. Hopefully we'll get that in the future with RAZBAM's F-15E.
The F/A-18C is getting quite fleshed out, and the F-16C will get there eventually. Someone mentioned Falcon BMS, and despite it's age, it is, as I understand, a fully feature complete sim of the Block 50/52 F-16C.
If anyone wants to see an accessible guide on some of these planes and what all the buttons do, check out "Chuck's Guides" over on Mudspike. The guy puts incredable work into making these for the community, and they are invaluable. Interesting reading even if you don't play DCS.
Related is the "Battle short" switch on Navy computers, which shorts the fuses with copper bars and disables over-temperature faults, so you can keep the computer running during a battle even if things are going bad.
In his youth, my late dad flew P51 Mustangs in the Korean War. He told the story of how he and another guy were flying a photo reconnaissance mission (I think it was) when the other guy was shot down by ground fire, crashing not far in front of Chinese lines. My dad then shot it out with the Chinese ground troops, hoping to keep them away from his downed colleague until help arrived. Back at the base, my dad's best friend mistakenly heard that it was my dad who'd been shot down; as my dad described it, his friend climbed into another P51 and flew all the way across Korea at "full military power" (the term he used) to get in the fight.
My dad's shot-down colleague was killed in the crash, it turned out. I vividly remember my dad telling the story late in his life and getting pretty emotional: He was certain that, in trying to protect his colleague, he had killed scores of young men who had little choice about being there, who probably were just farm boys like him and had parents and maybe wives and children at home. I don't think he ever got over that.
If your life depends on it, by all means use it. In all other circumstances, save the maintenance crew the extra work and the taxpayer the extra costs.
During WW2 there's a good chance they had no idea what they'd be up against whilst they were developing this jet, so they built in a theoretical 2% improvement switch with a large caveat incase the 2% improvement ever gave them the edge.
I think the use of the VMAX switch is only warranted if the ship would otherwise be destroyed or lost if it were not used, which seems like a very unlikely scenario.
- Block IIA (RS-25C): First flown on STS-89, the Block IIA engine was an interim model used whilst certain components of the Block II engine completed development. Changes included a new large throat main combustion chamber (which had originally been recommended by Rocketdyne in 1980), improved low pressure turbopumps and certification for 104.5% RPL to compensate for a 2 seconds (0.020 km/s) reduction in specific impulse (original plans called for the engine to be certified to 106% for heavy International Space Station payloads, but this was not required and would have reduced engine service life). A slightly modified version first flew on STS-96.
- Block II (RS-25D): First flown on STS-104, the Block II upgrade included all of the Block IIA improvements plus a new high pressure fuel turbopump. This model was ground-tested to 111% FPL in the event of a contingency abort, and certified for 109% FPL for use during an intact abort.
It is just a matter of raising a limit. On the mechanical side of things each part has a certain lifetime, you can increase it by reducing strain and vice versa. So they probably already know how much the engines can be pushed if you only need a total lifetime of 1h instead of hundreds or hours. They most likely extrapolated that 2% from this.
Think it as redline in a car; take away the limit and the engine can rev higher and possibly get few hp more, but the engine won't be in any good shape after that.
It is basically a 'you are trading away this engine to save your life' setting, but sometimes that was a necessary thing to do.
Also I think she missed a few switches :-).
Also, not every engagement is a combat engagement. Example: https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/22807/oregon-f-15s-scr...
They did eventually (begrudgingly) develop separate strike variant (F-15E), but those aircraft are conversely dedicated to that role.
You are thinking it wrong.
There were 100 combat encounters. Let's forget the human life. The cost to train an F15 pilot is $9.2m
So if the combat and the pilots were lost and we had to train new pilots, the cost to train new 100 pilots for f15 would cost $920m.
I'm sure it cost less then $920m to have good UI design in the F15 cockpit.
Heck, if I were a MiG pilot in the middle east and saw an Eagle on my radar warning display, there'd be no chance I'd be going on a suicide mission against it. Better save the plane and the pilot for another day.