The touchscreen dashboard has transitioned from a feature exclusive only to luxury cars to an expected component of any new car purchase today. As a result, having a touchscreen isn’t enough of a differentiator any more, as is the ease-of-use and functionality contained within it.
My Jeep Grand Cherokee is no different. Just like every other dashboard today, it offers GPS, XM Radio, Climate Controls, Apps, Alerts and more.
Here are three recommendations for those lucky few who get to work on car dashboard design:
1. Stop Scaring Me.
Every once in a while, the dashboard displays an Amber Alert, telling me that there has been a Child Abduction Emergency, without any other information regarding location, time of the abduction, car’s license plate or anything else. As much as the average Jeep driver wants to be a vigilante, if this kind of information is going to take over the display, then at least provide more information.
Note: When will the child abduction end? Also, the “Show Map” button doesn’t actually do anything.
2. Less is more. No, seriously.
The driver needs to keep one hand on the wheel while also trying to navigate the dashboard display. Allow the user to customize the configuration of the navigation and remove/hide less frequently used features that clutter the screen. Also, don’t underestimate hardware performance. Keeping a physical button for the a/c while the driver is going 80 miles per hour and overheating is smart. Lag time on the touch screen also has a material impact on the quality of the interaction experience.
3. Play nice with my iPhone.
The dashboard is the information center of the car, and with browser access becoming more prevalent, perhaps the world. As an important anchor, it needs to adapt to its surroundings. Plugging in an iPhone should not kill the bluetooth connection. By keeping the system open and fluid, the dashboard will be able to better respond to its surrounding environment.
Overall, dashboard design doesn’t seem to be improving at the same rate as desktop, tablet or mobile device design. Soon, hopefully, car manufacturers will realize the car is a mobile device and the dashboard interaction requires just as much attention as any other tested feature of a new car. If you’re interested in seeing what’s out there now (in concept and in real life), Dennis Nevozhai has put together a nice collection on Medium.