Remote controls

Handheld remote controls used for operating television equipment can present particular difficulties for people with limited experience in using technology, restricted hand control or strength (prevalent among older users), restricted vision or difficulty reading or understanding words or symbols. These guidelines describe how these difficulties can be overcome and present suggested design solutions.

Remote control usability has greatly improved in recent years. This is largely due to increasing awareness of the extent of the problems users face and the widespread adoption of industry standards and guidelines for layout and labels. This can be seen in the standardisation of the design of the power on/off symbol and of the navigation and ‘select’ key cluster layout. Following these standards and guidelines can go a long way towards achieving a universally usable design. Usability may be increased further by avoiding the use of small, closely spaced buttons, labels that are difficult to read or other deficiencies. It is recognised, however, that reconciling these design considerations with aesthetics, cost and other criteria may sometimes be difficult.

The guidelines in this section describe the features that would be found in a fully universally usable remote control. For example, a remote control with a reduced number of buttons and simplified functionality may suit a wide range of users, from people who find modern controllers complex or difficult to use to those who just want a controller with only the most frequently used functions. An example of a design that addresses this is shown in a video demonstrating some good universal design features of the Sony Trinitron double-sided remote control.

Given the number of consumer devices that many users now have, it is not unusual for someone to have to use four or five different remote controls. With that amount of complexity, simpler designs can greatly ease the burden of finding the right function.

If a manufacturer’s preferred remote control design is unable to meet the following criteria, it may be possible to design and offer one of more alternative remote controls for customer to choose from. It may also be possible to identify a third party universal remote control that meets these guidelines and works with the equipment. This can then be suggested to customers who want to source an alternative.

Sources of information used for the guidelines on remote controls

As stated in the overall introduction to the guidelines, these recommendations are largely the result of a compilation and restructuring of information contained in existing resources. The key resources used for this section were:

These and other resources are referenced in the bibliography.