Yamaha YPT-220 just like many similar keyboards from Yamaha has one important button called “Function” (see picture below). It should actually be labeled “settings” or “configure” or “options” because it sets various parameters to control how the keyboard works. This is the single most important button in the user interface of this device after the power button.
Everytime the user presses this button, the name of the current parameter appears in the monochrome LCD screen and the user can use the + and – button to set the parameter or press + and – together to reset the value of the parameter to its factory default.
Unfortunately it is very hard to use this type of setting. First of all there is a mapping problem. Different settings are all under the same button. There is also a navigation problem. User doesn’t know what is the next option coming when the “Function” button is pressed. In Yamaha YPT-220 there are 17 different options that can be set using this button:
If the user passes one desired option on mistake, he has to press the “Function” button 16 more times to reach that menu again! Moreover if he wants to set a specific parameter like “Panel Sustain”, he has to press the “Function” button repeatedly and every time read the LCD display carefully not to pass that menu. In other words the setting navigation doesn’t show a big picture of the current location. Of course the user can memorize these 17 items, but is it really a reasonable expectation from the designers?
One reason for this mess is because unlike digital interfaces, adding a new button to a device physically makes it more expensive. Yamaha designers probably wanted to keep the production price low and have a minimal user interface.
Here are a few possible alternatives to solve the navigation and mapping problem:
1. The simplest one is to add a list of parameters on the body of the keyboard. There are already 3 lists there: songs, voices and styles. There is empty space on the left side of the display that can be used for this purpose and the “Function” button better be replaced near this list and be called “Settings”. It’s good to color code the header just like the other lists. See the mockup below:
2. There can be one button for each option. This is the best option from the mapping point of view but is 17 times more expensive. It is not very flexible from the software perspective. If in the future a new parameter is added to the software, a new button should be added physically to support this interaction model. Moreover it is not a minimalist design.
3. When holding the “Function” button, user can browse through options using + and – keys. This is not very intuitive because + and – at the same time are used for adjusting the value of the parameters. But it solves the annoying button-presses to reach a menu you have already passed.
I tried to contact Yamaha about this issue, but quite surprisingly I found out that Yamaha has totally shut the door for any technical ideas: