I recently had the unfortunate task of replacing another modem-router. I set aside a few hours one morning as I knew I’d inevitably need to call my ISP to clarify my basic home setup. Low and behold, I was back online in under an hour but following the setup wizard interface didn’t come without the usual headaches.
After navigating to the modem-router settings wizard on my Macbook, I was confronted with a chaotic sidebar of networking terminology but no indication of where to begin the setup. Do I configure the wireless first then connect to my ISP or vice versa? I took a stab at setting up the wireless before connecting to my internet provider as I wanted to test my router worked.
I bumbled my way through the wireless wizard, although there was no confirmation that I’d even attempted to set it up. I unlocked my phone to check if the wireless network was visible. The network was available although I didn’t know this because the setup wizard didn’t provide any details on whether I’d followed the steps correctly.
The next step was to connect my modem-router to my internet service provider. While sifting through the cacophony of sidebar links, I looked for ‘internet provider’ but eventually landed on one referencing my wide-area network (WAN). I blindly followed the link and was pleased to find a form to enter my ISP details amongst other unfamiliar networking jargon. There was a help link at the very bottom of the form although this just linked to a huge glossary of terminology full of more confusing technobabble.
The ISP form asked me to enter a username, password, password confirmation and optional ISP name. I completed and submitted my entry without issues, however the internet still wasn’t connected. After a few unsuccessful attempts, I phoned my ISP who guided me through the same ISP form. The operator let me know the username field required an email username, despite the word email never appearing on the screen. I’d made a mistake but I was finally online.
Yet again, I was redirected to a blank home screen after I entered my ISP details correctly. I know enough about internet connectivity to test my connection by pinging Google but less technical users might struggle with what they should do next.
Along with venting my own frustrations, I want this post to discuss major usability issues I faced setting up a run-of-the-mill home network. I understand usability isn’t a priority for network setup applications but considering the amount of time a user spends navigating these things, tech companies should invest resources to make the setup process easier.
Non-technical users shouldn’t need to hire a technician to help setup their modem-router in the same way you don’t hire a plumber to connect your washing machine.
Internet access is now considered a fundamental human right yet connecting to the internet through home modem-routers is a difficult process regardless of a user’s technical understanding and proficiency.