Chartplotters and Ease of Use

Like any piece of technology, chartplotters should be as complicated as they need to be for their intended use, but no more complex. Some users have complained that the documentation or operation of some chartplotters is too complex, due to their being designed to handle a wide range of features. These features are not always relevant.

The Windows environment that underlies these applications makes extensive use of pull-down menus, which are mouse-intensive to use. Some menus or commands require using the mouse or trackball to move from one side of the screen to the others. All of these are difficult when wearing gloves, in a moving vessel, and with light that may be too bright or too dim.  

Beachwerks is testing the use of simplifed keypads, like a telephone dial with more buttons, to reduce the mouse and menu requirements. There are also some chartplotter products, each with their own advantages and benefits, that were designed by seamen and make much greater use of visible buttons on the screen. The challenge of screen buttons is that they take up display space.

Several chartplotters have remote controls for the most important functions.  Other chartplotters consciously thought of the marine environment when designing the user interface, but they may have omitted other features that individual captains find necessary.

Beachwerks is evaluating a number of chartplotters for ease of use. Continue to watch our website for comparative testing of different chartplotters for common functions such as setting a waypoint or retrieving & running a stored track.

We will also be doing comparative testing with raster and vector charts.