Apple has introduced a new mouse which, to me, epitomizes the problems with Apple’s design culture: It looks really nice cut out on that clean white background, but the emphasis is all in the wrong place. They’ve put all their design energy into making the buttons disappear (so it will look nice cut out on that clean white background), but I can’t figure out what the advantage is to not having buttons. The site says:
“Who has time for intuitive, elegant design when there is so much clicking to do? Thanks to a smooth top shell with touch-sensitive technology beneath, Mighty Mouse allows you to right click without a right button.”So, they’re basically saying that clicking by pressing a non-button is more intuitive than clicking by pressing a visible, tangible button. Um, am I missing something? If only they’d improve the size and shape of the damn thing we might have something. Oh, and give up on that silly “press the whole thing to click” idea. It so very much doesn’t work. Anyhow, I gotta run; I’m off to the Apple store to buy one of those cool new mice they have.
It’s about time we got speech-to-speech translators; they had ‘em on Star Trek like 40 years ago! Plus there’s a great opportunity for hackers to mess with people’s conversations from the inside.
Dan Hill has an excellent thought-piece on the merits and pitfalls inherent in Apple’s design ethos of perfection. He’s also collected thoughts and links on the idea of adaptive design (i.e. designing for adaptation). From the article:
In essence, adaptive design is about designing to enable the user to change things. You strive for ‘good enough’ as a starting point, such that the user feels they have a ‘way in’, almost an implicit goal of working through the finished design themselves. It sees design as a social process, developing over time, via a relationship with the user. It draws heavily from [Stewart] Brand’s idea of separating a building’s architecture into 6 different layers, from slowly developing layers through to relatively quickly moving layers.
ReplayTV’s New Owners Drop Features That Riled Hollywood. This is not so surprising (if fairly lame). What caught my eye is the legal argument that it is the fact that Replay’s features are easy to use that make them potentially illegal:
The 30-second skip feature has long been available, if not widely used, on standard VCR’s as well. But program providers have not taken action against VCR manufacturers because those devices are generally more difficult to use.
“When things become too easy to do, that changes the legal argument,” said Mike Fricklas, executive vice president, general counsel and secretary of the board at Viacom, one of the plaintiffs in the lawsuit against Sonicblue.
So, while people often think of ease-of-use as an incrementally-changeable attribute, it is (in this view) a qualitative change with the potential to alter the fundamental nature (or at least the legal status) of the product.
Cellphones Made Easy is a straightforward and very specific critique of current cellphone design:
Do Nokia executives actually use Nokia cellphones? If they did, they would soon realize that turning a cellphone’s ringer off—every time they walk into a movie, seminar, meeting or bedroom—is an important and common function. Perversely, Nokia buries this function in a menu that requires four button presses on two different sides of the phone.
The mute button is one of the most frequently pressed buttons on a typical remote control, but since it isn’t obviously a primary function (such as power, volume, or switch channel) it’s often banished to some hard to find corner of the remote. More specifically, when a person uses the mute button, it’s likely done repetitively (e.g. twice per commercial break) and distractedly (a conversation may be going on at the same time). It may be done in the dark.
The problem, of course, is one of real estate, but not all buttons need to be accessed by touch and not all are accessed frequently. The power button, for example, is likely used only twice per “session” yet it’s often given an inordinately prominent placement. My only point here is that a use-based approach to design has great power to overturn long-established but faulty design conventions.
OK, pardon the interruption; back to watching Buffy.