June 3, 2011

The last thing I’ll say about PC’s vs. Macs

Filed under: Software Blog, Usability — marcstober @ 8:01 am

I’ve recently started using an iPad. As an old-school (80’s and 90’s) Mac user who has been using Windows for the last 15 years, I’ve been struggling to express what it is about Apple’s UI that I’m having trouble getting used to. I realized it was an issue of the “clutter-discoverability trade-off” that John Cook so nicely explains on this blog:

Clutter-discoverability trade-off — The Endeavour.

It’s interesting how over my career, Microsoft and Apple have switched places on this. I remember when Macs came out in the 80’s–-really up until Windows 95–-the advantage was that everything was discoverable on a menu or as an icon, unlike DOS-based programs where you needed a cheat sheet handy for all the commands. These days, I find Apple products, while beautifully clutter-free, are less discoverable.

For example, a relative of mine recently had to take her phone back to the Apple Store because she had accidentally activated the three-finger-double-tap zoom feature. Gestures that involve taps or swipes with 2 or 3 fingers aren’t very discoverable, IMHO. A big ugly “click here to unzoom” button would have been friendly. (Not that having live people in local stores isn’t friendly in some other way.)

p.s. Back to the article, I’ve also recently started using Emacs, but you could say I took that up just for the challenge of it’s non-discoverability!