June 2011

A stranger on a park bench in Union Square just asked me, “Is it fixed?”

I’d like to give him an answer to ease his mind, but it depends what he means. If he’s asking about something that’s broken, then the correct answer is “yes.” On the other hand, if he’s asking about fate, or an election, then the comforting answer is “no.”

I’ll just ignore him, obviously.

I’ve been using a few Apple products lately, and I’m annoyed by the same basic problem in both the iPod Touch and the Apple Cinema Display monitor: Oversimplification of buttons for the purpose of clean design.

I get it, Apple. You think it’s cool to only have one button on the iPod Touch. Here’s the problem with that: It takes a bunch of extra clicks, not to mention a whole lot of counter-intuitiveness, to accomplish tasks that are simple and straightforward on an Android device. Not having a menu button is just like not having a right-click feature on a mouse; it makes tasks more complicated instead of simpler.

Yesterday I started using an Apple Cinema Display monitor in the office, and I’d never used one before. It’s a very sleek-looking monitor, and it has touch-sensitive brightness and power buttons on the right edge of the screen. However, I have a tendency to reach out and physically tilt the monitor up or down while I’m working. Sure enough, every time I do, I’m inadvertently adjusting the brightness or shutting off the monitor.

Good design doesn’t just mean that something is pleasing to the eye; it means that it’s actually well thought-out. There are plenty of things Apple does well, but they need a lot of help with buttons.

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