I hated Mac for years. Approximately 27 of them, if I recall. Then my wife twisted my arm and we bought an iMac. Then, two work-issued Macbooks later and I’ll admit that I like designing and developing with Apple’s OSX interface. But I’m not a fan of the iP/hone/ad/od. Why? Usability isn’t user experience, and Apple’s mobile devices are a win for the former and an epic failure for the later (I eagerly await your refutations ;).
Usability vs. User Experience
Usability: Measurable and quantifiable. It’s a hard science where you can count clicks, determine time on a page, use eye-tracking, etcetera. Usability is simply the ease with which an item is used. If I have to click one button three times to go to the homescreen, versus one button once to go to the homescreen, that’s a valid measure of usability gains and losses.
User Experience: Subjective, and not very quantifiable. It can vary by demographic, culture, or other environmental factors. If I long-press an icon to move it and it jiggles in a cute way, or if I long-press and icon and it stares at me like a zebra in a zoo, that’s a user-experience measurement.
Why is a Mac usable?
This isn’t a Mac versus PC debate. It’s a usability debate. I like my Mac because it gives me an edge on usability that helps me develop websites faster.
- Built in FTP: CMD + K opens up a fun “connect to server” window. One combo-key-stroke which I can also access in any Finder window.
- Multiple desktops: I can put different windows in different desktops. It keeps me task-oriented and reduces clutter on the desktop.
- Widget Dashboard: I push one button, and widgets can lay down on my screen. I use widgets like a Golden Ratio calculator, a calculator, and an RGB -> HLSA converter. One click to make them appear, another to make them disappear, without leaving a current window.
- Exposé: It’s ctrl + tab on steroids. It shrinks all the windows down enough that I can see every window open on a particular desktop, and switch to it.
- Sharing and Networking: My iMac figured out there was a WiFi network and tried to connect to it immediately. If I want to share different stuff over the network, it’s System Preferences > Sharing. I click single check boxes for file sharing, printer sharing, and even remote login.
Why I like the Mac, but I don’t worship it
- Delete doesn’t delete. I highlight an icon, click delete, it stares at me like I’m an idiot. I still forget the combo-keystroke for delete.
- Closing a window doesn’t close the program. Because in real life, we roll up a window and still expect fresh air.
- Finder doesn’t find, and Spotlight doesn’t shine a light. So, the little magnifying glass in the top right is called “spotlight”, and it does a search. Finder is my file browser. That’s “parking in a driveway and driving on a parkway” kinda stupid.
Why the iPhone isn’t usable
Don’t judge me. I don’t have an iPhone, but I do have an iPad and an Ipod, both of which, over all, I like. But, there’s one thing I hate about them both: One freaking button. One. Not two. Not three. Not four. One. Freaking. Button. :
- Some applications have on-screen buttons that let me edit settings. Others require me to go into settings. I never know where to go to edit my settings.
- Because of the dedicated purpose of that one button, the interface of every application can differ wildly. Navigation buttons at the top, the bottom, not at all. Again with the settings. Can I edit them? Do I need to go to my device’s settings. No two interfaces are the exact same.
- That one freaking button to rule them all:
- One click in-app takes me home.
- Two clicks in-app gets me to recent apps.
- Three clicks…takes me home.
- One click on the home screen takes me to search
- Two clicks on the home screen….shows me recent apps
- Three clicks on the home screen causes my recent apps to play peekaboo. With my happiness.
- The dissimilarities between the mobile OS and the OSx interface:
- I go to “WiFi” to get on WiFi, but General > Bluetooth to set up my headphones. On my Mac, these two items sit parallel in System Preferences under Internet & Wireless. Did the iP/hone/ad/od’s designer use a Mac?
- On a Mac, I go to iTunes and listen to music, watch movies, and download either, including apps for my device.
- On my iP/ad/od I go to iTunes to download Music.
- On the same iP/ad/od I go to App Store to download apps.
- On the same iP/ad/od, I go to videos to watch videos.
- I go back to the Mac and spend 10 minutes looking for damned App Store button.
Why, Apple, the one button? Did you reach a button quota?
So why Android?
- Home. It goes home. If I long-press, I can see all the open apps, and switch between. Click twice on the home screen and I cycle through all the homes screens.
- Menu: It shows a menu. When I’m in an app, it opens up the settings for that app. If I long press in-app, it opens a keyboard. When I’m on the home screen, it opens up settings for my device.
- Back: It takes me back.
- Search: It searches. It searches within the app, or if on the home screen, the device. If I long press, opens up voice control/search.
Four buttons give me approximately 9 actions that logically map to the icon of those buttons. Less crud I have to store in my brain (whose hard drive space, I swear, is limited). No inconsistencies with a desktop device.
Mac for work, Android for calls. I don’t need cool points that equate to ‘profanities per minute’ when I’m trying to accomplish a basic task on my phone.
Not ten minutes ago, I finally figured out, after two years with my iPod touch, how to turn it off: I long-press that button at the top. And here I’ve been trying a quintuple-click with one stupid button. I didn’t even know it could turn off. Apple, I owe you
a heartfelt apology my middle finger.