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1.06.2009

MacWorld Intuition

MacWorld was today (in case you missed that).

There wasn't much new to rave about, but thankfully we have an inside look into Apple's latest intuitive design that we can all get hyped about:


MacBook Wheel

What struck me in the video--beyond the hilariously accurate jabs at Apple and its fanboys--is the use of the word "intuitive."

I've been told by people over and over again that Macs are more "intuitive" than PCs, and so, naturally, better. And while Apple does a great job with design, tends to have very friendly and usable interfaces, and generally keeps things simple and uncluttered... nothing about a Mac is "intuitive" because nothing about a computer is truly "intuitive."

Granted, things can be designed to be more easily "read" or used than other bits of technology, but every designer relies on clues and subtle cues to direct us to take the right action. When we don't have to think because it is obvious on its face what we must do, that's good design.

Granted, if I'd never used a computer before in my life, I may find myself more quickly at home in the Apple environment. I may enjoy the more "drag and drop" nature of the interface. I may find the bouncy icons fun and entertaining.

But at a certain point, we get lost. The iPod isn't intuitive, but we figure it out pretty quickly because there's only so much we can do. But I must admit, I was stumped as to how to turn the thing off until someone showed me. The iPhone? Got lost trying to zoom out on a page. Changing icon on the desktop? Had to look it up.

In fact, any time someone sits down in front of any computer system for the first time there is fumbling and confusion: We are learning something new. Testing the reactions. And, yes, good design can help our learning be quicker and more "intuitive," but we have to learn.

But within this whole "make it easier for the user" is the issue of usability. As the above video points out so well: Just because it's more "intuitive" does not mean that it is better, faster, or more effective. There will always be a learning curve, and the trick is making that slope just right.

~Luke Holzmann
Filmmaker, Writer, Expectant Father

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