I know I’m preaching to the choir here, but let me ask a question with an obvious answer. Why do we like the Mac? Is it hardware design? Probably not. Is it interface design instead?
More than likely it is a combination of both, though I contend that it’s something more than interface (software) or hardware design. Not for sake of argument, because I’m not going to argue the point, but, is the Mac’s UI better than Windows?
It’s an arguable point, of course, but since the Mac is made up of hardware design and software design, it’s safer for me to say that the Mac’s user interface is much better than Windows (choose whatever flavor you want).
Let me generalize for a moment. Why is it better? It’s not an issue of whether the Finder is a great utility for file and folder navigation. It’s not a collection of dialog boxes, window panes, or the Dock vs. whatever Windows Vista is using these days.
The reason, generally speaking, that the Mac’s interface—the user experience we all know and love—is better than Windows, is the same reason Mac hardware is better than typical PC hardware.
Apple pays attention to the details overlooked or ignored by competitors. Apple’s designers, software and hardware, care about what works, and how it works, and it shows all over, and stands in stark contrast to the confusing, gaudy, feature frenzy representative of Windows PCs.
It’s the attention to detail that makes the Mac what it is, and the lack of which makes Windows and most PCs a crass blend of uniform mediocrity (albeit popular).
Instead of arguing my premise with a point by point comparison of the Mac vs. a Windows PC (assuming you’re a Mac user reading this, you have an idea that I’m probably correct anyway), let me give you a couple of graphic examples of poor user interface, one Windows, and one iPhone, both non-Apple, both deplorable.
First, take a look at whatever Mac browser you’re using; Safari, Firefox or whatever. Why do you use it? How well does it work for you compared to previous versions?
Look at the Mac’s Finder, the Dock, or whatever other utility you use to find files and folders or to launch applications and utilities. How long did it take you to find your way around the Mac’s Finder or Dock or your favorite utilities?
Here’s an example of a Windows utility for batch file renaming. It speaks for itself. Every feature, configuration, adjustment, is on a single screen.
A new user’s first thought may be, “Where do I start?” That’s because, whether the utility is a good one or not, little effort was given to how the user will use those features.
Truly, a picture tells a thousand words. I don’t want to denigrate (too much) the publisher’s efforts to create a useful utility. Poor user design isn’t just limited to Windows PC software.
We all have our favorite software that we love to use, and favorite software we love to hate. I’m not a fan of Apple’s Mail, though I admit there is not much to complain about these days. Most Mac users use Mail and don’t worry about the little hiccups that I dislike.
Apple takes the same preference for elegant user interface and hardware design to the iPhone and iPod touch. Relative to most other so-called smart phones, Apple’s efforts stand out like me at a cheerleader’s convention (hint, they’re shorter and thinner than me).
Many of the more popular apps for the iPhone and iPod touch are wonderful efforts in design, highlighting ease of use, an elegant interface, and a no-manual required effort.
With Apple and so many other developers, Mac and iPhone, you’d think that good user interface design would be contagious. Hint: apparently not, as evidenced by what I found on AppShopper.
Simply put, the most popular and useful Mac applications share something in common with popular iPhone and iPod touch applications. Attention to detail first, ease of use second, utility and useful a close third.
I’m sure you have a few favorite applications and utilities. I’m also certain you can find a few examples where we could ask, “What was Apple thinking?” But I won’t judge a whole company’s massive design efforts in hardware and software with a few minor issues.
Apple gets a lot more right than they get wrong because they’re relentless. They strive to make their designs work well and don’t seem to accept what is mediocre or good enough.
That’s typical for Apple, and it’s a level of overall quality that Apple’s customers have come to expect. It’s also an attitude that seems to pervade all of Apple’s products, hardware or software.
Name another company with more diverse products, sold to more customers, and with customer satisfaction levels similar to Apple.