While I’m finally reading Raskin‘s master piece “The Humane Interface”, I came across an inspiring article. Like many of the people working on IT I’m always involved in duscussions that compare Mac versus Windows, or Apple versus Microsoft.
Being in the past mainly a Flash Developer I had to switch from Mac to PC many years ago because the big differences in the performances with that technology. In these years I enjoyed very good performances and the possibility to easily develop with different and new technologies (like J2ME, Palm OS and Flash itself) that otherwise would have been almost impossible. I left the mac soon after Mac OS X was released. I kept an eye on it from far, of course, appreciating the introduction of features like Expose and Spotlight. When few months ago though, I had to use a new I-Mac G5 to do some video editing in the office I was very disappointed from the slow responsiveness of its GUI due mainly by the fancy visual effects. Working on interactive media I reckon I’m quite sensible to these differences and those fancy effects seemed to me more annoying than inspiring. Are they that necessary?
More recently due to the growing pressure Microsoft is doing to partners about the usage of WPF, we had to do some tests in the office with Windows Vista. Probably feeling so backward comparing to Apple, Microsoft tried to animate everything to make it look cooler. Animations are cool – who could argue with that? – but as soon they get cranky and repetitive they became unavoidably A PAIN. We tried Vista on a brand new Dell with 512 MB video card, unfortunately not very good with the 3D (Nvidia Quadro NVS), and the performances were so bad that if the computer was mine I would have removed ALL the effects straight away, my masochist colleague instead is still using them. A better analysis has been done by John C. Welch and is the article I was mentioned before. Despite I’m still convinced about the slowness in OS X GUI, I like his comparison between the two systems using the example of Evolution versus Revolution. It’s clear that Microsoft wanted to do something new, unfortunately not necessarely better. Of course when we design the update of a product we have to keep in consideration the knowledge people have about its older versions, so starting from scratch is clearly never the way to go.
I wouldn’t post an obvious thing like this if yesterday Apple didn’t try to “revolutionate” the phone. Apple, in facts, tried to reinvent the phone using a fullscreen multi-touch display. I don’t want to go into the market issues, we know that cell phones’ success depends a lot from the providers and iPhone could have easily issues regarding that. It’s also nice sometimes being able to reply to the phone without having to look a screen maybe just feeling the buttons. There is no doubt that this jewel will make people talk a lot about and that many fans will do all possible to put hands on in. My concerns are about the fact that despite Apple definitely tried to make users lives easier, I noticed too much the attitude on revolutionate instead of evolving. It seems they tried to add the most wow factors features, like its scrolling and zoom with the multitouch screen, without necessary consider the usability issues. The inertia when scrolling is cool but I’m wondering if it would be faster to scroll it with a kind of scrollbar (only a swipe from top to down to scroll the whole list) or maybe studing the usage of more fingers for that interaction, and others, to speed up the task. Scrolling images seems even weaker in my opinion, wouldn’t be quicker and less effort demanding, for instance, the pressure of a stupid button? Of course much less cool but I wouldn’t scroll 100 images in its way and I’m sure there could have been a cooler and more usable solution to scroll elements, at the end the I-Pod’s wheel strongest point was probably that (they could have done a virtual wheel also, like some patents they registered showed). Of course they should have done their internal tests, but I still have big concerns about the productivity of those interaction solutions.
Revolutions unfortunately don’t bring always to evolution and if they do it they don’t do it smoothly, creating useless issues that with a proper evolution we wouldn’t face.