By John Gruber
There are iPhone doubters, and then there’s David Platt.
Platt’s remarks in yesterday’s “With hype high, iPhone may have to fight a flop” story by Reuters reporter Franklin Paul were really just the tip of the iceberg.1 Last week on his “Suckbusters” weblog, Platt published one of the craziest-ass things I’ve ever read, “Apple iPhone Debut to Flop, Product to Crash in Flames”:
Putting everything in the same package so you only have to carry one box sounds like a good idea, until you want to listen to music while surfing the web or reading your email or playing a game. Then users will find it essentially impossible to use one function of the tiny box without disrupting the operation of another. A few dedicated technophiles might, just MIGHT, figure out how to do so, but it will require far more dedication than an ordinary user is willing to invest in learning and then remembering. This combination condemns the iPhone to a tiny niche at best.
After starting a song, click the Home button, then click Safari or Mail. Baffling!
Good point regarding the games, though.
As I expound in great detail in my book Why Software Sucks your user is not you. The iPhone’s designers have forgotten this fundamental law of the universe. The market will severely punish them for doing so.
I could poke fun at just about every sentence in Platt’s post, but this one deserves a serious retort. Platt is right that many engineers cannot design products for the mass market. Most, actually — but that’s just another variation on Sturgeon’s Law. But some engineers can, and those are the type that Apple hires. The iPod wasn’t designed for “those stupid users”. The iPod was designed by a small team that asked, “What would we like in a music player?”
Platt’s argument seems to be that most people are too stupid to use any multipurpose handheld device. It’s not the iPhone’s specific UI design that he claims dooms it, but the basic concept itself. I’m not sure it’s possible to more greatly misunderstand Apple’s success this decade.
Because its designers forgot Platt’s First, Last, and Only Law of User Experience Design (“Know Thy User, for He Is Not Thee”), that product is going to crash in flames.
Somehow I doubt the iPhone designers had to forget any advice from David Platt.
Sell your Apple stock now, while the hype’s still hot. You heard it here first.
Platt, whom Paul described as “a computer science professor at Harvard University”, is in fact an instructor at Harvard University Extension, which is clearly not the same thing. I.e. it is in fact still safe to send your children to Harvard. ↩