By John Gruber
Atoms: We are mostly sold out... but there is more!
Regarding Friday’s “Deal With It”:
The point of this essay/theory/rule of thumb is not about establishing what is the most efficient or effective user interface for a particular task. It is about establishing what feels like the most convenient interface for a task. There’s a big difference.
Let’s say you conduct a rigorous test comparing two interfaces for the same task, A and B. Your testing, based on measured observations of actual users, proves that A is the more efficient interface; but interviews with the test subjects show that they perceive B as the more efficient interface. Guess which interface the users will prefer?
Ideally, an interface should both be and feel efficient. And I believe this “count the elements the user must deal with” guideline helps in both ways. But human nature is guided more by how things feel than how they are, and if there’s a radical notion at the heart of this, it’s that it might be more important for an interface to feel efficient than to be efficient, because that’s what drives human behavior.
It was not an argument that IM is better than email. If anything, I personally would argue that email is a far superior medium. I would much prefer to live without IM than email. And I fully realize that in many cases, sending an email is in fact more convenient, or at least more efficient, than initiating an IM session (like, say, when you switch to iChat, look at your buddy list, and then realize your intended correspondent is not online and you have to send an email anyway). See point #1, above. “Deal With It” was my attempt to explain why sending an IM can feel like the quickest, easiest way to send someone a message, even if it actually isn’t.
It was not an argument that Backpack is a better calendar app than iCal. My comparison was very specific, comparing the two apps’ UIs for one specific task: entering a new event from the calendar’s monthly view. And yes, I’m fully aware that entering new events in iCal’s weekly and daily views is far easier, because you can drag or double-click at the precise starting time for the event, so you typically only have to enter a name for the event. But I like monthly view, and I spend far more time looking at my calendar than editing events.