Differences in Usage Between Platforms: Was:Striped Background in OS X Revisited
scott at cdroo.com
Thu Jun 28 01:25:49 CDT 2007
From: "J. Landman Gay" <jacque at hyperactivesw.com>
> I'm interested in learning more about this, being mostly Mac-oriented
> myself. Could you (or anyone) sketch out what you see as the differences
> in behavior and general usage between the platforms?
That's a facinating but very deep question. I could write pages! <g>
However I'll resist the temptation and summarize some of most significant
things and we can discuss other things later on...
First and foremost we can look at how Steve J steers the ship. I think his
perspective on computing in general is the key. The Apple vs PC adds make
this very clear but the most succinct example is the IPod. "A thousand
songs in your pocket" was the opening marketing gambit. Simple. Elegant and
right to the point and more importantly - *fun*!! Think now about the
Apple vs PC adds and you'll notice the emphasis is largely on getting it
done simply without complication. "It just works". The Apple OSX UI is
simple. It expands the classic Mac interfaces and, to my mind, streamlines
them. Most often when I talk about this PC programmers (and technically I
am one of them) yell at me that the OSX (i.e. Aqua) UI is "just eye candy".
This is all to often the only argument that is levelled and it is in fact
the crux. The "eye candy" is what makes the experience so darn nice. It's
simple and elegant. Compare a Windows program to a Mac program. Windows
programmers, no disrespect meant, write incredibly complex and deep
programs. Everything goes in there. This is great if you are a computer
programmer or tech type (maybe - as there are plenty of programmers and tech
types who prefer a Mac) but for average users all to often they never use
all the functions. Creating a deeply complex application on a Mac is quite
a challenge (I'm reffering to a program exceeding 150,000 lines of code not
including that generated automatically by RAD IDE's). The Mac interface
seems to limit one in the available options for doing it without breaking
the HIG. However - as one studies the Mac and really gets into the HIG one
finds this isn't as much a problem as one might first believe - but that's
not the point here. The point here is that every aspect of the Mac UI is
about the "user experience". Aqua is pleasing to the eye. Grey (Windows
prior to Vista) is utilitarian. It actually is fun to use a Mac. So it
tends to attract people who just want to "get on with it" and "have fun".
Windows Vista literally rips bleeding chunks off the Mac paradigm in an
attempt to access this market segement - and fails. Vista does lots of cool
fun things - but it falls short of being really "fun". Mac icons are chunky
(in a nice way) with smooth drawing and are very clear (the defaults being
larger in size than a pre-Vista desktop). This ties directly to usability
as it is easy to identify as opposed to the Windows 32 x 32 standard icons
(now larger on Vista). Vista even adopted the slight angling of the Mac
icons and light source. Again this is to create a "fun" factor and probably
to a larger extent increase identification and therefore usability.
When a Windows 3.11 or below user ran a program they would know to explore
the program menu of a new program. Just like Mac users know to explore the
menu. Windows 95 + users tend to have no such concept. This is because
Windows 3.11 and before has a menu structure like the Mac. It was always
there and adapted when you loaded a program. I have taught IT with Windows
machines over the years at TAFE colleges here as well as running beta tests
for my various software products over the years. Overwhelmingly Windows
users now ignore the menu (and accellerators and other keyboard shortcuts)
and search the toolbar. Time and time again I've been told the program
needs such and such a feature. The feature is there - but it's not on the
toolbar and therefore the user intuits it as not present.
Psychology of usage really is the key to this issue though, and probably the
most generally interesting. On a PC you are supposed to *work*. The PC
market is flooded with utilties, office suits and even programming
languages. I'm yet to hear a PC user, however, wax lyrically over an FTP
tool like Mac users do over Transport. You never see the wars on the PC
platform like you see from Mac users over Mac Soup. On Windows you can
break just about any HIG rule with impunity. Most users simply don't get it
the way Mac people do. This of course is risky as your original widget
control might not be intuitive and may cost you sales from confusion - but
generally not because you broke the HIG as such. I learnt this on the Mac
very quickly however because one beta tester said (and all the other Mac
users responded in kind) "we don't want no stinking Windows program". My
software relied heavily on the Treeview control on Windows and the toolbar
paradigm. My Mac users rejected the treeview outright (also known on a Mac
as the heirarchial list for those not familiar with the tree nomleclature).
Nor would they wear my long (to them) toolbars.
The whole toolbar thing is really important. Look at Rev for a moment. On
a PC Rev locates itself at 0 x 0 on the desktop (the top left of the
screen). There is a caption bar with minimize and close widgets (the
crosses etc). Each window (stack) we open in Rev on Windows is independent
of the main UI and floats above the desktop. This is a shock horror for
Windows people because the "standard" is to include everything in one window
and imbed windows within (not actual MDI because the caption bars are no
longer present - it works in the manner of a Rev stack and cards. Borland
used the same paradigm for their IDE as Rev with Delphi until recently and
it was a pet hate of many programmers (personally I quite like it as it lets
me arrange things the way I like to work). Producing a program like this on
Windows is risky - you've really got to make sure the user is clear on what
is part of the program and how it works - on a Mac it's common. Rev does
it, some browsers do it (AOL), Quicken does it and so on. This is directly
tied to the omniprescent menu bar on the Mac. It's always there - no matter
what. Windows programs may or may not have a menu. If they do not you have
to intuit how to - for example - close a program or load the help file.
The PC - IMHO - is still living in the days of computer users being either
techos and programmers or office workers. The whole paradigm is not about
people but about bytes and algo's. The Mac, again IMHO, is about *people*.
After many long arguments with Windows programmers I've found they embrace
the PC and reject the Mac because this concept is alien. However....
Increasingly I'm finding people are looking at the Mac (not necessaruly
Windows programmers) and seeing this emphasis. It is attractive. Will the
Mac overtake PC sales? I don't think so. People buy the PC for three
reasons. It's what "everybody they know uses". It's "like the one at work"
and there are still more programs available for Windows than the Mac. If
Jobs could force their C++ tools to work like VB or Delphi (or even Lazarus
if it ever becomes a true Carbon/Aqua aware tool - a dangerous thing for Rev
as it has the potential to attract legions of Delphi and VB programmers due
to it's use of Object Pascal (cross platform between Win, *nix and Mac)
base. In fact - if I was Rev - I'd be aiming heavily at the shareware
industry for new customers because the real key to getting more software
built for the Mac (and that IMHO directly translates to Rev sales) lies in
that market segment. Borland learnt this lesson in a sense. Their new
Turbo Delphi range is squarely aimed and priced at this market segment.
It's important not to let our natural prejudices about "shareware" to play
out here. The name is merely a marketing method. In 2007 it means a
downloadable trial as opposed to the quality of the software. Consider that
WinZip, Paintship Pro etc are - or where - shareware marketed software.
OK - I could go on about stuff like modal windows and sheets etc et al. If
you're interested in those topics we can discuss them later. If not I'll
shut up! <g> But I'll conclude with a perspective. My first experience of
a Mac was the Lisa and then the IIe. I inherited a Wallstreet G3 and was
not impressed with System 8 or 9. However - I was instantly blown away with
OS X. Simplicity and elegance are what did the trick for me. Not security
or any of the issues we tend to commonly assume as marketing points.
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