One bit of negative fallout from Apple-style minimalism is that getting rid of physical buttons frequently results in those buttons that still remain becoming overloaded with functions. A button that used to do one thing finds itself being called upon to do four or five things, each requiring increasingly baroque, finicky interactions (double tap! triple tap! triple tap with a twist!) to distinguish themselves from the others.

The goal should not be for the device to either have fewer buttons or more buttons. The goal should be for the device to have THE RIGHT NUMBER of buttons.

@jalefkowit i have bluetooth earbuds whose volume/skip functions i never use because i can never remember if it's double-press or long-press to change volume (and which ear is "volume up" and which ear is "volume down") and the same with next/previous track

i feel like 2 buttons would solve everything

How can you have the right amount for a platform that is general purpose?

@BourgouiseLiberal @jalefkowit It's called a "keyboard". But earbuds, for example, aren't general purpose.

@jalefkowit @peterdrake I wonder if it can be used for playing World of World of Warcraft.

@jalefkowit I'm reminded of a parody the Onion did many years ago--I think Jobs was still alive--about Apple releasing a laptop with no keyboard, just a single wheel for input. 😛

@jalefkowit Reminds me of the dynamic I face when designing a web browser for TV remotes: Now that TV manufacturers (for good reason, there is inaccessible cruft they've been preserving) are simplifying their remotes I find they've now gone so far I find myself desiring to restore some of the buttons by placing them onscreen. Which I don't find to be a particularly interesting solution.

@jalefkowit The thing I find particularly troubling about modern TV remote design for my purposes is the overloading of the navigation buttons to double as the playback control buttons.

I was planning to use both on the same screen for accessibility's sake, now how am I supposed to do that!?

@alcinnz The "Magic Remote" that LG shipped with my new-ish TV is an interesting development on that front. It adds some smartphone-type hardware to the remote to allow new types of UI affordances. You can wave it like a wand to move a cursor around the screen, the 5-way D-pad has a roller at the center that can be used anywhere there's a slider-type control, etc.

It's not 100% successful everywhere, but it's the first remote I've come across in a long time that feels like it's actually trying something new.

@jalefkowit Yeah, I've seen a remote like that. Certainly has some strengths for my usecase... Even if I find the point-at-screen technology works worse for some reason than the old wiimotes...

@alcinnz I'm not generally a fan of the point-at-screen approach, just because to me it feels like a cop-out. It's like the designers threw up their hands and said "fuck it, let's just pretend they're using a mouse."

The LG remote did not overcome this prejudice, though it certainly tried

@jalefkowit Definitely! Really goes against the reason why I'm designing these browsers...

the wind from PC users looking at this thread and shaking their heads in disbelief could be used to mine bitcoin

@jalefkowit amen.

I knew Bill English (who invented the mouse). SRI did usability studies. They tried all sorts of pointing devices, one was even controlled by knee! The mouse was the most highly rated by users. They tried mice with five buttons, with one button, with no buttons, the mouse with three buttons won out in usability studies too!

Apple, wasn't part of those usability studies.

Alan Kay refers to this anti-pattern in engineering as: "reinventing the flat tire."

@byterhymer You know that if Steve Jobs could have gotten away with shipping the original Mac with a zero-button mouse, he would have done it. One button was his compromise with reality

@jalefkowit lmao, his "reality distortion field" was the stuff of legends. ;)

Sometimes I wonder if "metaphysics" really refers to new age SciFi fantasy, as in: it has no basis in the reality of known physics?

Maybe fun to think about, but kind of horrible when implemented in user space.

At least Apple bought Fingerworks and seems to have helped popularize multi touch and gestures a little bit?

I'm still not sure whether we wouldn't have been better off with SRI/NLS's chorded keyboard ideas.

@jalefkowit apple has the worst designs of the industry, everything is made to look "cool" and futuristic with zero focus on usability or confort or readability or ux in general. Using iphone really feels like the designers hate me

@jalefkowit touch-interactive surfaces are a pain for me. As someone with a (pretty mild) tremor, I need to be able to rest my finger slightly before i interact with something.
Give me knobs, buttons and switches please. I'd happily sacrifice some screen estate.

@jalefkowit The death of softkeys was a huge blow to not just hardware creativity but accessibility as well. My favorite Android phone was the Pantech Crossover, which was not an impressive phone by any means but the search and menu buttons could be rebound in a myriad of situations alongside the hardware keyboard. I used to use the "Function" key as a shoulder button for shooter games and quick media navigation (skip track, etc)

Sign in to participate in the conversation

The social network of the future: No ads, no corporate surveillance, ethical design, and decentralization! Own your data with Mastodon!