Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Steve Jobs and Usability

Apple products are reputed primarily for two things:
  • ease of use
  • aesthetics
A Forbes article gives us a glimpse into how Apple has achieved ease of use in its products. Apparently, CEO Steve Jobs insisted that products be usable. Judging by the following quote from an Apple engineer, he did so by insisting on usability requirements without dictating design details:

Steve would be horribly offended [if] he couldn’t get to the song he wanted in less than three pushes of a button.

Design is important. But don't lose sight of the real usability requirements for your product. The real usability requirements are metrics, not functional specifications or UI layouts.


Unknown said...

I would like to point out that design is a process of iteration. It is based on user experience and psychology. Getting to three clicks is not where they started, it was where they worked towards getting to. It was the underlying software, the hardware, what was accessible at the time and what they learned as they iterated that has given them what they ended up with thus far.

Steve was more likely to be offended if the engineers, designers, etc, were not as passionate about the user's experience of the product as he was. The user is the first priority, and then they would figure out the money part.

Let's stop the myth that design is about making thing pretty. The best design is likely the most boring one because you didn't noticed it existed.

Roger L. Cauvin said...

Great points, Darren!

As you imply, usability requirements depend on feasibility. Usability metrics improve through iteration, and it's hard to predict up front what targets are feasible.

I also like what you wrote about the best designs being boring. I once asked Alan Cooper the best registration or login experience he'd ever seen. His answer: "I didn't."