iPhone Earbud Rebuttal - No good if you don't know about it...

Two days ago I posted a rave about the iPhone earbuds' clickable microphone - and coincidentally, the very next day fellow usability blogger Jasper van Kuijk posted a rant on the same subject! He makes the very good point that the button is completely hidden - the microphone gives no visual cue that it can be "clicked" - so that many users (himself among them, for a while) don't even know it exists. And it's generally kinda difficult to use a feature you don't know about! Other products' in-line controls look more like the Sony headset in the photo, with "touchpoints" that visually communicate their function. Hmm. To me, this is a case of "design for new users" versus "design for experienced users": the iPhone clickable mic is designed entirely for experienced users (who, once initiated, will appreciate its simplicity and tiny size), sacrificing intuitive discovery for new users (who won't be able to find it without explicit instructions). To me, that logic seems valid: people will own their iPhones for two years, and become "experienced users" in the first week or two. A little pain at the beginning in exchange for years of happy use seems like a fine tradeoff to me!

5 comments:

Ben J. said...

i mean, it's in the instruction manual. i feel like you don't get to complain about a "hidden feature" if you don't RTFM.

Jasper said...

@ Ben J.
Yes, it's in the instruction manual. But it should make you wonder: why does a simple button need to be in the instruction manual? Explaining how many times you click the button does what: ok, that's useful information, and it's very hard to make the product communicate that. But explaining that the button is there... the product should be able to convey that itself.
As for 'not getting to complain' if you don't 'RTFM'... A certain number of people will never RTFM. You can tell them that they don't get to complain, but that doesn't make their user experience any better. It actually makes it worse. And let's face it: you're not going to change these people (and it's debatable whether you should want to). So, you can either accept the fact that some people don't read manuals and adjust the product accordingly, or you can choose to disappoint them. Up to you.
@ Dave
I was amazed by the coincidence of this post. I was writing mine on the train back home, only to find out you had been writing about the same subject when I got home.
I like the distinction you make between designing for novice and experienced users. Some things that are convenient for novices become terribly annoying for experienced users. However, I think that in this case adding a tiny dome to the rubber or a printing a small icon could have done the job in satisfying both groups.

Groeten,
Jasper

KMY said...

A small removable sticker indicating were the button was would cover of all basses.

Dave Gustafson said...

Good comments from everyone! I've got to agree with KMY's suggestion: a removable sticker on the microphone would force people to "RTFS" before removing it, even if they are the types of people who, as Jasper said, will never RTFM (and who are definitely out there in good numbers). And it would allow Apple to continue its crusade against buttons - or at least in this case, visible ones...

original said...

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