The Path of Least Resistance

Dr. Drang:

The opinions of the people who make the products you use cannot be dismissed as easily as those of some randoid on Twitter. If they think you should doing things this way when you’ve spent years doing them that way, they can make it hard for you to stick to your guns.

Now where have I heard that before?

Ian Parker, writing for the New Yorker last year:

[Steve Jobs] craved products that didn’t force adjustments of behavior, that gave what [Laurene] Powell Jobs called a “feeling of gratitude that someone else actually thought this through in a way that makes your life easier.” She added, “That’s what Steve was always looking for, and he didn’t find it until he worked with Jony … They were really happy, they relished each other.”

The way I read this is that well-designed products are those that slot neatly into an existing behaviour and work as expected; this doesn’t preclude products that oust common ideas or technologies, modify expectations, or otherwise change the cause of a behaviour.

For example, even though all smartphones used to have a physical keyboard, that doesn’t mean the iPhone should have had one as well. The benefits of dropping it outnumbered the drawbacks, and new technologies — like a virtual keyboard that adjusts the tappable area of different keys based on the most likely letters to be used next — were invented to compensate. Now, we look back on smartphones with physical keyboards as quaint relics; those with big displays that can adapt to their needs are clearly far superior.