Saturday, September 20, 2008

Hidden iPhone Headset Button: Design Minimalism Gone Too Far

Minimalist designs vs. visual clues ...

"Damn, I feel cheated! I’ve had an iPhone for about a month now and all of a sudden I find out that there’s a button in the headset (picture). There’s absolutely no visual indication – that UI fetishists might label affordances – that that button is there. There is a hole that indicates to me that there’s a microphone, but no bump in the plastic, printing, or anything that tells me I should push that part of the product to answer a phone call. I consider myself not a complete moron when it comes to consumer electronics, but to be sure I checked whether a colleague of mine - who had also recently gotten an iPhone - was aware of the button, but thankfully I was not as idiotic as I thought: he too had not yet discovered it.

Skipping a song while riding a bike

Why is that button important to me? Because I have been biking around trying to go to the next song by using the touch screen. Not very comfortable, not very safe and a huge step back from my earlier iPod nano, which I could easily operate while it was in the pocket of my jacket. Why I feel cheated? Because I even remember thinking that it was a shame that my iPhone headset did not have an answer button as my SonyEricsson K800 headset (picture below, on the right) had. Now it turns out the button is there after all. So why did I miss it even when I wanted it to be there? The button is mentioned in the Finger Tips Guide (pdf) that comes with your iPhone, but somehow, in the excitement of finally having my hands on the iPhone I missed that. Actually, it is also mentioned in the manual, and in the feature list of the software update I recently installed, which is how I happened to come across it.Reading the manual (or not)

So you may ask: why didn’t you read the Finger Tips Guide? To be honest, even though the guide was extremely concise, I just scanned it and then I knew enough to get started. Operating the device was so easy that I discovered most things along the way. Except for this button, that is. So in way the extreme intuitiveness of the iPhone, in combination with the lack of visual clues caused my non-discovery. In addition to my own laziness, that is. Now you can blame me for being stupid, but the fact remains is that I missed the button. And if I did that, so did a lot of other people. Well, at least enough people for to make a tutorial on using the iPhone headset, in the comments of which we find this little one-person dialogue..."    (Continued via the product usability weblog,    [Usability Resources]

iPhone Headset - Usability, User Interface Design

iPhone Headset

iPhone Minimalist Headset - Usability, User Interface Design

iPhone Minimalist Headset


Anonymous minxlj said...

I too would have missed the button, HOWEVER - I naturally wondered 'what is this connecting rectangle in the middle of my earphone wire, it must have a purpose' so I clicked it - and lo and behold it paused the song. Double clicked it and it skipped the song. 'Ohhhhhh neat' I thought and I actually quite liked the mysteriousness of it. Very sleek.

Perhaps Apple thought natural curiousity would be enough for people to discover the button? It worked for me, perhaps not for others I guess.

1:33 AM  

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