Mistaking Familiarity for Intuitiveness

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 2 min read
Mistaking Familiarity for Intuitiveness

Listen, I understand this tweet simplifies this argument, and the people Ben is talking about will go, "actually…"

But…this rings so true to me in some of the conversations I've had with people over the years, as well as Gruber's recent complaints about the iPad overall.

What gets me to roll my eyes is when people drift into the "iPads aren't as intuitive as Macs" argument, because that's kind of insane. Most people get maybe 2% of the potential of their Macs and Windows PCs today. Have you watched most people use a computer laterly? Most people I see have all apps in full screen all the time, no matter how big their screen is. Most people I see use keyboard shortcuts for copy and paste, opening new tabs, but basically nothing else. I've seen numer ous Mac users download apps, open the DMG, and run the app from the DMG forever because they don't know you should move it to the Applications folder. Many people have a desktop full of files because the desktop is the file system.

I could go on, but my point is that most people don't use computers like we do, and for us, I think we have the tendency to look at a platform and UI paradigm that we've been ising for 30 years and say "look how natural this is!" when of course it's natural in large part because we've gotten used to it over 3 decades. I don't mean to throw shade at the Mac and say it's trash, but there is a ton there that is far from intuitive. Remember, experienced pilots find flying pretty easy and they navigate the cockpit with ease, but that doesn't mean that the cockpit of a 747 is the height of intuitiveness.

I hate to get into age, but look at the demographics of the people who you see complain the most about iPads not being intuitive. I don't use the three decade number because it's about how long macOS and Windows have been around, I'm using it because the people I see praising the intuitiveness of those platforms have had that much experience with those platforms as well. I would suspect this same group has said "how the hell do you get around in Snapchat, it's not using native controls for anything!" at least once.

As I have to say in every one of these pieces, I'm not arguing that macOS is trash, nor am I arguing that iPad software is perfect and needs no refinement. I'm just saying that humans have a tendency to mistake familiarity for intuitiveness.