Undiscoverable UI Madness

Posted by Matt Birchler
— 3 min read

We have a couple Mac users in the office so I went around and asked them how to do some things on macOS, which as we all know, is much better than iPadOS at making important, useful UI elements easily discoverable. I talked to 3 people who have been using Macs for years at work and home.

First up was a finder window with many items, but a hidden scroll bar. 3 out of 3 knew they could scroll, so good so far. I asked how they would know if they could scroll in another window, and they said you basically just try to scroll, and that's how they find out.

Next up was previewing this image without opening Preview. 1 of 3 could do it, with the others really impressed that Quick Look was a thing and said they never would have guessed to hit space at to do it.

When I asked them how to right click on a folder, and 1 knew how with the Magic Mouse, but the other 2 agreed they needed to do it on their trackpad because Apple’s mouse only has a single click. None knew you could also Ctrl+Click to bring this up.

While here, I right clicked on a PNG file and asked how to make that file type always open on Photoshop instead of Preview. None knew you had to hold Option while using the “open in” option.

Next up was asking them to enable DND. None were able to do it, even when I said it was in the notification panel. Hint: you need to scroll down to see it and night shift.

Next up was to see if they could navigate to the folder above the one they were in. No one was able to, and telling them that they could by hitting Cmd+up arrow or Cmd+clicking on the directory name in the title bar was deemed the most hidden thing thus far.

I stopped there because we had to get back to work, but without even leaving the Finder and Desktop I was able to find a bunch of things that long-time Mac users had never known about because they never discovered them in their daily use.

None of this is meant to say macOS is garbage or anything like that. It's just interesting to see when people who love the Mac and are so critical of "discoverability" on the iPad. I'm not even saying the iPad is better than the Mac here, I'm just saying that "discoverability" is one of the big things that has people in a tizzy right now about the iPad, but I think some are laying into the iPad harder than is warranted.

Another thing I can't get out of my head is the idea that we can be power users on one platform, and casual users on another. The fact that someone is amazing with the Mac does not mean they are automatically a power user on the iPad, Windows, or Android. So when you use something casually and expect yourself to know its ins and outs as well as someone who is more invested, then you get frustrated. I sympathize with this every time I use Android; "is this bad, absent, or do I just not know my way around here as well as I do my iPhone?"