It’s Saturday morning. You’ve been dying to get that latest iPhone/iMac/iWatch/iFad. So you head down to the Apple Store. When you arrive, the doors are closed. You try to push the door, but the door won’t open. It looks like people are inside, but you can’t figure out how to get in.
Suddenly, Steve Jobs walks up and asks, “Hi, may I help you?”
“Whoa! Steve Jobs! What an honor to meet you! I was just trying to get into your store, but there are no handles on the doors.”
Steve says, “Oh, of course. We decided to simplify the design of the door, giving it a sleek, elegant new look. Those old fashioned handles were just plain ugly. How do you like our new doors?”
“I guess they look okay. But I can’t get in.”
“Of course you can, you just have to tell the door to open, like this… Open, door.” Calmly, he waits a moment, but nothing happens.
Surprised, Steve tries again, “Open door.” A little louder – “Open door!” “Door, o-pen!” “O-pen Do-or.”
“Hmm…,” Steve shrugs, “the door seems to be having trouble right now. Oooo-PEN DOOR!” And at last, the doors open.
“Ah, there, you see! Had a small glitch, but isn’t that amazing?”
Unfortunately this silly story is indicative of a dangerous pattern we’re seeing in software and hardware today — the rise of Design before Function. A great aesthetic look is great, and there are some instances where it can be more important than minor function. But in general, a great product trumps a great design any day of the week. From Craigslist to Ebay to Amazon to Google – products that people love are products that work more than products that are ‘designed’.
This morning, I tried to add a new keyboard to my iMac. What could be simpler, right? Well, it turns out the Mac simply can’t do it. The Apple “Genius” wants be to lug my entire computer into the Apple store to figure it out. You’ve got to be kidding me, right? In the quest for the elegant look, Apple removed the basic controls for setting up your computer. Now, I have a $2000 brick that needs to be taken to the store. This problem was created solely by design. They were more interested in removing buttons from the back of the computer than they were about making sure basic tasks could be easily done. Ah, but Macs are so easy to use, right?