Does Steve Jobs actually love buttons?

Mon, Jun 21, 2010

Featured, News

When Jobs first unveiled Apple’s white Front Row remote control in 2005, he used a Keynote slide to compare it to a large remote with well over 40 buttons. “I don’t know that there’s ever been a slide that captures what Apple’s about as much as this one,” Jobs quipped.

You can make a strong case arguing that Steve Jobs hates buttons. Apple has always eschewed a right-click button on its mice, and it wasn’t that long ago that Apple removed the clickable button from the trackpads on its line of notebooks.

Also worth mentioning is that the Apple Store Cube on 5th ave in NYC and the Apple Store in Tokyo, Japan both feature elevators that lack physical buttons. You just go in, and the elevator goes up one floor at a time, and then down one floor at a time once it reaches the top.

But maybe it’s not that Jobs hates buttons at all. Is it possible that perhaps Jobs, of all people, actually loves buttons more than anyone else?

Cameron Kenley Hunt argues quite convincingly:

There’s an odd sentiment among nerds that Steve Jobs (and the fine people at Apple) hate buttons. I have a different theory: they absolutely love buttons.

Would you say to someone, “Wow, you must hate dogs. You only have one. You enjoy his company and playing with him, but seriously, only one? What do you have against dogs?”.

No, you wouldn’t say that. Because it’s a stupid thing to say.

The shallow assumption of Apple’s buttons is they hate buttons, the deeper conclusion is they love the shit out of a few important buttons. I bet they obsess over the placement, color, label, push-back and feel of every single button on every Apple device.

Why is the appropriate and careful use of buttons hateful? Love is shown in quality, not in wanton misuse.

For Jobs, it’s not about a inexplicable hatred of buttons, it’s about a design aesthetic that values maximizing functionality and ease of use while minimizing intrusiveness and user confusion. This often results in products that do away with extraneous buttons when a single and well-placed button can do the same job just as efficiently. Of course, Apple also places a high value on what the finished product looks like, and buttons may can certainly take away from the “sleekness” of a product.

Either way, it’s food for thought.


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1 Comments For This Post

  1. skips Says:

    Try reading Togazzini’s books on interface design and you will have a much better understanding why Apple designs things the way that they do. There are reasons that Apple refuses to implement a two button mouse except as an after-thought.

    Just my opinion – ss

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