Hello, this is Jan Lehnardt and you're visiting my blog. Thanks for stopping by.
plok — It reads like a blog, but it sounds harder!
So hey, me.com is up. First and foremost, congratulations to everybody involved in the launch. A Job well done.
SproutCore allowed Apple to write web applications that behave a lot like (Mac OS X-) desktop applications. While the underlying platform is not the same and you can still see and feel the difference, they did a remarkable job.
One thing irritates me, though. On the web, when you hover your mouse cursor over a link, or in general, something that responds to a click, the standard arrow changes to a hand with a stretched out index finger for pointing:
On Mac OS X (and every other Mac OS before) clickable items in the operating system GUI do not change the mouse cursor when you hover over them.
MobileMe is a set of hybrid applications. They run on the web but they are designed to behave like native desktop apps. A design that you can feel when using the applications. They are also hybrids in how they have the mouse cursor react to clickable items.
For example, when switching the application within MobileMe, say from Calendar to Account, you click on an icon for that application. When hovering over the icon you get a finger pointer:
The application switch part of the navigation bar is the same in all MobileMe apps. The right part changes depending on the application. Mail has controls for replying and forwarding email messages and in Calendar you can choose between the day, week and month view and navigate through the selected time frame.
The buttons on the right part of the navigation bar, the ones that are application dependent, do not make the cursor change:
I was mildly irritated by this.
Yes, this runs in
Safarithe browser and I expect things running in the browser behave like they used to. Something I can click on should make a pointy hand. These applications already break a lot of conventions, why not break this one as well?
I’m not saying I am for or against this change. I only know this caught me off-guard. If Apple is pioneering with how web-based-yet-native applications look and behave (and they certainly do), we can expect others to follow. But will they all follow? And should they follow on this particular decision?
Is that just a minor glitch in the otherwise huge amount of work that went into the design and creation of the MobileMe apps and will soon be fixed?
Is this a good change from an interface design point of view or is there even only a single interface design point of view?
PS: Anybody remember Windows 98’s ActiveDesktop? It too changed the status quo, just the other way around, by bringing the pointy hand to the desktop.
When you mix two very different metaphores like this, you’re bound to end up with confusion.
As you search for a new mental model to abstract away the interface, you mix a "virtual desktop" with a "virtual document" and what do you end up with? Is it a document being used as a desktop or a desktop with documents within a document? Who knows!
This doesn’t bother me. The distinction between links and buttons on web pages is long-standing, well known, and carries over well enough for web applications, which these are. Web applications are simply escaping their browser shell.
However, I do think this brings up another interesting point. In particular, if there are two be distinctions between two kinds of things you can click on, what should the distinction mean? What does it express? Personally, I’d love a defined distinction between page-local events and page-changing events, before triggering such an event. In other words, I want to know if the thing I click on will change pages, pop-up another window, or possibly loose some data or work of mine.
Or, just make back buttons restore more perfectly.
That’s actually exactly what we’re doing: any link or interaction that makes you load a new page in the browser will show the cursor (hand); any other interaction will remain the arrow.