iOS 7 and the Death of the Button

If you were to log into the dashboard of this blog and look through the drafts — posts that I haven’t published yet — you’d find one from January 31, 2013 — about nine months ago — titled “Buttons Should Look Like Buttons.” And if you looked at the body of that draft post, you’d see a big blank space.

Well, buttons should look like buttons.

Firefox Buttons
Firefox Buttons

A great example of buttons failing to look like buttons — right next to buttons succeeding at looking like buttons — is Firefox. Let’s just focus on the reload button and the home button. When I am moving the mouse pointer on the screen, it’s very easy for me to tell where I have to click in order to trigger the home button. It looks like a button. It has clearly defined edges.

When I want to click the reload button, it’s very hard for me to tell where I have to click. I know the white area inside the black arrow/line/loop would almost certainly register. But what about the white space outside the arrow/line/loop? Can I click all the way out to the edge of the white area? Where is the border between the reload button and the button to the left of it (the menu dropdown)? Is there dead space between the reload button and the menu button? Do they butt up against each other?

It’s impossible to tell by looking.

Firefox is particularly infuriating because there are buttons with precisely defined edges immediately next to buttons with no button edges at all.

With iOS 7, Apple has done away with some clearly defined buttons. I believe that button borders are only gone in places where the button contained only text. In this respect, the button has been replaced — at least visually — by the equivalent of a hyperlink. And we’re all used to text hyperlinks.

I believe there’s one othe reason Apple can get away with that. Fingers are imprecise. And because we know that when we tap on a screen we don’t have single pixel precision, we know that there is compensation for imprecision. We are not anal about our precision, or lack thereof.

Looking ahead, I have seen screenshots of OS X Mavericks. It looks a lot like iOS 7. I am hoping Apple does not do away with button borders in the desktop OS, because when I use a mouse, I want clearly defined buttons.

Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard

I picked up Mac OS X 10.6 Snow Leopard on Friday, as I’m sure many people did.

Somehow, the improvements I notice the most are visual.  Apple has adjusted the default gamma from 1.8 to 2.2.  I don’t know what that means.  However, I can tell very easily that all the colors I’m seeing are more saturated.  It was slightly off-putting at first but I’ve quickly come to appreciate it.  The second thing I’ve noticed — and I might just be imagining this — is that the glass dock’s magnify effect seems to be smoother than it was on 10.5 Leopard.  This doesn’t make sense to me, because I’m under the impression that such things should only be improved on machines with discrete video cards.  My late 2006 MacBook has an integrated Intel video card.

Someone at Apple decided to put the Applications folder in the dock by default.  This is appreciated, since it’s one of the first things I would do after installing Leopard.  There are other changes to the dock.  Menus are charcoal and transparent.  Exposé is available on a per-application basis by clicking and holding on each application’s dock icon.  Also, Exposé is available as an icon, which can be dragged to the dock.  I recommend doing this.

I have no complaints about the software.  It was inexpensive at $29.  The previous update — 10.5 Leopard — cost more than $100 if I remember correctly.  Installation was very similar to that of Leopard.  I performed a clean install.  When I purchased the software at the Apple store, the clerk asked if I had an Intel Mac with Leopard.  I did, and Snow Leopard requires an Intel Mac.  And I read on the Internet some questions about whether a clean install was even possible with Snow Leopard.  Like I said, I was able to do it.  But I do wonder if the process will be any different when performing a clean install of Snow Leopard on top of an existing install of Snow Leopard.  Will the installer ask me to insert my Leopard install disc?  We’ll see.

Overall, Snow Leopard is an inexpensive update which provides some worthwhile new features and clears up some disc space.