Mistaking Familiarity for Intuitiveness

I don’t remember Gruber making the “iPads aren’t as intuitive as Macs” claim as part of his public confusion about how the iPad works, but I’m sure some people have. And, as Matt Birchler says in his excellent skewering of the “iPads are too damn complicated!” narrative, that’s ludicrous.

I think Matt’s onto something with the explanation that a case of familiarity and unfamiliarity is really the issue here, not the iPad itself. I’d say the real issue with the people I’ve seen on Twitter claiming no one can decipher the iPad’s mysteries is the inverse – unfamiliarity mistaken for counter-intuitiveness.

As I said yesterday, the iPadOS multitasking UI does have issues. I’m not debating that at all. What I am debating is that it’s so complicated as to be unreasonable, and whether every possible iPadOS feature needs to leap directly into the user’s brain the first time they pick up an iPad, or whether it’s ok that some learning is involved.

Also, the clunkiness of the implementation needs to be separated from the theory of how it works. I think the multitasking concept on iPadOS is mostly fine, given the constraints of how apps are launched on iOS, but it is easy to make the iPad to do weird things while trying to drag apps where you want them. Apple can certainly tweak what happens when and how fast things trigger in the drag and drop paradigm of iPadOS.

I do want to push back slightly on this component of Matt’s argument:

I hate to get into age, but look at the demographics of the people who you see complain the most about iPads not being intuitive. I don’t use the three decade number because it’s about how long macOS and Windows have been around, I’m using it because the people I see praising the intuitiveness of those platforms have had that much experience with those platforms as well.

I do agree that length of time with a given platform and lack of use of the other platform is the issue here, but age doesn’t necessarily have to mean lack of adaptability and loss of ability to learn new things. I don’t know how old John is, but I’m probably slightly older than him or at least of similar age, and learning new tech is rarely an issue here.

That may sound arrogant, but I’m not holding myself up as a genius. I’m sure I have my blind spots (Ronnie would argue my annoyance with TikTok is one, but I really just think it’s a waste of limited time that I could use to, well, learn things), but generally speaking, it’ll be a cold day in hell before kids are teaching me about technology.

Part of that is that I have been using tech forever, but I’m not stuck to either the past or the present. I’m not at all interested in platform wars. I don’t really care for Windows and I loathe the “good enough for people who don’t care” Android experience, but I don’t want to argue about them and try to convince anyone they’re wrong to use them. But mostly I also think people on either side of the “Mac vs iPad” wars are missing at least half the point and doing themselves a disservice. And why would you purposely limit your own range? Why sabotage yourself on purpose over and over, and take such perverse glee in doing so publicly?

My job has its ups and downs, but the best part of it is that I’ve had to learn to work with entirely new hardware and software many times over the years. That’s a blessing, not a curse. It weeds out mentally inflexible people. We can’t waste time longing for the old and shouting about the new. There’s no point. Also, learning new stuff is fun and keeps life fresh and motivating.

Yes, I love my Mac. I love the terminal. I love zsh. I love the macOS GUI, I love the whole macOS experience. I also love my iPad. I spend more time working on the iPad and getting things done with it than any other computer with the possible exception of my Windows laptop at work. Even then, it might be a contest. I love the fact that iOS 9’s iPad multitasking finally enabled so many different workflows that weren’t possible before, and that shortcuts and other automation tools in iOS 13 mean you absolutely can get real work done on the iPad.

You just have to be willing to learn new ways of doing things, just like you did when you taught yourself how to be an expert on the Mac.