Fri 21 Feb
This definitely falls into the category of minutiae, but I was fascinated by this recent, very subtle refinement to Mac OS X’s Aqua interface. After upgrading the operating system on my PowerMac G4 to version 10.2.3, I noticed that the window controls the close, minimize and zoom buttons in the upper-left hand corner have recessed ever so slighly.
Where once they were three little balls sitting on top of the title bar, they’ve now been receded just a tiny bit into the chrome’ of the window, so that they resemble jewel settings or, rather, push buttons. The illustration here shows, at top, a Safari browser window from Mac OS X 10.2.1 and below it one from 10.2.3.
It’s hardly an earth-shattering change, but it needles me a bit that this was made. No doubt it was a decision that arose out of user testing, but I have to wonder if it will truly, dramatically increase the usability of the operating system. It just seems to acquiesce a little too easily to the credo that, unless a button looks button-like, no one will know what to do with it.
Don’t get me wrong, this is a design principle that I’m happy to follow in my own work. It just seems that the original close, minimize and zoom buttons were sufficiently button-like without being slavishly so. Their quietly unorthodox prevalence in the number two operating system in the world represented a minor yet significant opportunity to expand the visual vocabulary a bit. Oh well.