A must read for UI designers, Tog’s A Quiz Designed to Give You Fitts.
Some of the questions I was familiar with, other I could guess, but the one with the most impact for me was Question 6 regarding the bottleneck in hierarchical menus. I had to do a few tests using the Mac and the Windows box on my desk to see the effect that Tog was referring to. It was one of those ‘Aha!’ moments. See, for years I’ve known that I could do many things much faster on my Mac than I could in Windows, and I usually chalked it up to experience, but lo and behold, it goes much deeper, and we learn that indeed the thinking that went into how hierarchical menus in the Mac OS work versus how they were implemented elsewhere is quite different.
My testing was actually a bit difficult, but perhaps more revealing, since the Windows apps I use most are actually not exactly native, one being Mozilla, which uses it’s own UI stuff to some degree, and the other being jEdit, which is a Java-based app. Now, both of these apps exist for Mac OS X, and they both do the right thing in regards to hierarchical menus. To some degree, I think when people wonder why you might pay more to own a Mac, it’s because of key differences and attention to detail like this – things you don’t even realize, which is how it should be.
I’ve been applying some of his tips to things I’ve built in the past, but it’s probably worth paying closer attention to in the future.