User interface mimetic isomorphism

August 7, 2009 at 5:29 am 2 comments

| Gabriel |

Slashdot reports that the next version of OpenOffice will include the “ribbon” interface, which replaces the familiar “file/edit/view/…” menus with a bunch of icons. This is pretty interesting as the ribbon was the single most despised aspect of Office 2007 (it’s one of the main reasons that when my Dell broke last year I replaced it with a Mac). And yet OOo is imitating this feature. I see this as pretty solid evidence for mimetic isomorphism, the premise that actors will blindly copy the market leader even when the particular behavior at issue kind of sucks.

In other sucky user interface news, Wednesday’s Mac 10.5.8 update automatically “upgrades” Safari to 4.0.2, which means that but for the grace of Time Machine I would have lost my beloved Safari 4 Beta, which had tabs on the top as the default interface. Safari 4.0.x has tabs on the bottom (where they take up an extra centimeter of vertical space) and there’s no way to opt-out, even with the command line. I really don’t understand why Apple thinks it’s a good idea to build computers with letterbox screens, then write software that takes up gratuitous horizontal screen real estate with UI junk. Between Safari 4.0.x tabs and the Dock, reading the web on a 13″ MacBook is a pretty squinty experience. The whole horizontal aesthetic really plays into the “iLife” / “I’m-a-Mac-and-I’m-a-PC” brand image of the Mac as the world’s most expensive family photo album rather than a serious work tool.


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Regression to the mean links


  • 1. Fred  |  August 7, 2009 at 9:50 am

    There’s no need to keep the dock on the bottom. Use System Preferences>Dock to put your dock on the right hand side of the screen (the hide-and-show option is also a good idea). I’ve used that combo since I first installed OS X–it’s definitely the way to go on a `Book.

    • 2. gabrielrossman  |  August 7, 2009 at 10:19 am

      Agreed. (In fact, I keep my Dock on the left). I was just talking about how bad the default settings are, even though (unlike Safari 4.0.x tabs) they can be changed.

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