Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Usability: Don't Stress Me Out

I think don't stress me out is at least as important a rule of usability as don't make me think.

In fact, I think don't make me think is just a particular instance of don't stress me out.

Apple is legendary for its good design, but iTunes and the iPod have failed me on two levels here.

First, they've taken a bunch of fun, nifty sources of happy shiny infotainment holding hands and turned it into a 41-item to-do list.

Boy. Look at this guy. 41 podcasts. What a slacker. Get with the program, mister! Little Billy already finished all his podcasts, and he's in second grade.

Second, I took this screenshot after syncing my iPod with iTunes. One Podcasts says 41 and the other one says 40. It's the same group, but I listened to one podcast in that group on my iPod.

I can't find a "sync" button that syncs my podcast to-do list(s). Or a button that magically turns my to-do list(s) back into a rewarding, leisurely tangle of diversions again. I can't remember off the top of my head which of these 41 podcasts I listened to in one playback context but not the other, so my OCD is going off like crazy. It's 8:45 am on 9/11/01, and Peter Parker is hanging out with Mary Jane on the top floor of the World Trade Center. Picture Spiderman's spidey-sense at that moment. That's my OCD right now.

Forty-one does not equal forty! This mathematical contradiction could destroy the universe!

What is this muppetry?

Nothing obvious in either iTunes' Preferences, or its View Options, or in the files you can open up and hackify with XCode, will fix this. Google hasn't yet found me an easy fix either. Even with the nifty Ruby gem id3lib and the ability to cd into your iPod in the Terminal, you're stuck. iPods store this kind of data in relatively unhackable binary formats. (I say "relatively" because nothing is truly unhackable.)


First person to tell me how to do this wins my love forever and ever and ever.

Update: I've just noticed that being frustrated by bad design has become a real theme on this blog. That's probably not hugely fun to read, so I think I'll have to change that. Maybe practice Zen meditation or something. Or pick up some design work on the side. I'm not sure. I did some uber-simple design work last night, it was pretty cool. I used this tutorial to create a "Web 2.0" starburst, and used my happy nifty Wacom tablet to paint the starburst into an existing graphic.

Yay painting in Photoshop w/Wacom.

I'm going to sleep.