What the Mac OS Can Teach You About Design

The first thing most people think when they turn a Mac on for the first time is something along the lines of “Wow. This looks cool.” Then the next thing you notice, or more accurately, don’t notice, is the act of using the OS. Once you get used to how everything works, which doesn’t take long if you’ve used another OS (read: Windows) before, you don’t have to think about it. It’s intuitive enough that you just do what you need to do without having to think about it much. You don’t have to worry about the OS itself much either, except when you need to do some occasional maintenance.

The Mac OS is

  • Good-looking
  • Intuitive/Usable
  • Simple

Those three bullet points are some of the most important things to think about when it comes to web design. Obviously you want to have a good-looking design (don’t tell me you like GeoCities-style pages…). The other two points are very important. If you must have a horrible-looking design, the second two points are worth putting some thought into.

Simplicity doesn’t necessarily mean having a Google-esque design. You could classify Digg as a fairly simple design, though not to the point of Google. Ideally you want to simplify elements of your design, to make it more usable, but that doesn’t mean you have to not have any images or color.

Ideally, you want to have a design that’s intuitive and easy to use. That means simplifying your navigation, so there are as few choices as possible, yet enough to easily find certain information. You want it to be noticeable too.

The Mac OS has many of the elements of a “perfect” design, and I’ve only touched upon them lightly here.

Further Reading

  • http://www.problogdesign.com/ Michael Martin

    Sounds like someone is looking forward to Monday! :D

    I agree though; Mac does have style. Even the hardware manages to look stunning…

  • http://www.webmaster-source.com Matt

    @Michael, Stevenote is coming. Stevenote is coming.

    Yeah, it’s partly that, and it was inspired by my switch to the Mac as well. I’d had a rough idea for this post for a couple of weeks, and the upcoming WWDC finally got me to write it.

  • David

    There’s only three bullet points.

  • http://www.webmaster-source.com Matt

    Oops… Fixed :D

  • http://pagebusters.com Mark

    Mac os? Please I come from the real world of servers, progamming languages, and databases… When mac can do that.. Until then keep your expensive, non-compatible OS.

    Oh yea and IPhone: Watch out droid is going to eat your market right up. Thanks to verizon for jumping on it!

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/redwall_hp redwall_hp

      I, too, come from "the real world of servers, progamming languages, and databases." It can "do that." OSX has a Unix core, which makes it a decent server OS, but it's cheaper to use Linux for servers, rather than paying for pricey XServes. There isn't anything "non-compatible" about OSX. It has X11, and runs a good portion of *nix software. Windows is the only "non-compatible" OS.

      As for Droid: Let me know when it can keep up with sales of the first-generation iPhone. So far one half of the 200,000 units made have been sold, while the original iPhone sold 700,000 units in it's first week alone.

      P.S. Your comment had nothing to do with the article. The post was not debating Mac OS X's merits as an operating system; it was highlighting design principles that it follows. Keep your comments on topic in the future.