The random endorsement: Regular buttons (touch-based ones are dumb)


Who here likes buttons? Like, honest-to-God buttons that you push and then something happens? I do. It’s one of the reasons why I’m fairly nonplussed by the iPhone. (All the pre-launch THIS WILL CHANGE THE WORLD nonsense also bothered me, too.) I’m not trying to be all “unreasonable” or anything, but I simply prefer the feeling I get when pushing a physical button. Hence, before they go the way of the Knicks, my endorsement of buttons today. Rule Britannia.

Just because I endorse, so to speak, buttons doesn’t mean I don’t recognize that touchscreens and other touch-based inputs aren’t the future. I know they are. That’s why we’ve got things like the Surface hotting up, and cellphone after cellphone ditching buttons in favor of touchscreens. I myself have a cellphone (a first gen LG Chocolate) that lacks physical buttons. And you know what? The touch there stinks on ice.

I’ll slide the dumb phone open and, oh, say, 40 percent of the time the “touch” buttons don’t respond. It’s like I never even tried to push them. Or, if I’m lucky, I’ll push one touch button or whatever it’s called and a different will react. I tap down, it goes up. Brilliant.

I don’t mean to make this entire piece a rant against my POS phone; I do that every other post as it it. So I’ll just move on from that now.

Buttons, physical buttons, simply feel more natural to me. At least they do now in 2008. Who knows, maybe in a few years we’ll all be like, “Man, buttons are dumb. I’m so glad we have holographic interfaces.” But we’re not in Batman Beyond’s world quite yet. I don’t care how great it is for interface designers to not have to deal with crushing issues like button placement. I don’t care whether or not haptic technology makes the whole touchscreen experience just a little bit more like pushing a real button. Why re-invent the wheel? When I order a burger, I want a burger. Pizza is good, fine, but that’s not what I want.

I know I can’t be alone in this real button crusade. My normal “what’s a blue ray, a type of fish?” friends are more comfortable with regular buttons. Hand them the Chocolate or whatever Phone of the Week (with haptic!) I have and they bristle. “So I just touch the screen? That’s weird.” Even controlling for their technologically incompetence, which is significant, it’s hard to ask someone who’s been hard wired to push buttons forever to forget all that and move onto a new system.

Basically, I prefer real buttons to this touch nonsense. For now, at least. Like I said, my opinion may well change as my touch-whatever talent points increase, but for now, give me real buttons or… well, not “give me death,” but something equally dramatic.