I D E A S      

Macintosh myopia?

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Issue 10   |   April 2000  


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...the world sees this on a PC
Before you make any assumptions, let me say upfront that I love Macs. I bought my first (128K RAM, 9" B&W screen) in 1985. I now own four (a mint-condition 512Ke, Centris 610, PowerMac 8600, G3 Powerbook)
. This website is created on a Mac. So what's the problem?

The problem is that I'm in a small minority, as are you if you're reading this on a Mac. The colors you & I see appear somewhat lighter than they do on a PC monitor. The text you & I read looks about 30% larger to someone using a PC. And the reality is that virtually everyone but us IS using a PC.

32% of the visitors to this website, mostly designers & design educators, use Macs. This has held steady for the last 6 months.

What about on the Web overall: how many people use Macs?

a) 10%
b) 5%
c) 2%

The answer is c) 2%.

(Statistics from 500,000 websites provided by theCounter.com)

This has to have implications for us as designers, unless we choose to ignore it. At the very least it makes our job a little harder because we constantly have to check to see that our images look as good on the PC as the do on the Mac. We need to check how the text flows on both platforms since larger text can wreak havoc with our carefully planned line breaks.

Actually, though, I'm less concerned with how individual designers deal with this issue. I'm very concerned that as educators we may be passing a myopic and unrealistic Mac-centered view on to our students.

This came home to me last week as I lectured my Web Design students on the importance of designing for both Windows & Mac systems. I told them to be sure that their work looks good on the PC, since most of the world sees it that way. Then I looked around the lab I was teaching in. All Macs. No PCs. Not one. How seriously should a student take my comments when we don't even have a single PC for them to use in the lab?

I've taught in four different college/university design programs and there wasn't a single PC to be found in the graphics labs.
None. Zero. Nada.

The problem doesn't only affect web design, though that's where it's most obvious. It also comes up when we develop interactive presentations using Macromedia Director. We can make self-running projectors so that anyone with a Mac can experience our work. But without a PC running a Windows version of Director we can't make something to show the PC world: most of our friends, families, and potential employers.

The solution seems obvious and easy: create labs that have both Macs and PCs so that students can learn both and test their work on both. My dream lab would have alternating workstations so students could easily work back and forth. (It would also have soft lighting and comfortable areas for discussion and conversation away from the computers, but that's another article.)

Such an obvious solution to a well-known problem, but is anyone doing it? Many educators I've talked with about lab facilities ask the question "Mac OR PC?" not "Mac AND PC." There seems to be a reluctance to admit that as much as we love the Mac for its style and grace, we may have to adjust to a world that doesn't see things our way.

I was very happy to hear that Cuyahoga Community College, where I teach computer-based design courses, is building a new lab that will include several PCs. Not my ideal, but a step in the right direction.

What's the situation at your school?

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