While wasting time on YouTube the other night, I came across this Computerphile video (a spinoff of the Numberphile series) on Fitts’s Law and its application to graphical user interfaces. It’s appalling in the number of things it gets wrong, especially with regard to the Mac.
As a warmup, let’s start with the things that are only half wrong.
Contextual menus (about 4:20 in the video)
“You don’t need to make any movement whatsoever. So that is a target that’s really, really easy to get to.”
It is true that contextual menus pop up right where your cursor is, but that doesn’t necessarily mean there’s zero cursor movement involved. The context of a contextual menu—the thing you are interested in operating on with an item from the menu—is the thing under the cursor, e.g., a file icon or a selected text string. While it may be true that the thing of interest is already under the cursor (like selected text right after you’ve made the selection), it often isn’t. And when it isn’t (the usual case when the thing of interest is a file) you have to move the cursor to the target, and in those common cases the contextual menu is no easier to use than any other operation that requires targeting the cursor.
Corners and the X button (5:20)
“If you put a target in the corners of the screen, what you have essentially done there is create a target that is infinitely wide.”
Again, it is absolutely true that the edges of the screen are infinitely wide in a Fitts sense. And the corners are infinitely wide (actually semi-infinite, because they have a definite beginning but no definite end) in two directions, which makes them easier to hit than any of the other edge locations. But the example used for this principle, the X button in Windows, is only in the top right corner of the screen if you’ve expanded the window to full screen. Otherwise, it’s just a normal target.
I’ve noticed that less sophisticated Windows users, and users who typically work in just one app at a time, do tend to keep their windows fully expanded. For these users, the X really is infinite in two directions. But even for these users, how valuable is this? Should the easiest action to accomplish in an app be to quit it? Maybe for some apps, but not in general.1
At this point, Dr. Wiseman goes off the rails, saying things about the Mac user interface that are just plain wrong. The errors come on so rapidly and are so intertwined that it’s hard to separate them.
The Mac close box (6:00)
“Then I think Apple brought it [the X button] down and made it into a circle, so they made the target from being infinitely massive to a tiny little circle… which is kind of silly of them.”
Now you see what set me off, don’t you?
The clear implication is that Apple took Microsoft’s wonderful X button and ruined it by making it smaller. Surely a researcher in Human Computer Interaction knows that the Mac came before Windows, so why suggest the opposite?
Maybe she’s not implying Windows came first. Maybe she means Apple ruined the infinitely massive X button Xerox used in the Alto or Star. Nope.
As anyone familiar with Apple GUI history knows, the current circular close button evolved from its own earlier square close box. It wasn’t shrunken down from a significantly larger interface widget.
Even if Apple were to expand its close button to fill the corner of the window, it still couldn’t be put in the corner of the screen because the top of a Mac screen is taken up by the menu bar. The menus, therefore, which are accessed repeatedly during normal use of an app, are infinitely large in one dimension. This is not a coincidence. Apple deliberately designed the user interface this way to take advantage of Fitts’s Law for common actions. How do I know this? Because back in the 80s when I started using a Mac, you couldn’t read an article on its user interface that didn’t mention Fitts’s law and the menu bar. Read anything by Bruce Tognazzi or Jef Raskin.
Quitting (or closing a window—we’ll get to that in a bit) is a destructive action. Apple didn’t think it was a good idea to make destructive actions the easiest ones. Dr. Wiseman may disagree, but it’s wrong to suggest Apple was being thoughtless or silly.
The close button on a Mac is not the same as the X button on Windows. While there are some exceptions (single-window apps), the close button typically closes the window without quitting the app.
The close button on a Mac is, of course not in the upper right corner of a window, it’s in the upper left. This is more an indication of laziness (or ignorance) on the part of the video editor than a user interface issue, but I couldn’t resist mentioning it.
One of the things Mac users pointed out when Windows came out (apart from all the copying) was that Microsoft’s decision to attach its menus to the app windows meant that its users couldn’t take advantage of Fitt’s Law when accessing menu commands. I’ve often wondered whether the enormous toolbars so common to Windows apps nowadays are an attempt to make up for that.
And Apple does allow its users to take advantage of the infinite Fitts size of corners for quick actions, but they are limited to system-wide actions (since the screen corners aren’t associated with any particular app) that aren’t destructive.
You can fling the pointer into a corner to perform any of these actions—no need to click—but nothing bad happens if the pointer wanders into a corner by accident.
The original Mac/Lisa interface designers spent a lot of time thinking about Fitts’s Law and other interaction matters. That we’re still using most of what they came up with three and half decades later is strong evidence that they knew what they were doing.2
It is, however, definitely important to be able to quit, as newbie vi users can attest (:q!). ↩
Overall, I’d say they did a better job than the iPhone/iOS designers, much of whose work is being redone to make the iPhone and iPad ready for their second decades. ↩
I don’t live in Cleveland or Akron. I live, and grew up, just north of Detroit, in an inner-ring suburb known for Thai and Vietnamese restaurants and multiple expressways.
I didn’t live in the midwest for LeBron’s first run with the Cavs. I lived in Philadelphia, a city that was sports-crazy in its own aggro east-coast way, but didn’t live and die with its sports teams in the same all-enveloping way. Any city with an Ivy League campus has pockets of people who don’t notice sports at all.
When LeBron moved to Miami, I moved to New York. It made sense for both of us; a better job on a bigger stage, hopefully a better life. But soon enough, we were both headed back to the Midwest; we were both headed back home.
The Midwest is sports-crazy; the midwest is sports-starved. Free agents don’t want to play here. Owners don’t want to spend money. Championships cluster on the coasts.
When teams like the Warriors win, it’s compounded good news for a team moving to take advantage of San Francisco’s riches. When the Cubs or Packers or Cavs win, we talk about century-long curses lifted, quaint tales of tiny markets that could, and the uplift of entire regions.
Of the twenty best basketball players who ever played, nine of them have played for the Los Angeles Lakers. (Yes, I’m counting Karl Malone.) Only two ever played for Cleveland. (One of them was washed-up Shaq.)
Three of the best five — LeBron, Jordan, and Kareem — played in the Midwest. Two of them left for LA.
It was special to have LeBron James in the Midwest. In the age of player empowerment he ushered in, to play for a man he hated, at a time when blue states have flipped to red, when billionaire oligarchs are buying up whole cities, and the national discourse tries to erase everything in the region but its white reactionaries, LeBron was the best of us. He stood up, somehow taller and more regal than the sea of tall, regal men, unafraid to tell the truth. Through Ferguson, through Tamir Rice, through Trump and Trumpism, he stood up and told the truth. I won’t forget it.
He also dragged four outmatched teams to four straight Finals through sheer talent, intelligence, and force of will. I won’t forget that either.
I’m not happy he’s going to the Lakers. (As a Pistons and Sixers fan, we have history. However, I am cool with him getting out of the Eastern Conference.) But I’m happy in the hope that he will get to be happy.
Update: Strongly recommend today’s The Lowe Post podcast with Zach Lowe and Brian Windhorst, which digs into the tick-tock and the fallout of LeBron going to the Lakers, including some midwestern angst over what it means as a midwesterner to have so many of the good players bound to the coastal metropoles.
Introducing the all new Watchtower – it is absolutely gorgeous, and appears to be rather timely!
Twitter asked their 330 million users to change their password yesterday due to a security snafu, putting privacy and security at the forefront of everyone’s mind once again.
1Password includes Watchtower, with its suite of security tools, making it the easiest and most comprehensive way for you to check the security of all your passwords.
With a click of a button, Watchtower audits your passwords against a wide range of security vulnerabilities giving you an easy to read report with simple steps on how to fix any issues it finds.
Let’s take a look at some of the defences.
On the lookout for breaches
Watchtower will automatically notify you if there’s been a security breach for a website you use. A bright red bar that’s pretty darn hard to miss will display across the top of the item, prompting you to change the password for that site.
Please excuse me while I hop away for a sec and go change that Twitter password.
A vanguard for pwned passwords
Watchtower can check your passwords to see if any have been exposed in a breach. Integrating with Troy Hunt’s haveibeenpwned.com service, your passwords are checked against over 500 million exposed passwords, highlighting any that are found.
To keep your passwords private, Troy found a brilliant way to check if passwords have been leaked without ever sending your password to his service.
Strong, unique passwords are your greatest defence
Using strong, unique passwords for every website is your surest way to keep safe. When a website is breached and your password compromised, that password can be used to sign in to other websites that use the same one. If you’ve reused that password elsewhere, you’re putting all those sites at risk.
Watchtower not only shows you which of your passwords should be stronger, it also alerts you when you’re using the same passwords for more than one website.
Now would be a great time to use Watchtower to see if you reused your Twitter password for your bank account
A second line of defence
Enabling two-factor authentication (2FA) on websites is a great way to keep your accounts there safe. Watchtower will now let you know about websites you have saved in 1Password that support 2FA, but don’t have it enabled.
Watchtower not only looks out for your passwords, but for you as well. It will now warn you if one of your credit cards, driver’s licenses, or passports are expiring soon, making sure you aren’t scrambling to make last-minute arrangements.
Here in Canada you can’t travel internationally if your passport expires within 6 months, so this can be a real life saver if you have that long-planned vacation coming up soon.
Try today with your 1Password membership
Watchtower is available today, so it’s time to give it a try now!
The easiest way to improve your wardrobe is to take things to the alterations tailor. Since clothes are designed for an idealized body, they often fit everyone and no one in particular at the same time. That means you can often improve the look of your clothes by having things nipped and tucked here and there – taking in the waist or shortening the sleeves, adjusting the length of your trousers so they fall perfectly over your shoes. For a few bucks, you can get off-the-rack clothes that look 90% on their way to being custom made.
Tailors are a bit like barbers. It can take a bit of work to find a good one, and once you do, you should hold on to them for dear life. The quality of your alterations depends on the quality of your tailor – and finding one in your area isn’t always easy. Here are three ways you can go about it:
If you live in a big US city, search clothing boards such as StyleForum, Reddit’s Male Fashion Advice, and Ask Andy About Clothes. Denizens there are often a bit more discerning than most when it comes to quality tailoring, and they’ll be able to point you in the right direction. The downside? Since most members are based in major US cities, you’re more likely to find suggestions if you live in or around a major cosmopolitan center. If you don’t, you may need to try some other strategy.
Another way is to search for recommendations through local upscale establishments. These can be anything from small, independent menswear boutiques carrying brands you admire to large department stores such as Saks Fifth Avenue and Neiman Marcus. Or they could be single brand shops such as Ralph Lauren or Tom Ford flagships. They may also be high-end hotels, such as the Four Seasons or Ritz Carlton.
Ask the managers there if they have suggestions. Some clothing stores have in-house tailors they rely on for alterations, but many will send out work to a local shop. Others, such as hotels, may just be plugged into the local network for high-end services. Call a few places, ask for recommendations, and see if one or two names keep popping up. If you can narrow in on a consensus among some trusted sources, it’s likely those places do good work.
Failing that, there’s always Yelp. Yelp reviewers aren’t always the most reliable, and just because a place is rated well doesn’t necessarily mean it’s good. But trawling Yelp for recommendations will be better than just venturing out on your own. Hedge your bets with a new shop by sending in something inconsequential or easy – say, hemming a pair of cheap chinos or altering an affordable button-up. Once you’ve established they do reliable work, you can slowly move your way up to more complicated jobs. Don’t throw in all your chips at once. Save major surgery jobs for when you’ve confirmed the tailor is good.
Let’s start with this: almost any alteration can be done, it just depends on how much you’re willing to pay. At a certain point, the job becomes so complicated and expensive, you’re better off finding something better off-the-rack. This is the difference between converting a car into a drop-top convertible and just buying that convertible outright. Sometimes it’s better to just purchase the thing you want and adjust at the margins.
Figuring out what can be altered heavily depends on a case-by-case basis. There aren’t any hard and fast rules here, but there are some basic principals you may want to consider.
The more complicated the alterations or garment, the more expensive the job. Again, it’s good to keep costs in mind here. Suit jackets and sport coats are more complicated to alter than shirts, and thus alterations are more expensive. Similarly, if a casual jacket has some unusual, hard-to-modify details – such as a leather jacket with unusually placed studs – it may be difficult to work around those parameters. When judging something off the rack, take into account the extremity of the alteration needed, where the alteration needs to take place, and the complexity of the garment’s construction. All of these will factor into your costs.
Make sure the garment fits in certain places. You generally want certain areas to fit perfectly off-the-rack. Jackets, shirts, and sweaters, for example, ought to fit perfectly through the chest and shoulders at the outset. If the chest and shoulders don’t fit right from the get-go, put the item back. Similarly, trousers should fit well through the thighs and seat. Getting those areas altered can be difficult, if not impossible.
What are some common alterations? Some alterations are so common, you almost don’t even need to think about them. Suit jackets and sport coats often have a bit of a roll between the shoulder blades, which can be taken out for cheap. Sleeves are commonly taken up (although the job can be a little more difficult with working buttonholes). The waist on shirts and jackets are often nipped; trousers are frequently always hemmed; and the waistband on pants can be taken in or let out within reason. You can also taper trousers and jeans from the knee down, giving them a bit more shape. See this post for a list of common alterations.
Consider the material. Wool garments can sometimes be easier to alter, especially if you’re looking to let out things, because the surface nap covers up any holes. Crisp linens, fine cottons, and especially leather, however, will leave visible holes.
It’s easier to take things in than let things out. The reason is because, in order to let out a garment, you need enough material inside (what tailors call a seam allowance). Most companies don’t build in that much seam allowance, however, because doing so costs money. So, if you’re shopping off-the-rack and something feels a bit tight, your best bet is often to just size up. See this post on our guide for letting out clothes.
Can This Be Altered? The answer is almost always yes, yes, and yes. But not all tailors have the equipment or skills necessary to do every job, so sometimes you need to find a specialist. See these posts for how to alter leather jackets, sweaters, and neckties (your local alterations shop can likely take care of the rest).
When it comes to getting good alterations, half the battle is finding a good tailor. The other half is having a good eye. While you should always rely on your tailor’s advice, you should also pay attention to some key areas:
Collar Gap: This is numero uno when it comes to making sure your garment fits well – particularly for suits and sport coats, but also casualwear. With few exceptions, such as mountain parkas, all jackets should stay glued onto your neck, even when you’re moving around (again, within reason). A collar gap is when the jacket hovers from your neck, suggesting that maybe the cut and fit aren’t quite right (see above). Jesse wrote an excellent explainer a few years ago.
Unfortunately, it’s not clear whether a collar gap can be fixed. “A lot depends on the exact cause, the severity, and the make of the jacket,” says Chris Despos, a bespoke tailor in Chicago. “If the shoulders need to be squared up, there’s only so much you can do before you cause other kinds of issues. If the back needs to be shifted, you’re limited by how much extra cloth is available at the hem. It’s hard to diagnosis these things without seeing a client in person.“ Your best bet, says Chris, is to take things into a local alterations tailor and be prepared to return the garment if things don’t work out.
Shoulder Divot: The dreaded shoulder divot was once the mark of pure shame on clothing boards. And it’s still one of the most common fit defects on suits and sport coats. The term refers to the small indentation that can happen on the upper part of the sleeveheads, which ruins the otherwise clean line running down from the jacket’s shoulder and into the sleeves (see the photo above).
People often think this happens because the shoulders are too wide, but it’s actually the opposite. While shoulder divots can occur from poor workmanship or design, they’re often because the jacket’s shoulders are too narrow for the wearer. You can get this fixed at a local alterations tailor, but the job is often complicated, expensive, and can cause other issues (letting the jacket out along the back seam, for example, can cause mismatched patterns). Instead, just size up. Tutto Fatto a Mano has a great post about this.
Sleeve Pitch: For suits and sport coats, sometimes the sleeves don’t hang smoothly because their rotation – or pitch – don’t match the natural pitch of your arms. So, when you’re standing naturally, if your arm is a little too pushed back or forward, it can cause wrinkling along the front or back of the sleeve. A StyleForum member once put together a nice little illustration showing this effect. The good news is that a tailor can usually alter this for you.
The Back of Trousers: When you’re at your tailor’s, utilize that three-way mirror and see how your trousers hang from the back – it’s one of the easiest things to miss. You can always see how trousers hang from the front, but it’s often the seat and the backs of the legs that have issues. These areas should drape cleanly, like you see here on Panta’s custom-made trousers. To be sure, you probably can’t get something to fit that exact off-the-rack, but it’s better to be closer to the ideal than not. The good news is that these issues can sometimes be adjusted by a local alterations tailor, but a lot depends on the exact cause of the problems, the severity of the issues, and the make of the garment (much like a coat’s collar gap). See our post on common fit issues with trousers.
Cuffs and Breaks: If you’re sending in pants, decide beforehand how you feel about cuffs and breaks. Whether you cuff your trousers is a personal choice, although they should be left off the most formal of suits, such as tuxedos. We have a full guide on cuffs here. Breaks, on the other hand, are a bit more by-the-rules. The break of your trousers is where the hem touches the shoes, and unless you’re wearing something fashion forward or avant-garde, you should avoid things that are either pooling around your ankles or cropped. Instead, go for either a full break, slight break, or no break at all – but make sure the hem of your pants are still touching the shoes. Again, we have a full guide on breaks here.
Darting Shirts: One of the most common alterations jobs is slimming down a shirt. And depending on your body, you may find that you can’t get as much out as you want through the side seams alone. In such cases, you can consider darting the back. You can see an example of a darted shirt above (the faint lines near the sides of the shirt are darts).
Darts are folds that have been pinched and then sewn into a garment. They’re basically a way to add shape – turning a flat piece of cloth into something with curves. When put into the back of a shirt, they do two things. First, they’ll take out the fullness at the lower back, helping reveal that hollowed shape. As a result, you’ll have a bit more of a sculpted look. Second, they’ll help slim down the shirt when the tailor can’t take any more out of the side seams. See here for our full guide on darting shirts. (Pro tip: Tutto Fatto a Mano has a cool post here about darting jeans so they better cover a prominent seat. Maybe something your local tailor can also do for you).
Rely On Your Tailor’s Advice. Don’t micromanage the process too much. If you get a good tailor, he or she should be able to guide you towards better decisions. Rely on them for their advice. They’re the professional, after all.
Pay Attention to Fit. With that said, the tailor isn’t here to style you. Go into this process with an eye for how you’d like clothes to fit (we have tons of guides). You should also decide on things such as cuffing and breaks, as mentioned above. And be wary of going too slim. A tailor can always take in a garment, at least as much as your body will allow, but that doesn’t mean it’ll look good. Getting clothes slimmed down too much is the most common mistake of new and overeager customers.
Take Things Slowly. Can’t decide between cuffing and not cuffing trousers? When in doubt, always cuff. Because while you can always remove them, you can’t put cuffs into trousers if there’s not enough material. Similarly, if you’re unsure about a certain alteration, err on the side of caution. Certain things can’t be reversed, so try living with a detail or cut for a while before deciding how you feel about it.
Wear the Right Clothes. When bringing things to your tailor, you’ll typically try on the garment in front of them, so he or she can pin and chalk things at the right places. That means you should be wearing the kind of clothes you plan to wear with the item. So, if you’re bringing in a suit, arrive in your dress shoes and dress shirt. If you’re sending in a casual coat, bring along a sweater. This way, you and your tailor can get a better sense of what needs to be done in order to get these outfits to look right.
Account for Movement. Don’t forget to account for movement. Shirt sleeves should be long enough so that the cuff stays at your wrist when you move your arms. Linen garments wrinkle, which means it’s ok for sleeves and trousers to be a little longer than usual – they’ll come up to the right length once you wear them for a few hours. And trousers ride up a bit when you walk, so be careful of getting things too short. Otherwise, too much of your ankle will show when you hit your stride or sit down.
The Makeshift Shoe Horn. Sometimes, when changing in and out of pants, your tailor may not have a shoehorn. In these cases, use something like your credit card. A thick plastic card, when placed between your heel and shoe, basically does the same trick.
THE TAILORS WE USE
Put This On’s team is spread across five cities, so we thought we’d put together a list of the tailors we use. To be sure, these aren’t the only reputable establishments in these areas, just the tailors we’ve personally relied on for years and can vouch for. If you happen to live in or near these cities, and don’t already have a tailor, consider these places. We think they do exceptional work.