According to Apple, Ergonomics is Ugly


Looks like there is a big problem with the ultra sleek Magic Mouse. Even though it has kick ass design, it apparently gives people wrist aches. Will, a racecar part designer over at MMFixed, has designed a silicone pad solution that he claims fixes this problem.
It looks like this little product hack does the job, but I can’t help thinking: does sleek mean giving up on usability? Does this also mean that making a product ergonomic makes a design ugly and complicated? I.e. if we contrast my last statement with Apple’s design language, which is about going sleek, clean and uncomplicated. Then again it’s probably a brand thing, no?

The Problem
Being a fan of Apple products I picked up a Magic Mouse a few days after it launched. After using it for a week I was hooked on its multi-touch surface, but it was awkward to hold and after an hour or two of using it I would develop a pain in my wrist. Looking into the problem further, I found out that a large majority of Magic Mouse owners were having similar problems and all of the online product reviews I read revealed the same flaw. The Magic Mouse does not contour to the users hand. So, being a product designer and manufacturer, I decided to see what I could do to fix it.

It continues to surprise me the things Apple, as a brand, get away with. What surprises me even more, is that Apple’s rabid fans jump in to help them out, and the world of Apple accessories gains another 3rd party product that “fixes” Apple’s design problems.
Still, a damn good looking mouse though! Check out Will doing a product demo in the video below.

Magic Mouse Fixed from mmfixed.com on Vimeo.

If you are interesting in buying the USD$10 bumper pad, check it out at MMFixed.

14 Comments
  • Mike Doell

    March 18, 2010 at 10:10 pm Reply

    Its interesting that you open by describing it as “kick ass design” then go on to discuss the products shortcomings.
    Not a criticism just an observation.

  • Parvenu

    March 18, 2010 at 10:35 pm Reply

    I don’t know where the problem is. I use Magic Mouse at my job but I just don’t feel the urge to rest my whole palm on it. I don’t know what people need to rest their palms on their mice. Probably anyone who’se used to those big, ugly “ergonomical” pointing devices. Anyone who thinks this silicone device is of any use just has the wrong mouse. I hope Apple keeps their mice so sleek and, well, challenging to use the right way.

  • Martin Jacobson

    March 18, 2010 at 11:11 pm Reply

    Agreed!
    I have a serious concern about the fact that the IDSA has awarded IDEA Gold awards to the iPhone 3Gs, the new MacBook Pro, etc.
    Take the iPhone. It has sleek lines, and gorgeous interaction. However:
    – It has soldered-in batteries (bad for the user)
    – It’s a slippery little bugger, meaning you have two options:
    1. buy a case (altering the clean lines of the design intent)
    2. drop it in the first year of ownership (bad for the user) – everyone I know who uses an iPhone without a case has cracked a screen in the first year of ownership.
    These are products which have soldered-in batteries (again, bad for the user). Additionally, they are far overpriced for what they are – well-styled computing devices with a nice interface. They are no longer the serious tools they used to be in the 90s, when Windows was basically useless.
    So I argue that Apple should not get an IDEA award for this reason:
    – Value is the ratio of (Benefit to the user) / (Cost) . If you increase the cost, the value goes down. (Classic example is bottled water – the benefit is that it’s clean water, the cost is that it’s got the Voss label on it, so it’s $5 a pop.)
    – The purpose of design is to add Value to the product for the benefit of the user.
    – When the cost of the product is jacked up so high that the use of design has not added value significantly (i.e., it’s a better product, yes, but is it really 2x better? 5x better (in the case of the Mac Pro)?
    – So they have used “design” for marketing purposes. It is not a design achievement, it is a marketing achievement.
    – If they had kept the price at a reasonable premium instead of an insane premium, then I would be all in favor of their design success. However, I cannot be, for the reasons above.
    Keep up the good work. I have learned quite a bit from your insights, and your links to other sites.

  • Michael Wendell

    March 18, 2010 at 11:33 pm Reply

    The biggest problem with Apple is that they fall in love with their initial designs, and ignore some pretty major usability pitfalls to maintain consistency with an overall vision. Rather than address real usability issues, they cultivate an air of superiority in that sense, leading people to believe that, if they can’t do something, they’re not using the device ‘properly’. No Mr. Jobs, if I want to use my iPhone while I’m lying on my side, i SHOULD be able to turn off the auto-rotate feature.
    I think the idea presented by one of the commenters, that Apple should keep their mice ‘challenging’ to use, is a perfect example of the idea they’re promoting, that “Apple is right, and if it doesn’t work you’re just doing it wrong”.

  • DT

    March 19, 2010 at 12:04 am Reply

    Hey guys, thanks for all the comments! So many so quick, must be a record for this blog! Thanks for stopping by and sharing your thoughts.
    @mike: Hey Mike, good observation and it’s fully intentional. Apple is like that. Here is how, I would also put it, “I love this product, but it sucks”!
    @martin: Nice analysis, but I think their selection criteria is a lot more than this. It is how they weigh and prioritize the strengths and weaknesses. Thanks for the feedback!
    @Michael: LOL. Indeed great quote, and I hate this side-rotate problem as well.
    @Parvenu: Looks like ergonomics is ugly. 😉

  • Parvenu

    March 19, 2010 at 12:23 am Reply

    @Michael Wendell: I sense bitterness in your heart.
    I’m a bit angered at your comment given that you ignore most of what I wrote just to pick the last line as to present me as a dumb fanboy.
    What I said is that I never felt the urge to rest my whole hand on any mouse and I will add to that that I don’t feel that a mouse should be that way, just as much as I don’t feel a pen should be “ergonomic”. By the way, I have an ergonomic pen here and I think it’s horrible to use. My hands and arms have something called muscles and I use these muscles to hold and move things. The moment you need something that’s ergonomic is actually the moment where it’s too late because you have obviously neglected your musculature while resting your arms and hands in whatever unhealthy posture that offered itself to you. Like a pen, the aplle mouse wants you to use your muscles instead of resting your atrophic hands on some hand-shaped device.
    Now if you would like me to get started on Apple, I could go on and on but I just don’t agree on that point. OK?

  • Parvenu

    March 19, 2010 at 12:27 am Reply

    P.S. Believe it or not, I’m the only one in the company who sits on a wooden chair. And I love it. Anyone else would possibly request a sylicon cushion on that thing 😀

  • William Sutton

    March 19, 2010 at 3:51 am Reply

    This topic came up today regarding smartphone designs that were iPhone knock-offs (for form). the iPhone seems to be inspired by a slippery bar of soap–after my first broken screen, I got one of those heavy-duty tough cases by Speck….
    But why are the competitors to the iPhone choosing the same shape, rather than addressing what are arguable flaws? It seems to me that there is some room for improvement! Why not pick-up an iphone-shaped block of clay and “squeeze” some ergonomics into it!? (then you could just use that as a pattern to make a phone a little less likely to slip out of your hand)

  • Parvenu

    March 19, 2010 at 7:24 am Reply

    …coliani…

  • Jan

    March 19, 2010 at 10:00 pm Reply

    there a few ways to control a mice with your hand but in general there are “arm movers” which rest their palm on the mouse and the mice mover (me) which move the mouse inside their hand under theri palm.
    anyway i get the design, I get the problem, but i hate apples arrogance on this.
    secon problem with the mouse is there is no real middle mouse click (hold) without a hacked driver and on windows nothing …
    I think almost every reader of this site has to do with 3D apps somehow so how do you navigate in 3D Space ?
    regards mogh

  • john

    March 24, 2010 at 5:36 pm Reply

    I’ve been using a portable-size Logitech Bluetooth mouse in my home work environment for the past year and a half. It served its purpose, but it’s slowly been dying: mis-clicking, not clicking at all, clicking 20 times from a single click. On my Mac rig at the day job, I use a Mighty Mouse, with the grey nipple of doom. It gets clogged far too easily, and more frequently, the longer it’s been in use. When I saw the Magic Mouse on its launch day — multi-touch support, sleek and slim, nipple-less — I purchased it via the Store immediately. It looked like just what the doctor ordered.

  • Saikat

    July 10, 2010 at 4:15 pm Reply

    Just found that this mouse won the “Best of best of product design 2010” at Red dot . I find it quite strange…
    What do you think is their criteria for the ‘best of the best’?!
    http://de.red-dot.org/2775.html?&cHash=a4cee31dfb589c28ec1988722e99e8ac&detail=7554&year=0

  • Amy

    June 24, 2011 at 1:44 am Reply

    This is a cool mouse. Apple could do ergonomics but it would not fit a certain % of the market. Everyone willbe able to use the magic mouse. I use the DXT Mouse and the magic mouse which is a good combinantion.

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