Apple tends to do something very special with their products that other companies miss — they get the tiny details perfect. I disagree with some of their larger features and goals, but when they do something, they do it right.
Going all the way back to the Apple II, Steve Jobs insisted that the chips on the motherboard be lined up perfectly, even though they weren’t going to be seen by anyone. For things that would be seen, Jobs was even more precise.
In the book “Inside Steve’s Brain“, a few more anecdotes from Jobs were shared. First was how closely he looked at prototype details:
When they showed the working code to Jobs, he’d lean forward, his nose to the screen, and examine them closely, moving from the demo to the prototype and back again. “He would compare them pixel by pixel to see if they matched,” Ratzlaff said. “He was way down into the details. He would scrutinize everything, down to the pixel level.” If they didn’t match, Ratzlaff said, “some engineer would get yelled at.”
Jobs wanted absolute perfection, which made him a tough guy to work for, but produced amazing products. If you’ve studied Jobs much, though, the paragraph above wasn’t too surprising.
What was surprising was what followed. Most computers and phones have scrollbars on them for when there is additional content that doesn’t fit on the screen, and you likely have a scrollbar wrapping around this content right now. Most scrollbars seem pretty simple, but it took Apple six months to get the scrollbars just right for Steve. Again from the book:
Incredibly, Ratzlaff’s team spent six months refining the scrollbars to Jobs’s satisfaction. Scrollbars are an important part of any computer operating system but are hardly the most visible element of the user interface. Nonetheless, Jobs insisted the scrollbars look just so, and Ratzlaff’s team had to design version after version. “It had to be done right,” said Ratzlaff, laughing at the effort that went into such a seemingly minor detail.
Big ideas can be amazing, but the magic is in the details. Working that hard on things like scrollbars seems crazy, and perhaps it was, but that attention to detail in every area is what makes Apple so well-loved.