Apple Store Oddity – They don't want my money!

Heading on MacBook Pro PageI was browsing the Apple UK store today, trying to decide whether it’s actually time to put my money into a new MacBook Pro, and I noticed something very strange. And it’s strange on two levels, multiple layers of strangeness even. I’m talking about the page you arrive at having selected to purchase a MacBook Pro. As with most online stores, Apple have listed a number of items and upgrades they think would go well with your shiny new MBP. Yet, even though they have gone for this tried and tested way of increasing sales, they haven’t followed it through with much conviction.

Software Options when buying a MBPConsider the section of the page in the screenshot to the left. You can buy various pieces of software to use on your MBP but strangely, they have used Radio Buttons to select them. It’s worth noting that from a usability point of view, there are various reasons for choosing each type of form element on a web page. Radio Buttons mean you can select one and only one option. No more, no less (typically). Usually, Radio Button elements are used to limit the choices a user can make. Are you Male or Female? You can only be one, so this would warrant a Radio Button element to choose. Check Boxes are different. Check Boxes allow for none, one or more than one options to be selected.

So let me ask you the question, if you were designing a web store and wanted to generate as many sales as possible, would you limit your customers to only one piece of software on the purchase page? No, neither would I. There are a couple of reasons you may want to, for example if the software was mutually exclusive (i.e. buy iPhoto if you’re an amateur, Aperture if you’re a Pro), but this isn’t the case here. There is only one reason I can come up with for Apple making this design decision, usability and the impact it has on customer’s perceptions. Imagine finding a check box form element on this page. Apple would haveto default to having nothing selected as opposed to selecting a “None” option by default (the concept of a “None” selection doesn’t work with Check Boxes). A user could select whichever product they wanted and move on, which is fine until you find yourself in the situation of a user wanting to change their mind. This means that they have to click the option again, which almost seems counter-intuitive when compared to the “None” selection available when using a Radio List.

Counter-intuitive? I bet you’re questioning that statement, and you’d be right to. It isn’t counter-intuitive to me, and it probably isn’t to you. But it may be to people who aren’t familiar with internet mechanics. For these people they have accidentally selected to purchase something and now can’t intuitively de-select it. This will leave a sour taste in people’s mouths. If you find yourself questioning my logic, consider this. You are wondering around a supermarket and you decide you fancy some steaks, so you put them in your basket and carry on your merry way. A few minutes later you realise that your date for the night is a vegetarian, so those steaks aren’t going to be popular. Now how do you get them out of your basket? Do you put them back on the shelf (i.e. select the “None” option) or do you try and put them into your basket again (i.e. clicking the radio button again to de-select it). You can scoff at my logic all you want, but this is how some people will see it.

I have to say though, despite Apple trying to target the sorts of consumers that may not be familiar with computers and the internet, it seems as if the amount of extra possible sales would far outweigh the possible confusions.   What would you do if you were Apple?   Or do you think I’ve put more thought into it than the store designers?