Buttons and patterns: The devil is in the details

I’m not going crazy. But I thought I was, because of appointment invitations.

I couldn’t figure out what was going on. I’d receive an invitation, click or tap the accept button (depending on the device), and then discover it wasn’t in my calendar. It was driving me crazy. Clients would call me to ask why I had declined their invitations. I was sure there was a software bug. I scoured the iCal knowledge base, but to no avail. Maybe it was the fault of those pesky Outlook users. It must be Microsoft’s fault, I thought.

Then the other day I found the problem. Here’s what the bottom of an invitation looks like in iCal.

iCal (Lion) invitation

Here it is on an iPad.

iPad invitation

And on an iPhone.

iPhone invitation

See the problem? The buttons aren’t in the same order. Every time I accepted an invitation on the iPhone I would automatically tap the button on the far right. It was force of habit, and since I was usually using the iPhone while on the go, I didn’t pay much attention to the interface. I was trusting a pattern. Like the one that says that the windshield wiper controls are on the righthand stalk. Doh.

I assumed that since all three applications were from the same company that the interface would be the same. I could understand the buttons having one pattern in iOS and another in MacOS, but oddly enough, it’s the two iOS applications that are different. Go figure.

It reminded me that as our digital ecosystems get larger and larger, spanning multiple platforms and devices, we need to be more careful than ever with ensuring a consistent experience across the board and at all levels.

Now if someone would just go and fix this, please.


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