Don't Make Me Think v. Think for Me
I'm a big fan of the book, Don't Make Me Think, which illustrates design conventions for making things easier on the user.
iTunes does a great job at this, but has gone from Don't Make Me Think, to Think for Me, regarding whether or not I really want to download podcasts that I'm subscribed to because it's been a while since I've listened to them.
That's a feature I could live without. If you're going to offer something to the user, like the option to subscribe to a feed, which to me means, "all newly found episodes will be downloaded", don't change the definition of the term "Subscribe" behind the scenes because you think you know me better than I know myself. Remember, I'm the one with the brain.
It was only this morning, after using iTunes for years, that I mistakenly clicked on the little gray circle next to the feed with an exclamation mark (I wish I had taken a screen shot)... that action is what brought up the above dialog box. I had always assumed that that was an indication that the feed URL was unavailable -- If too much time went by and the resource never became "available" again, I'd eventually unsubscribe. All this time I've been misguided.
Here's a tip software developers: If a dialog box's purpose is to ask a question (even if it's confirming what you told it months ago) do everyone a favor and put a flippn' question mark in the icon -- indicating that you have a question for me! Reserve that cute little exclamation mark for when either myself, or some external factor has caused the application to behave unexpectedly. When I've not changed anything related to a feed, and see an exclamation mark next to it, I think there's an error, but surely, it's the cause of something other than me -- Simply because I haven't done anything! Those are the sorts of errors that eventually fix themselves, or will never be fixed.
So Apple, don't think for me, and next time, give me a little more insight into what that mysterious circle means. If you have a question for me, show me a question mark, show me some indication that my action is requested, have it glow or do something. Bouncing icons in the doc is a wonderful example of where you've done it right!