OMG have you guys tried to navigate the Apple Music iOS app?? You wouldn't think they could make it harder to use than iTunes... but they did! Almost impossible to find features, and when you finally do figure something out, it's hard to remember by the next time you run the app.
The bloated number of swipe gestures on iOS is ridiculous too... I am always cursing after swiping in some direction by mistake.
(I am generally a big apple fan...)
Spotify is the same way. If you swipe the wrong way when trying to queue a song it removes the song from your library without the (shake) option to undo. It's infuriating.
Talking of which, Alertbox never had that problem. I rather miss it ;-)
So many things have become undiscoverable in the name of "clean" interfaces. Apple's not alone in this.
That's simply the most recent of my many complaints.
It contradicts current trends and the preferences of many designers.
It is about as bad as a right-click context menu on the desktop.
Always ensure that contextual menu items are also available as menu commands.
A contextual menu is hidden by default and a user might not know it exists, so it should never be the only way to access a command.
In particular, you want to avoid using a contextual menu as the only way to access an advanced or power-user feature.
Frankly, and this may just be cynicism, I speculate that these hidden functions are a way for Apple to hold consumers hostage to their platform. If someone spends a few years learning all the idiosyncrasies of OS X and iOS, they may be too intimidated to switch to another platform, since they've invested so much time into learning Apple's OS.
I suspect it's more that you're becoming a power user. Power users have always had a lot more functionality available at their fingertips, in exchange for investing time learning a platform really well. It's just market segmentation: you don't have room to put all the functionality that everyone might need on screen, so you put the stuff that most people need all the time on screen, get them hooked, and hide other stuff in an obscure reference manual so it can spread through tips & tricks blogs.
Example of a good feature to hide behind "hold option": removing the "..." from "Sleep...", "Shut Down...", etc. in the apple menu, meaning that selecting them won't prompt you before executing the command.
Example of a bad feature to hide behind "hold option": clicking the green window button to maximize instead of going to full screen.
*Especially on recent versions of MacOS, where fullscreening an app moves it to a different desktop.
Whether on purpose or not, it's definitely a form of switching costs. It's the same reason I stay on windows. Though windows 8 changed so many things I basically had to learn all over again. I can't do basic tasks at times and have to Google instructions for how to do them. Simply because they changed the interface.
My theory has always been that Apple liked the design aesthetic of a single mouse button and and aesthetic won out over actually good design. From my experience this is the Apple way.
I came to this conclusion after buying my first Mac about 10 years ago. It had a corded mouse which plugged into the keyboard. A nice aesthetic, though I questioned a corded mouse on a $1500 desktop in 2006. Upon my first navigation across the screen, it was apparent that the cord on the mouse was too small to cover the area of the screen. Very poor design, but the shorter cable didn't leave a mess of cable on the desk. Good aesthetic, bad design.
It was done to force developers to expose actions through the menu bar and thus be consistently discoverable to the user.
Apple is and has always been about a tiered learning curve for their devices and I think your point about the mouse is a great example. If you put 2 buttons on a mouse, it complicates every interface element by two-fold. Every item that can be clicked can now also be clicked with a 2nd button. For a brand new user, keeping 1 button basically forces them to look at what's on the screen and assess what they're doing rather than needlessly right click everywhere searching for a context menu. People who tend to right click on things (when they understand what a right click does and intentionally perform the action know what they expect to be behind that right click.
I feel like iOS is the same way, and intentionally so. A novice user can get by doing all of the basic commands with swipes, pinches, and taps. A more advanced user can do rotations, shakes, and multi-touch swipes. An expert user can access every feature of every application.
It's very poor design.
No, it's Windows/Linux-bias on your part. In the old time, every (and I mean every) medium-level Mac user knew that you can unlock a lot of additional functionality with the option-key. People today just seem to assume the Mac UI is built on the absolute same principles as the Windows UI, which is not true.
maybe this is showing my age, but that came relatively late in the history of Mac OS
But I otherwise agree and do like the approach of basic/necessary UI as simple as possible, optional/advanced UI gracefully hidden
When the Mac came out, you had to teach people how to use a computer through the interface. Few people had prior experience with them, and it was unlikely that they'd be able to sit down with you and explain it.
Now, it is a fairly good bet that somebody you know has the product you're about to buy, and will happily tell you what you can do with it. Apple has sold more Apple Watches in the past 6 months than they did Apple IIs in its entire production run from 1977-1993. If you don't have a friend who will show off the latest features, you can easily Google for them, or read about them on any one of a number of online blogs dedicated to surfacing cool features.
It's a different social environment, not just a different technical one. Design is as much about understanding the environment you operate in than it is about the product itself, and the principles change as the environment does.
It’s not just about being familiar with computers. These fashionable user interfaces are just objectively, measurably worse. They did scientific studies, with video recordings and stopwatches and stuff.
I don’t know why Norman and Tog focus so much on back and undo. Undo is inherently challenging in a world with mutable state. A knife has no undo.
For me, the emblem of bad design is: Buttons without borders. We had that back in the early 1980s. Because we had only like 320×240 pixel monochrome screens. Even Palm had visual indicators on their 160×160 screens. I have 720p on my cheap phone. There’s no excuse for getting rid of hints about where you can click and where you cannot click. This is much worse on Google’s Material Design than Apple’s flat design.
There’s also predictability. How many people have not sent a text message mangled by auto-correct? And there’s readability. These days, Apple’s advertising images have spindly white text on a busy background, sometimes going all the way to white. I feel similarly about spindly bright red text on a white background. A decent amount of contrast should be the default, not a special “accessibility” setting that inevitably gets left out by developers.
We now have decades of research and common sense about what makes user interfaces work, and the influential companies are simultaneously throwing it all away. I don’t understand this madness.
Much worse for me is the invention of a bunch of new UI elements which seem to have no known rules about how they work (Apple Music app - the word "songs" is actually a drop down list to change how the list below it is grouped into artist or album? What?!). Or huge numbers of functionality hidden behind a random choice of long press, force touch, context menu, swipe left or right, or double tap. E.g.: Safari on iOS: long press the reload key to load the desktop site, or type a word in the address bar and scroll down to "find in page". How on earth am I supposed to find these things without having read about them online in some frustrated help thread?
And the author is absolutely spot on: thin fonts and low contrast are a terrible choice as far as user experience goes. My mom can't read her screen without her glasses and holding her phone close.
This was yesterday. It took this many years for a large app developer to take accessibility seriously. The developers of the other apps on my phone either don't bother respecting my font settings (and thus setting everything in that standard terrible 9pt(?) type), or forgetting to take extra measures so the larger text gets ellipsized when shown on screen.
For instance, when on a phone call and you show the numeric keypad, there is no sane reason to make the "Hide" function a microscopic text label that is a finger-width away from the HANG-UP action. Functionally, these actions should be on opposite sides of the display from each other. I don't even think they placed it there for aesthetic reasons, since the Hide "button" just looks like an ugly hack.
Then there's positioning of keyboard keys. If I had a nickel for every time I deleted a character while trying to finish a word with "m", or every time I accidentally committed an action with incomplete text because of that stupid blue key! Instead of moving dangerous actions to the opposite end of the screen where they belong, too much effort was spent trying to emulate the precise layout of a real keyboard. I don't think users would complain at all if the "action" key was instead in the top-right corner, and if "backspace" was in the top-left corner.
The scrolling calendar widget is also a nasty example of poor positioning. Long after it was "improved" in iOS 7, I still can't create a single calendar event without doing the accidental-screw-up-date-instead-of-scroll action, usually with "helpful" automatic "corrections" for my change such as synchronizing the From and To times to both reflect my accidental date-change. Or if I'm really lucky, I don't even notice that I changed the time.
They need to step back and realize that design is how it works. Their interfaces are incredibly error-prone right now.
As someone who develops on both iOS and Android, and uses an Android phone, there was a lot in this article that I agreed with. Particularly Apple's prioritisation of beauty over design.
One weakness was the discussion of undo and Android's supposed strength due to its dedicated back button. This didn't convince me: the back button on Android sometimes undoes operations, but often it doesn't .
I recently got stuck in a Youtube video on an iPad because I couldn't figure out how to get back to the video list. Turns out I had to swipe down on the video page with 3 fingers or something to go back.
I don't know any advanced features but I can use all apps just fine. Pinch-to-zoom and a few swipe types are sufficient for most use cases.
Edit: why the downvotes? I didn't say anything controversial. If you disagree, write a reply.
I love reading quotes like that that are backed with, you guessed it, absolutely nothing.
Pinch to zoom is a great example. It may not be your first guess but it's the type of thing that you do a couple times then look back thinking, Wow! that's a great way of representing zoom on a device capable of listening to multiple inputs at a time. And subsequently will never forget how to do it, and it becomes your first tool when you want to zoom.
Anyway, I agree with you. (There are two of us!) Apple's stuff is built to be easy enough for a know-nothing user to get the basics done, and depending on your skill, you gain access to more and more over time.
But then none of what they are dealing with, for the most part, is made by Apple. They are using apps built by others, and some apps are just incredibly confusing.
Apple is rife with UX problems. Just look at the newest device they came out with, the Watch. Two buttons that are positioned in a way that constantly have them activating when I lift my hand up. Why do I have screenshots of my watch every day littering my computer? I mean, I cannot fathom someone used this and didn't have this issue.
The Watch is a beta device, and everyone I've met with one has agreed with that sentiment (both techies and non-techies alike).
This doesn't even begin to touch their software, or the OSs themselves. Here is a company that still can't get windowing right.
The only reason I still use their products is because OS X is built on UNIX and is supported by major companies, but even that is going away, so there is less incentive.
Also, how is OS X moving away from UNIX? Or is it that major companies are moving away from UNIX? I'm not sure I've seen evidence of either of these.
> is supported by major companies, but even that is going away, so there is less incentive.
I meant that companies supporting OS X, not Unix. The two reasons were:
2) OS X support
The second point is what I meant was going away. I see companies that matter to me supporting OS X less and less. The latest company to do so is Blizzard. Again, apologies for the confusion.
As for the windowing issue, I have to download a third party app to handle most of the stuff I get for free on every other major and many non-major windowing systems from a decade ago. This includes snapping and auto sizing and moving windows among monitors.
Couple this with OS X's horrible support for external monitors on it's laptops. Several times a week I have issues when I disconnect my mac. Either my sees a phantom monitor that is not there and so windows still exist there that I can't reach or bring over. I have to close the lid and open it up again.
The full screen support is still an absolute insult. And the when they changed what the stop light did and made it maximize is annoying.
The only reason people started using their computers again was because of Unix.
To use another analogy, it's somewhat like saying "Well, people literate in a left-to-right language have no problem using it." Great, but presumably Apple was aiming for a global audience, so pointing out success stories in some subsections of that audience does not mean they succeeded overall.
At least that worked for me and I am typing without looking at the keys too.
Perhaps you feel Apple should have designed a beautiful rotary phone?
But Western 5-year-olds have already had 5 years to watch their parents use contemporary technology. I'm not sure there's such thing as a "blank slate" here. And I doubt the average 5-year-old from a rural town in a third-world country is going to pick up an iPhone as easily as an American one. You're picking like 1% of the world population and making them the benchmark for universal design. I suppose the ultimate end to this line of reasoning is that there is no such thing as perfectly universal design, and I'm OK with that.
> I have actually never even heard of a single person picking up and iPhone and saying "I can't figure this out - it's unusable!" until your post.
When did I say that? You might have me confused with the GP poster.
> Perhaps you feel Apple should have designed a beautiful rotary phone?
Why not? Many 5-year-olds probably could use rotary phones just fine back in the day. Maybe Apple doesn't actually have a monopoly on making it possible for 5-year-olds to use technology.
Edit: Csydas, I got a HN notify with a reply from you, it's a shame you deleted it - you brought up good points and I agree with you. If you were down voted before deleting it wasn't me.
On the other hand, Apple's accent input (old style, not the new style that stops key repetition grrr) is vastly superior than alt codes. Yeish.
But really, thanks - this is really helpful :)
Low reliance on Fkeys is also great for two reasons:
1) It makes it easier to use keyboards with Fkey rows (like my beloved HHKB)
2) It frees up an entire row of keys for me to use without worry of overriding system shortcuts — for instance, I have F1 assigned to Spotlight, F2 assigned to a drop-down terminal, F3 assigned to quick open in Xcode, F4 assigned to search documentation in Dash, etc etc.
Case in point: calendar.
I simply cannot tell where one month ends and another begins in the flat UI. Sure, the skeuomorphic version looked corny, but it was a lot easier to use.
iTunes used to be a power-app, now I can hardly use it.
This happens to a lot of software. There used to be lists of "last good version of ..."
The Usenet group alt.comp.freeware sometimes used to recommend the last good version rather than the latest version. There's probably a Reddit subreddit for it.
ACDSee and Nero burning rom are well known examples. I guess Imgur is at risk of this, but they seem to be keeping stuff in check.
Most of these things annoy me, but nevertheless iOS devices continue to be “good enough,” and with the exception of Surface, I have been given no incentive to go through the agony of switching.
I would hazard that Apple is giving competition an opening, but it won’t be easy to overcome the kind of inertia they have. Most people fear switching costs. The easiest way to beat them is in an entirely new category, just like Surface vs. iPad Pro. Or wearables. I have the Apple Watch, and it’s a fine extension for my iPhone. And I don’t regret the purchase. But it fees like there is lots of uncertainty in how the wearables game will play out.
When do I get a ring that starts my car, opens my front door, unlocks my laptop and phone, and pays for my coffee? For that matter, why the hell do I need to log into my MacBook when I’m wearing my unlocked watch?
> When do I get a ring…
>Today’s Apple has eliminated the emphasis on making products understandable and usable, and instead has imposed a Bauhaus minimalist design ethic on its products.
I actually love this article because when people look back with rose tinted glasses about how things were great when Forstall was around, I can send them this article about how Apple's usability suffered when Jobs came back, an era where they claim that Apple's products was the best they ever were from a usability stand point.
The touch display did more good for usability than any interface design or metaphor did the previous 20 by simply removing the layer of abstraction between the object on the screen and the user wanting to manipulate it. No more mentally translating hand-mouse coordination with eye-screen coordination.
I am not defending apple but I understand what they are trying to do which is to remove the need for metaphors by allowing you to manipulate the objects directly. I.e. the content is the metaphor for itself. Just like i don't need a metaphor for picking up a pencil i just do. Maybe they are not there yet but thats I price I think is worth paying.
Apple have far bigger problems than their interaction design IMO.
Meet my mom:
"My fox fire[sic] isn't working."
Turns out her problem was Windows wasn't booting. All she knew was she wanted to get to a website and she couldn't.
It’d be interesting to see HN’s reactions to Tog’s articles explaining how the mouse is more efficient than the CLI.
Touch something on the screen is not a metaphor it's the closest to what you would do in real life.
This is why kids and people less experienced with computers have such an easy time picking them up and start using them.
* Four finger swipes on the iPad to go to the task manager or switch between apps.
* Swipe from the left to go back in a navigation controller.
* Swipe from the top to activate the notification center.
* Swipe from the bottom to activate the control center.
* Swipe list elements right or left (but not from the edge) to delete or perform other actions.
* Swipe notifications from the left to perform the default action for that notification.
And then there's 3D touch.
Except this one:
> Swipe notifications from the left to perform the default action for that notification.
But this one has a “slide to open” text explainig what to do right below it.
The question is whether the metaphor model that Don & co are advocating is a better one and to which I would argue it's not because that too rely en metaphors to be learned.
The touch metaphor is litterally the way into the interface (ahh i can touch things, ahh i can also swipe things etc.)
In the classical universe you had several layers of abstraction between the user and the content. Apple is trying to make it as close to a one to one relationship they can. Your examples are about something completely different.
But there is a scale of how easily something is learned, and a UI with more or better affordances will be easier to learn than one with worse or fewer affordances.
As someone who designs a lot of UI, I was nodding through much of this article. The most obvious part I disagreed with was the idea that they are at least making things more attractive as they damage usability. If those comments referred to the current trend for bland, homogenous, flat UIs, then I find most of these much less attractive than those we had just a few years ago. Almost everything looks the same now, and that look is so dumbed down that to me it feels like the digital version of painting a big canvas solid blue and then selling it for $100,000 as "modern art".
There are of course completely useless UI but for most of the UI we are talking about here it really just is a matter of learning it and most of the times making something easy to learn might mean that it's not as powerful to use. I.e. there are no right solution just a bunch of solutions each with their various drawbacks and advantages.
In the context of this discussion though the things they complain about are missing what apple is trying to do (remove the layers of abstraction so that the very elements themselves are the interface rather than by proxy of some other controllers.
That may be true to an extent, but UIs could offer a lot more support to beginners trying to find their way around than many of the current generation of mobile UIs do. I agree there is always a balancing act, but at the moment we seem to be getting the worse end on all of the scales at once, with limited functionality, limited discoverability, and limited aesthetics. And the really sad part is that this has been a step backwards from the state of the art just a few years ago, when the typical mobile UI was both more attractive and easier to use than the flat junk that Apple, Google and Microsoft seem to be obsessed with today.
I think this is the best summation I've seen of the value of a well-designed GUI interface as opposed to the most common implementations of the command line. Obviously not everything can be plausibly translated to CLI, but I wish there was more effort to combine the power of CLIs with, especially, the discoverability and feedback of GUIs.
I need a new phone soon, and all of my family members have iPhones, which is nice for group chat (maybe photo sharing too). I worry about getting an iPhone because I feel like Apple is going nowhere these days. If your biggest innovation is "make it bigger", "make it smaller" (macbook air, iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch), we've got some things to work on. I felt like everyone struggled with Yosemite, too.
This lines up with my own anecdotal experience, but isn't something I've read about. Can anyone suggest further reading on this research?
A heavy, very readable font, along with buttons that actually look like buttons.
I'm going to be using a feature in much the same way I discover it. Menus are harder to read and use on a small device. This is not a desktop.
I've been using iPhones since 2009.
Some GIFs would be much more convincing.
> Further, they made a new font that is readable at all sizes AND an OS that lets you dynamically change the size of the fonts in your settings and have it work across applications.
Here's a clear example - in your haste to throw your agenda on top of the article, you've missed that the article talks about this exact feature, and that it doesn't work well: on many app screens, this option made normal fonts so large that the text wouldn’t fit on the screen.
It's a long article, sure, but that comment is only about 10% of the way in.
On the other hand, I also know a lot of people having a mediocre feeling with it.
This is an interesting perception gap to investigate.
And I would suggest that a big reason of that is that there much more Samsung customers than Nexus owners.
This is not true. Those of us that can write programs are power users in that we can write programs using our general purpose computers that run on our devices.