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Apps made for one OS shouldn't insist on aping the design elements of another (macworld.com)
296 points by okket on May 27, 2016 | hide | past | web | favorite | 232 comments

User interfaces should be designed for the user, not for the operating system. I feel like more apps should embrace their uniqueness rather than aping whatever Apple/Google/whatever puts out as the "new standard" every time their design team decides to go in a new direction.

A lot of user interface design is managing user expectation (things people have gotten used to, like where a "create" button is or what a "share" icon looks like) versus optimizing for long-term usability of an app (something like Snapchat, with its seemingly-esoteric UI that is actually efficient once one is used to using it).

The only reason the author gives for taking this position is that "Participating on someone else’s operating system means you’re on their turf. The author even admits that "I’m not saying either design is superior." So app companies should forego optimizing for user experience to pay respect to the platform that they're on? This is a totally backwards position; apps should respect their users. If that means following all the OS guidelines for a sparingly used app, that's fine. But if that means creating a unique UI and app flow for long-term user happiness, then the app company owes no respect to the "local conventions" of the OS.

edit: clarity

> But if that means creating a unique UI and app flow for long-term user happiness, then the app company owes no respect to the "local conventions" of the OS.

This PoV has engendered more hatred in me towards software creators than probably any other. Not bad considering I spent 25 years creating software.

If I'm on Gnome/Android/Windows 10/OSX/Whatever, frankly I'd prefer everything follows GUI guidelines, standards guides and looks, acts and feels like a native. Trouble is everyone knows best.

iTunes "knew better" and made Windows look and feel like a Mac. Fine, except it made the program clunky and stand out for being different. Apple knew best with iMessage and decides it should invisibly merge sms and their own messaging. Result? A dozen times a day it would hang for 10 minutes or so trying to connect to data-unreachable imessage servers. Just send a damn SMS, which is what I wanted in the first place. Google came up with Hangouts that at first release (i've not revisited it) managed to leave out every essential of a messaging app. It was sort-of pretty, but very broken.

Google and Microsoft always know best and don't even respect their own standards, let alone anyone else's. Neither are any good at all at designing GUIs and frankly should just stop. Outsource to someone who can. Samsung should take note of this too.

I don't want 40 different unique UIs all optimising app flow for long term user happiness as that's anarchy with 50 (sic) different ways of doing things in those 40 apps. I'd prefer it felt a little dated to work on Android or whatever if it was then seamlessly perfect in gestures, GUI and function.

Everyone needs to just stop knowing best. 99.9 times out of 100 they don't.

I was really impressed by WhatsApp's approach. When I installed in on my iPhone, it looked just like the native iOS messaging app. When I helped my mother-in-law install it on her Android, it had a totally different look, much closer to Android's native messenger. Both of us pretty much instantly knew how to use it because we had been all along.

> Both of us pretty much instantly knew how to use it because we had been all along.

Exactly why going native is a really good thing - people can fully adopt your app almost immediately as they don't need to learn your different (knowing best) conventions and extensions.

The difference is Whatsapp isn't intended to be used outside of mobile, where it's atypical for the majority of users to have both an iOS and Android device. With the Google suite of applications however (most prominently Drive), the same user is expected to access the service across a variety of devices. A consistent design means they don't have to re-learn how to use it.

Totally fair point. In both cases, I think design follows the Rule of Least Surprise to create a consistent experience for users. It's about business aims, too. WhatsApp went after native messaging, so it made sense for them to make the transition as seamless as possible. Google Drive applications are operating on a completely different scale.

At the same time... Google Drive applications looked very familiar to people coming from the MS Office world. If you're trying to replace a competitor, mimicry isn't a bad place to start.

If you're using a mobile version of a desktop/tablet application, you're going to have to relearn it anyway because of the differences in size. I don't know many users who operate multiple mobile devices of the same size but different OS simultaneously (say, iphone and samsung galaxy), so I don't see why such devices should share UI designs.

Facebook Messenger is also extremely similar to iOS's built-in messaging app, which is nice. In fact, a fair amount of the design improves upon Messages' already pretty-solid design.

But their Android version also looks pretty much exactly like the iOS one, same for their web version.

Facebook is going down the consistency across platforms route and not the consistency with platform route (I'm not passing judgement on them, and in some ways I disagree with the article's main thesis).

The merging of iMessage and SMS is something that I've always thought Apple did really well. I don't care how the message is sent, as long as it is sent. Create a quick hierarchy and send in preferable order. That's exactly what it does.

I spend a lot of time without either signal or internet when in the countryside and this allows me to seamlessly communicate. The last thing I want is to either switch programs to carry on conversations, or manually choose what kind of message to send. Both would be a pain.

My main objectbbion to iMessage is that it only works with other apple products, so I end up using whatsapp with some people - where I need 2 apps to handle simple messaging and conversation histories get split up etc etc.

>I don't care how the message is sent, as long as it is sent.

Friend of mine has an iPad and an iPhone, often her iPhone data plan runs out so I send a message, it's blue and acts like it's delivered.... then I get a reply 6 hours later when she finally gets home and sees it on her iPad because the iPhone never received it because it didn't have a data connection.

Worst part is sometimes I know I need to send it SMS and it's a real pain trying to convinced iMessage to send SMS when it think the person is online with iMessage due to an iPad being left on somewhere. Can never remember which tap and hold dance actually gives me the SMS option.

This x1000. Plus when it silently decides to send emails instead, or you email as caller id address, or whatever it does. When my Dad asks "Why I'm I getting emails from text messsages" I don't know, don't care to know, and will respond by not using iProduct. Don't care if it's a setting or what, if you're going to merge different services then be explicit about it. Don't have time to figure out what you thought was best for me.

Is that Messages or is that the phone company that does that? Mine always come from an AT&T email account with some generic sender, like "aehcu2341@att.com".

Ya I've had those too. Think it's a separate issue but was never able to figure it out.

Tap and hold the message you sent over iMessage. Click send as sms.

Which is a totally undiscoverable feature.

Not only is it undiscoverable, you don't even think you need to do it. Like others said- you take out your phone, send a quick message, put your phone away and do something, only to find out your message wasn't sent. Possibly because the recipient, unknown to you, didn't have data access.

Undiscoverable features is the new way to design apps! Look at Snapchat

'Swipe randomly in random directions from random screens until you see something you didn't know was there' is the new 'simple and direct'.

I did too until I changed work location from always great signal to marginal. Lots of phone apps don't handle this gracefully (I think most expect perfect data). IMessage could have popped a dialog at 10s (30s), but decided to wait forever instead. Then I started to dislike it. This is a good time ago now, they may have sorted this, I've been Android the last 5 years or so. :)

Agree on the messaging. I miss just having adium or pidgin connected to everything, now I'd need a dozen chat apps to stay in touch with everyone!

iMessage is "ok" now. I'm not sure the time duration, but I can usually long-press a message that isn't sending and tell it to send it as SMS or MMS. I don't think (maybe this has changed?) that that option is available immediately.

I've been using Telegram for my cross-platform messaging and it works quite well. On OS X, it feels like a Mac app with embellishments, on Windows it feels modern and clean like a Windows 10 app should, unlike most apps on Windows 10 (including Microsoft's). On iOS it behaves like an iOS app, and who knows about Android but I would guess it's the same.

And yet, they also all behave the same. There's a consistency across all of the apps that makes it clear they're the exact same app, but there's also a consistency with the platform that makes them feel like native apps everywhere.

> Apple knew best with iMessage and decides it should invisibly merge sms and their own messaging.

Point taken, though I'll point out that iMessage makes it clear the distinction between iMessages (blue) and SMS (green), and provides an easy 'send as SMS' option.

Google's message integration, on the other hand, merged SMS and GTalk, with the result that I have several friends who would try to text someone to say 'hey where are you at', and it would send them a GTalk message to their laptop, which was turned on and signed in at home, rather than an SMS to their phone. Worse, I know one friend who couldn't figure out if there was any way to tell which one it sent, or how to force it to do one or the other.

In other words, Google did the same thing, but even worse.

> Result? A dozen times a day it would hang for 10 minutes or so trying to connect to data-unreachable imessage servers. Just send a damn SMS, which is what I wanted in the first place.

I haven't had this specific issue frequently, except when I had extremely unreliable data services (i.e. if I had a data connection but my network was broken, if I was on Wifi but my internet connection was down, or if I was in San Francisco), but I understand that there are definitely people who experience one of those issues very frequently.

> Everyone needs to just stop knowing best. 99.9 times out of 100 they don't.

And yet, your hatred is directed at the PoV that companies should respect an OS's conventions, yet who says that the OS knows best?

It's not about "knowing best" in that case, it's about familiarity and reducing cognitive load.

When someone picks up a new piece of software, they have to figure out 1) does it solve their problem, 2) how do they use it, and 3) how do they solve their immediate problem with it?

When you have familiar UI elements, actions, terms, and explanations, you can speed along Step 2 for minimal effort. If you introduce new interactions and ideas, you're adding a Step 2b that will not pay off in the short term. It might in the long term, but not right now.

Every question, struggle, etc that you put in front of a user is one more reason to not use your software. Some users really NEED it and will overcome everything but that's not something to bet on.

Often it doesn't, but to me, that's not the point. The point is the consistency between disparate apps from different vendors and backgrounds is what matters for usability. That ability to know your way around nearly every app on first use, just from knowing the OS trumps most else. There's lots of things I use occasionally - I don't want to RTFM every time.

I dislike how Windows and Android do a lot of things, and how OSX does some. I'd still prefer devs respect that than "improve" on it. When I find a utility to add a dark theme or fix some niggle the OS does really badly - multi-screen perhaps, the standard stuff interoperates with it just fine. The clever "knowing best" program is the one that breaks it, or interoperates only partially. eg Photoshop has a lovely dark GUI now, but now doesn't get the multiscreen util's extra icons.

Let the user decide. They can add a multi-screen util or theme, or even simple things like xmouse and they should work everywhere, or they can just use the vanilla OS as they prefer.

EDIT: caseysoftware puts it rather more succinctly.

True, the OS does not know best, especially in the case of Android. But the user benefits a great deal from consistency of behavior across all apps.

The bar for deviating from OS convention should be high, not only to preserve the user's sanity, but also because most users will tire of an app's design innovations, however brilliant, if those innovations impose a learning curve. Most users are not that dedicated to a piece of software.

Customers, who vote with their pocketbook.

The operating system set a policy, and the user chose that policy when they chose that operating system.

Well, if "best" is "follows conventions", then maybe the folks that set the conventions "know best"?

No, the whole point is that if everyone on the platform does it in one way that is "8/10 good" and there is another way that really objectively is "9/10 good" superior, then still the proper choice would be to follow the convention, as for the end user inconsistency is a much bigger drawback than the (comparatively small) improvement that can be done by doing it differently.

My point was the direct contradiction in statements there. Choosing the choices that a platform makes as the standard setter is arbitrary in a fashion, as why should those standards be the standard? There is no real reason why that makes it better.

Yes there is - it makes your app integrate better with the platform. Sure, the initial choices may have been completely arbitrary, but as an app developer you have to live by them now. Consistency is the reason. Users learn the platform and learn its standard UI paradigms. Should you choose not to follow them, your users will not be very pleased to say the least, often confused as to why your app doesn't operate like everything else on their device.

There are a lot of prominent counterexamples though:

- Blender (Blender's UI is pretty odd and entirely un-platform-like, but very efficient)

- Photoshop (case in point, Ctrl-Z; I'm very glad Adobe didn't follow conventions—Photoshop's Ctrl-Z behavior is good for Photoshop)

- Chrome (I guess it's standard on Android now, but when Chrome was released it was very unlike a typical Windows or OS X UI, and it was so good that everyone else adopted it)

- Vim

- Emacs

- Snapchat

- AutoCAD

Personally, I do prefer 40 unique UIs optimized for long term user happiness. That's kind of the Unix way: bc, awk, find, and dozens of other tools with different patterns that are geared very well to their niche.

All the examples you mentioned are productivity apps in which an optimal workflow which needs to be learned is more important than a familiar but not necessarily ideal workflow.

If I use an app 5 minutes a day, i want it to be familiar because I don't want to muck around learning how to use it. Whereas if I'm using an app all day to make money, I will assume the initial learning curve if it means increased efficiency.

Chrome - also interacts marginally with my multiscreen util. By breaking windows guidelines for topbar size the multiscreen icons get overwritten by tabs if I open enough. Workaround = have a somewhat larger top bar than standard or wanted. Still it no longer hijacks clicks to the icons which it did for quite a long while.

"so good that everyone else adopted it" Yeah, about that. FF copied Chrome wholesale, causing a couple of forks and quite a lot of anti-Australis outrage. Now there's a ton of hacky addons to restore FF to a relatively sane UI (none manage it completely). Will be interesting to see what happens when FF deprecates current addons and theming. That's actively user-hostile.

vi, emacs and AutoCAD are from long before GUIs, I don't think they count. vi and emacs made choices for 2400 baud terminals. Similar for the whole unix toolset - they were the standardisation being part of the OS. Much later we would argue sys V Solaris vs SunOS instead or CDE, vs KDE, vs OpenWindows, and start to consider GUI/OS standardisation.

Every time I want to do something on Windows I feel it, and don't do enough on Win to be bothered learning much powershell. I usually end up with a quick zsh script via network. Who on earth thought batch files were a good idea. :)

We're digressing though - GUI gestures in a slew of phone apps are rather different to a neatly focussed command line set.

Photoshop's overloading is sane, and I can't really disagree - I also prefer the dark theme. But it can, and does, break things.

I disagree. Having a consistent UI in all available applications makes it easy for the people to use the applications. One of the main reasons I prefer OSX to Windows is that most of the applications have a set of well defined, consistent behaviours. (For example, Window decorations) On iOS there is no reason for this to be different.

Consistent UI can make it easy for people to use applications, for certain applications, sometimes. It's not a hard and fast rule.

Let's say I'm making a banking app that is generally just used for people to check their balance and other simple tasks. It's too my advantage to follow the standard UI conventions of the OS.

If, however, I'm making an app that I expect the majority use case to be power users that use the app many times per day, I'm going to optimize for them. That may mean seemingly unintuitive gestures, shaking the phone to switch between app modes, radial menus, or something else.

I'm not saying that conventions don't have a place, they obviously do, but I think app designers should be able to design the experience for users that they see as best, rather than following convention for the sake of convention.

Funny you should mention a banking app. The ING banking app on Android is dreadful! It is mostly because it doesn't adhere to any of the standard Android conventions such as a toolbar, sliding left-hand drawer for jumping to different sections, the "back stack" is well handled, etc. It makes moving around a pain. You can't easily jump between your accounts or cards, pressing back after viewing your balance takes you right back to the start, and so on.

Another bit of anecdata is the Android ebay app. It used to be an OK not-really-material app, probably iterated on since the Gingerbread days, then Holoiefied. Then about a year ago they updated it to be (I think) more iPhone-like and the fans really hammered it in the Play store. Lots of "what the hell have you done, 1-star" type reviews. I didn't like it much either. The problem was again that navigation was weird and non-standard. Everything was light-grey on white too, which didn't help. Then they updated it again fairly recently to be what you might call a prototypical Android Material-design app, and it really was a relief to see. Now it works great, there are far fewer weird mystery navigation parts and the reviews are picking up.

I get what you mean, that apps can add things outside the norm, but they really need to get the base layout right. If you have a few odd/power features, that's great, but don't make the whole app some weird Homer's Car-style monstrosity.

I definitely agree. In this particular case however I do not think that Google Maps is considered an application for power users. On mobile especially one has to be very wary of advanced features as the discoverability is really bad.

I agree with that, but note that especially in the mobile world -- apps that have "power users" are few and far between.

> One of the main reasons I prefer OSX to Windows is that most of the applications have a set of well defined, consistent behaviours.

I hear this from time to time. As someone who has spent significant time on a number of platforms Windows and it's ecosystem, from 2000 until 8 at least, has seemed a whole lot more consistent.

Super-annoying things on Mac include:

* modifier keys vary by application. (On Windows ctrl + left/right arrow is always [0] jump word by word and shift + left/right arrow is always select-as-you-move. From there it follows that ctrl+shift+left/right arrow is select-one-word-at-a-time.)

* there is one menu and you can find most options there. Bonus: you can always reach the menu using alt. On Mac there is the global menu, helpfully located on another part of the screen or even on another screen and there is one or more spot-the-extra menu(s) somewhere in the application.

The reason why I am pointing this out is to help every developet who doesn't get MBPs thrown after them: Macs are super sleek but I at least feel more productive and less annoyed on Windows or Linux.

[0]: with a few super-annoying exceptions.

1) This is true on the mac too, but it's option instead of ctrl. (option + arrows, option + shift + arrows). It's certainly not common for apps to break this afaik.

Yet billions of people manage to use the web, which has very little constraints. In fact, the browser is probably the most used app on either platform.

Well, the web does have it's own set of UI conventions: http://www.novolume.co.uk/blog/all-websites-look-the-same/

But the web has it's own set of conventions!

Trying to build a native-osx or native-windows UI on the web gives you a horrible user experience.

This is true. I do not argue that the apps that look & feel differently are not usable, just that they are less familiar and less quick to grasp, which I translate as 'worse'. It is a matter of opinions.

But the web does have conventions that make stuff hard when broken. For example most people expect to see the whole page change when they click a link and doing something else is confusing (such as popping a window or opening a link in new tab by default)

There is no shortage of complaints about websites that do "innovative" stuff and liberties with good ol' conventions.

When in Rome (do as the Romans do). Bringing all your Android-isms to your iPhone app is going to be confusing and annoying to iOS users, just as if you tried to make a Mac application with menus anchored to the top of the application's main window. I remember when the shoe was on the other foot and people were designing big fat "iOS-style" Back buttons into the upper-left corner of their Android apps. Yuck! How irritating!

In a past life, I'd fight with the designers constantly about this. Users don't care "that our brand is consistently portrayed across iOS, Android and Windows Phone". Our app is one of hundreds on our their phones! So we need to conform to the UI patterns that they are already comfortable with (whether you think they are good or bad). Not to mention that using a standard UI element in iOS is three or four lines of code-behind, whereas building a custom control can be up to several hundreds, and is more likely to break the next time Apple tweaks its standard look and feel.

Finally, I'd like to see the results of the user studies Google did to determine that iOS users would be comfortable switching over to "Android mode" when they happened to launch a Google app. For a company that is known for data-driven decisions, surely they have numbers to back up their design choice.

I agree. I felt like this article wanted to make a big deal out of something... well, not super significant.

"The options icon is three vertical dots, rather than the three horizontal dots favored by Apple."

You could also argue that for someone using Google products, it makes sense that they look and behave roughly the same no matter which platform you're on. The interface is the brand [0] so why try to make it look like an Apple product when it's not?

Or maybe the article is right, maybe cognitive workload increases when the options icon is suddenly drawn using vertical dots instead of horizontal ones. I could only find three arguments in the text. One: it's what Microsoft did in the 90's. Two: Users deserve consistency. Three: (implicit) I bought an iPhone because I like the design, and now Google is forcing me to use their apps which doesn't look AS NICE! :)

[0]: https://ia.net/know-how/the-interface-of-a-cheeseburger

> You could also argue that for someone using Google products, it makes sense that they look and behave roughly the same no matter which platform you're on.

That is true if you expect Users to change between devices. But most of the users I observe have only limited amount of devices and typically stay in one camp (i.e. iPhone+iPad) and those care about not having to relearn each UI for each app.

True Google tries to push their design as their identity, but that's Google's interest, not the user's.

I meant using the web app on a computer and the native app on a phone. I usually do both in a single day for docs, gmail, maps, YouTube etc. Maybe my behavior is not typical.

The point being that we already KNOW the design language of Google, so the argument seems to be purely about esthetics. The design is consistent, just between Google products instead of between apps on the platform. I didn't get why Google pushing Apple's design would be more in the user's interest?

Tip for confused iPhone users : tilt your head/phone 90 degrees :) and the mystery button will turn into a menu button!

> But most of the users I observe have only limited amount of devices and typically stay in one camp (i.e. iPhone+iPad) and those care about not having to relearn each UI for each app.

Actually most people are in the iPhone + Windows PC (+ Chrome browser) camp. You're a blinkered outlier if the people you see around you only use Apple products

Is it unexpected or wrong that Google act in its own interest?

>You could also argue that for someone using Google products, it makes sense that they look and behave roughly the same no matter which platform you're on.

The real question is do people's brains actually work that way. Is someone using Google Maps on an iPhone or Google Maps on an iPhone.

It's my experience that people context switch based on platform, not application. When I'm on an iPhone I expect it to work like an iPhone and when I'm on the desktop I expect it work like a desktop -- regardless of the individual applications I'm using.

Honestly, I think you'd find it amazing how unintuitive three dots (vertical or horizontal) ends up being. If you're not a millennial, dots and just dots. I see a lot of confused seniors not knowing where options are on their webmail clients because someone at Yahoo or Outlook or whomever decided three-dots-menu-icons was totally necessary on desktop browsers.

I'm not sure I agree. I use one phone, with many apps, so it's helpful if the common parts of all the apps I use behave in the same way.

For example, how do I get to the preferences for this app? Via a hamburger menu on the left, or an ellipsis menu on the right?

Almost all the apps on my phone that have the concept of making a new item (SMS/instant message/email/calendar event) have the button for doing so in exactly the same place on the screen; this is great as it means only have to learn that action once, and it works for all the apps I use. That is optimised user interface design.

Of course designers still need to put in effort to make their apps usable, but making having the common subset of actions work the same across apps is great for users.

It's unfortunate that platforms seem to change their interface guidelines all the time (no just the look and feel), as it seems to be having the opposite of the intended effect. The cost benefits of having a single style for an app across platforms is also a significant factor; I'd rather have an app available on my platform than not.

I think it is a matter of design skills.

If someone wants to make an app, that is better than the rest, they need a unique selling point.

If it's bad, people like you won't use it.

If it's like all the other ones on the marked, you will use the one with the best marketing.

If it's really better than what you are used to, you will ditch the rest.

I think: Strife for the last one, but don't get butthurt, when the experiment fails.

If you're an iOS user, you'll be familiar with how iOS apps work. This is exactly how you cater to the user - iOS users known how to use iOS apps.

If you change the UI to look like Android, only the users that also use Android elsewhere would be comfortable with that.

Still, `Done` button, or `Back` button, or `Edit` are not in the same place in every app. Some apps are `Swipe Left` to delete, some are `Swipe Right`.

Not sure what is more frustrating — different looks with different usage patterns for every app; or same look with subtle differences and no way to predict what's where in a new app, or the app you haven't opened for a while.

The back button is almost universally located in the upper left corner and is accompanied by the standard swipe right gesture to pop the top of the stack. You're not going to find many apps that implement a custom navigation controller in iOS, and if an app does then it probably doesn't change this behavior.

The same goes for the swipe to delete accessory item, as that is another standard iOS UIKit thing.

I can't speak for minor buttons like edit and compose etc, but those differences are honestly not very significant to the end user since it's a non-hidden textual nav item.

I'm just frustrated that there is no consistency. Even Apple does this: Messages.app is swipe left to delete, and Mail.app is swipe right. But you can't just swap in Messages, you have to swipe and press a button; which is not the same in the Mail.

It's an individual thing.

Personally calling someone or managing phone call options on an IOS device frustrates me. There is a whole lot that is not intuitive and hardly dis·cov·er·a·ble.

To another extent I find IOS and Apple users that are technologically-illiterate find it hard to adapt or understand other system interfaces.

Everyone will have to decide if they get frustrated on their own...

Discoverability is a whole other thing with Apple — if it is not immediately obvious, you have almost 0% changes to discover it on your own.

For example, you can show iMessage timestamps by "pulling" them from right edge of the screen to the left.

> The only reason the author gives for taking this position is that "Participating on someone else’s operating system means you’re on their turf.

Maybe the point is too subtle?

I'm a user that has a hard time with Google apps because I don't use them all the time. If I used them more often, I think I would get used to them, but that doesn't help me start using them.

One thing that does help is by being familiar.

Google might believe that familiarity is damaging to their brand, and perhaps it is, but I'm used to all of the apps I use being familiar, and so many familiar applications juxtaposed next to Google's unfamiliar applications just makes me think that Google doesn't give a fuck about me.

One very large component of user happiness is the intuitiveness and familiarity of the user interface, and following user interface guidelines of the host operating system (i.e. the patterns and conventions that the user has already been trained on) will help tremendously with that.

That doesn't mean that you should never stray from those guidelines in a pursuit of a better UI, but all other things being equal, diversions from the standards should have to justify themselves. Things like using an Android-standard icon where there's an equivalent in IOS don't come anywhere close to that bar, in my opinion.

> I feel like more apps should embrace their uniqueness rather than aping whatever Apple/Google/whatever puts out as the "new standard" every time their design team decides to go in a new direction.

People use lots of different apps. The whole point of conventions and guidelines is to allow users to immediately be productive when switching to a new app, and to lower cognitive overhead when context switching.

It's a form of leverage for end users. The reality is most users just want to get a task done and don't give a crap if you think your app is THE #1 MOST IMPORTANT. They already know how to use the platform-provided mail, browser, etc. Take advantage of that leverage unless there is a strong reason to deviate.

Yes, apps should be designed for the user. However, most users want to get something done on an app without having to learn it for hours. So it's better to adhere to OS conventions and make things predictable. There are so many apps that seem to be done by designers who had too much time on their hands. Even the Google apps are going that route. I barely can't figure out how to use Google maps on android anymore.

Also, once something works, don't change every two months.

In short, provide real functionality and stop redesigning the surface.

Designing for the operating system is actually a form of designing for the user. I believe you should start with standard conventional interfaces wherever you can. Then look for the pain points. What is more difficult in general or in yours specific use case. From there try to build upon the convention and improve it. Sometimes a small tweak can go a long way and other times a larger one is necessary.

Yes, longterm usage efficiency should be considered but perhaps even more important is the efficiency for beginners and casual users. This is why “pro” and “consumer” apps exist.

Snapchat is not a good example. It is the exception. In fact, it was born out of a desire to make it difficult to figure out so that parents and teachers couldn't spy on you. If every app you downloaded had as steep of a learning curve as Snapchat then the app stores would die as people would give up on apps. I truly fear a day where everybody is trying to copy Snapchat. It is unique and it should stay that way. Not every app should attempt to reinvent the wheel.

> User interfaces should be designed for the user, not for the operating system.

This is a false dichotomy. You can be designed for the user without ignoring platform conventions.

Keeping platform conventions (and thus user expectations) in mind is necessary for good design.

More specifically, i would suggest Time as an absolute measure of every interface. UI should strive to minimize the time it takes to do anything at the expense of aesthetics.

Unfortunately often it's not as simple as that, you have to offset many difference things: ergonomics, aesthetics, intuitiveness, efficiency, information density etc etc. If you drew "using time as an absolute measure" you'd make an interface that was immensely fast but very difficult to learn

Of course time-to-learn should be taken into account. A mobile app which typically has a minimal number of options should not waste the user's time by teaching things that are contrary to what they have learned in the host OS.

Aesthetic options can be time-wasting. For example, the current fad of flatness (which ignores our innate capability to recognize depth from gradients) has made almost all the apps i use slower to use by forcing us to read every button.

Well, I don't think flatness per se is to blame but there should be some affordances to hint what's actionable. Whether that is color/shadows etc might be up for discussion

Time to learn or discover something is another factor.

Given that users learn the OS conventions anyway, it's more economical to design building on the platform.

Material Design isn't just about Android Apps though. They make libraries for websites too, and have guidelines for all types of devices built into the spec. Google isn't using MD in their iOS apps to bring Android design to iOS they're using MD in their iOS apps because they believe MD should be a universal design paradigm for applications and web apps. You can argue that it shouldn't be, you can not like it as a design framework in general, but it's not about Android vs iOS it's about Google's vision of application design regardless of platform.

Isn't it kinda ridiculous to believe your design should be the universal design for all apps?

Their motivation makes it even worse in my opinion. It's something they should know, and we all know, will never happen. That's why the article sees it this way, and I agree.

Google wants to automate the design process as much as possible. They have so many products that if they want to achieve any kind of consistent branding in their interfaces, they have to do this.

They've probably gone to far. I have, more than once, logged into a Google product I haven't used before and been confused about which product it was because it looked so similar to 3 other products.

Their efforts to automate whatever is possible to automate is laudable, however, and I think they've pushed the field of interaction design further than just about any other web company in the past decade.

The company who for close to a decade was criticized soundly and was the butt of many jokes for their terrible design capabilities has now "pushed the field of interaction design further than just about any other web company"?

You're right that Material Design, like the iOS "flat" design, is meant to automate or simplify the design process, but the reason is simply because they want to make more money. If your standards are such that you need to hire a real graphic designer to meet them, then it's more expensive to design an app, therefore there are less apps in your store, therefore you make less money running an app store.

Material Design, and iOS flat design for that matter, have done virtually nothing with respect to pushing design forward other than lower the bar so that it's cheaper and easier for a non-designer to adhere to those standards.

The article's point still stands though: sticking to a platform's design == jarring user experience.

Not to say that I agree that it's necessarily bad: his example of Word on Mac vs. Windows is actually interesting bc, given sufficient differences, users would have a hard time switching between the two if they own both platforms and the applications look completely different. I think it should be possible to retain certain UI paradigms (e.g. back buttons, toolbars) while staying uniform across all platforms in other respects.

Which is true enough. Maybe they should look at iTunes on Windows for a good example of why it's horrible to ignore the host UI designs.

Or maybe QuickTime.

They could look at iTunes on any operating system for examples of horrible UI design.

The whole 'app consistency' vs. 'platform consistency' ignores that most users (probably very close to 'all users') change back and forth between apps on a given platform far more than they change between platforms for a given app. I use Google Inbox, and I switch between that and iOS Mail, Tweetbot, FB Messenger, etc. extremely often. I can't imagine a circumstance where I would have an Android device and switch back and forth between Google Inbox on iOS and Google Inbox on Android more frequently than switching between apps on iOS.

Switching to Google Inbox to read an e-mail and then not being able to swipe back, like you can in basically every other iOS app, is jarring and ridiculous. There's no reason for it, other than arrogance. They could keep 'material design' and still make it feel like an iOS app, but they don't bother. Likewise, they seem to have reimplemented text input and text fields, and done so extremely badly, for no reason that I can tell, causing significant problems with selecting text or using third-party keyboards.

If you're switching from Windows to Mac (or Android to iOS) and back frequently, then you're going to be frequently switching UI paradigms, but you'll be dealing with consistency in a given context. You use iOS for a bit and everything behaves one way, then you pick up an Android device and everything works another way.

When you pick up an iOS device and all your paradigms change, except for this one app where they change back and nothing you're used to works, that's more jarring than switching to iOS and having Google Inbox behave like an iOS app, the way every other app on that device works.

In other words, it's not even about material design; it's about fundamental interaction with the app and breaking all of the user's expectations and habits, for no real gain other than, maybe, developer time.

Is it a jarring experience though? I imagine many Google product users use more than just one app, be it Gmail on iOS and the web browser, or docs, etc. Material design creates a consistent experience across devices and platforms for Google apps.

I think the result is not jarring but a feeling of familiarity.

It's jarring, because basically EVERY OTHER iOS APP behaves similarly.

If you spend all your time on Android and the Web, an for some reason occasionally use a Google app on an iPhone it may feel familiar to you.

But if you have an iPhone chances are you spend a lot of time using other iOS apps (including the system ones) and are used to that design language.

It's nice that it's consistent with other Google products, the problem is that's the wrong thing to do on iOS because it feels so out of place. You can still use your colors and many of your other schemes, but basic platform conventions like share buttons and menu locations should be respected.

>but basic platform conventions like share buttons and menu locations should be respected.

most iOS users I know don't use share buttons anyway. I always get a stupid screen shoot of a web page with a url

I use the share screen quite a bit, but I also recognize that it sucks. Hopefully they'll fix it.

I imagine part of the problem is they added it 5+ years into the platform when most people already had a way of doing things, even if it was sub-par, and they haven't been able to convince people to use it much.

but if you're a google docs user isn't it safe to assume you probably use it on more than one device, and google docs looking and working the same across devices is more important than the individual docs iOS app looking like all your other iOS apps?

Answered here (since you posted a similar comment):


I've always felt like people who were buying Office for Mac probably cared more about having a consistent experience than having a Mac-like one and they probably should have hewed more closely to the Windows look and feel. It's like emacs -- how many people choose to use Aquamacs or something instead of just the traditional one?

> I've always felt like people who were buying Office for Mac probably cared more about having a consistent experience than having a Mac-like one

Why would you assume that someone buying Office for Mac is more familiar with Office for Windows than the Mac they own that they want to run Office on?

That could be true for some customers. It's certainly not true for all customers. It's probably also not a given that even someone very familiar with Office for Windows would want Office for Mac to act like that, instead of like a Mac app.

> Why would you assume that someone buying Office for Mac is more familiar with Office for Windows than the Mac they own that they want to run Office on?

Because Windows had like 90% of the market share?

That's the 90% that didn't buy a Mac. Why does the 10% want a Windows-feeling app when they didn't buy a Windows device?

Well it was certainly true of me and I think it's true of a lot of people who want to buy Office because it's what they use at work and are familiar with. I think if you cared more about a Mac-like experience you'd buy Pages and such (although it is not as feature-rich, to be fair).

As AdrianN pointed out, the primary use case for Office for Mac is interoperability. If you don't care about interoperability, you probably would buy Pages. Or just use Google Docs. You buy Office for Mac because that's the format your office uses, or your professor expects, or whatever. You probably don't buy Office for Mac out of some longing for a Windows interface.

If "familiarity because I use it at work" is the primary criterion, you'd probably have bought a PC.

I basically think of it like something like emacs, where it doesn't conform to the OS at all but instead works exactly the same throughout different platforms (and users who are intimately familiar with it expect that). The interop in Office for Mac was also just about as lousy as Pages for a long time although I think more recent versions may have improved it.

I don't think the two are comparable. Emacs is a bizarre beast that fits no common UI paradigm/design language/whatever. It has its own shortcut system, its own undo/redo behavior, its buffer concept, etc. Everything about it is EMACS. If you use Emacs, it's specifically because you want to use Emacs and all it's uniqueness. It's consequently a love-it-or-hate it tool, and it's extremely niche relative to Word, or I bet even gedit.

Office, on the other hand, you probably use because you need to create Office-formatted docs. Very few people are likely buying Office because they long for the Office interface. Office doesn't even have a consistent interface paradigm. They've reinvented it repeatedly, culminating in the Ribbon UI. But at the end of the day, Office's interface is a Windows interface. They've done their own thing, but it's still clearly Windows, and shoehorning that interface onto a Mac feels out of place in a way it doesn't on Windows.

I can't comment on interop. It's been a while since I used Office for Mac. I don't recall any notable interop issues, but I mostly used the mail client (Entourage, later Outlook). I used Word sometimes but wasn't exactly writing for publication.

I guess I use Word in a different way than most? I used to be a major user of advanced features like the VBA editor, style editor, etc., and having that all work totally differently bothered me.

If you just want .doc files lots of programs will do it cheaper.

In my experience, the people buying Office for mac care most about seamless interoperating with all the people who insist on using Office to for all their business needs.

And you don't think a consistent interface is part of that seamlessness?

Anyway, at least in 2011 it failed in that metric too, because documents would look quite different on the Mac version than on the Windows version in many cases.

What I really wanted, at the time, was the exact same experience on both platforms, from feature set, to way of use, to the look of documents rendered, and since it didn't really deliver that I was disappointed.

> And you don't think a consistent interface is part of that seamlessness?

No, not at all. I don't care that my UI is consistent with yours. I care that you can open the doc I sent you.

It's also a jarring experience if I switch from using Google Maps on Android to using Google Maps on iOS and it's totally different. Granted this is less common.

The article explicitly covered that point. MS used to say the same thing.

As an iOS user, it's still jarring as hell to have a native app feel like something from other OS. I don't want to learn another platform's conventions to use my own platform.

On Android it makes sense, they make android. On the web it's OK because websites all look different. But all iOS apps generally work the same and when you stand out it's annoying.

You know all those people who complain about Java applications not feeling right? Yeah, same kind of thing. As a long time Mac user you can tell when the program you're using is a lazy port from Windows because it doesn't fit in.

The funny thing is that Microsoft had a tendency to do the same thing on their own OS.

For example, Office would come out with some new paradigm – draggable toolbars, for example – that didn't exist anywhere else in Windows, and wasn't part of the standard libraries that other developers had access to. They'd use that for a while, and slowly those features would make their way into other Windows apps (first- and third-party), and right when that started to get standardized, Office would do something else – like the ribbon – which, again, didn't exist anywhere else.

In other words, Microsoft had a tendency to eschew standard OS behaviours even on their own OS, and kept pushing the bar by making new UI paradigms as fast as everyone else could try and keep consistency with them.

but if you're a docs user wouldn't you expect docs to look and feel the same everywhere? That's the choice google has to make. Do we worry about our app matching YOUR OS's design patterns, or do we keep our applications consistent across all platforms?

I expect the content of my document to look the same everywhere.

I expect the app that I use to view my document to behave like other apps on the platform.

It is Google's choice to make, the article is arguing that they made a poor choice. They can still make the app very Google-y in looks and organization but make it much nicer for iOS users by following a few platform conventions.

There is a very wide variety of iOS apps that look completely different but feel similar due to following the guidelines. Google should be able to fit into that.

Programming languages are interfaces too. Google saying MD should be the universal design is like saying Java should be the universal programming language.

True, and even if they could add little changes to make diehard mac users happy, without compromising their vision, it would still be a bad idea. Creating different user interfaces for a functional application is just wasting resources and increasing the likelihood for bugs.

That's the most '90s-Microsoft comment I've seen. Google aspires to have such a pervasive monopoly that its design paradigm should be treated as universal.

The concept that everyone everywhere should adopt Google branding as their design style isn't even reasonable or sane. When you look at a website using Material that isn't made by Google, you know one of two things: Either the designer is a hopeless fanboy, or they were just too lazy to design their own website.

I don't view using googles Material Angular library any different than I view people using bootstrap.

Google is acting more like Microsoft.

They are building huge moats around their business ( Android, Chrome etc ) so it becomes harder to use some Google products without using others.

Google discontinued 'Google Sync' ( https://support.google.com/a/answer/2716936?hl=en ).

It favors Google Finance and Youtube over its rivals in search results page.

They 'have not figured out' how to allow extensions in Chrome mobile.

They had no-poaching agreements with rival companies.

I am almost a Google fanboy, but I suspect they will be no different to Microsoft in a few years. Letting products stagnate, pushing the tech industry backwards but making a pretty profit for investors.

To be fair, Chrome for iOS won't ever have extensions because Apple requires all HTML rendering to be done with their web viewer (which can be embedded in other apps), meaning that Google simply can't control the rendering of the page (and thus implement the majority of chrome extensions). The app is basically just a wrapper for the same browser that Safari uses.

Chrome on Android is a different story though. Firefox on Android allows you to use add-ons for the web version of Firefox with no fuss. Why can't Chrome do the same?

Because the very first thing many people would install is Adblock Plus.

Google, however, desperately needs mobile advertising, because people are using desktop/laptop PCs less and less (and more and more people use adblockers on these), and mobile advertising is the only space not yet "disrupted" by ad blockers.

> Because the very first thing many people would install is Adblock Plus.

Because I can't install Adblock in Android Chrome, I won't use Chrome at all. And because I like my bookmarks/history synced between phone and desktop, that means that I won't use Chrome on desktop either.

I ended up using a hosts-file based solution on my home server to block ads in my household at the network level. Then I connect to my VPN and push all traffic from my mobile through it so ads get blocked when I'm out and about.

On the upside, this works in Chrome and in apps, so my mobile experience is ad-free without having to root my device.

Bit extreme, I'll admit...

I'm not sure how valid that claim is, since Content Blockers are a thing on iOS and I'm sure there are similar solutions on Android.

I think it's more towards the school of thought of 'if it isn't easy, most people won't.

Installing an ad blocker isn't as easy as installing an add on someone links, you have to actively search for it (and require root on Android? Not 100% sure about that. For chrome this is, I have ff on my Android).

If you want to block ads in apps as well as the browser, you have two options. One is an adblocker that's implemented using the VPN API. This doesn't require root, but it does mean that all of your data usage will appear to come from the adblocker app, rather than your specific apps. The other is to use an app that adds blocklists to /etc/hosts. This does require root.

That only works because of another bit of anticompetitive behavior, on the side of Apple. There is in fact only a single browser available on ios (without hacking/sideloading) : Apple Safari.

The Chrome and Firefox browsers are skins over embedded Safari [1] + utilities (such as bookmark/password sync) (technically it uses UIWebView, which is Safari). So, it is despite Google's sincerest efforts that Chrome has adblocking on ios.

[1] https://developer.chrome.com/multidevice/ios/overview

Completely wrong. UIWebViews can render your modified HTML.

There are many Apps that do that, and Google already did that, with their data compression feature.

>It favors Google Finance and Youtube over its rivals in search results page.

Finance is integrated with specific financial queries, so searching "goog" will show stock history and similar. This is different from the actual search results however. It's similar to special queries for translations, definitions, conversions, and so on.

I can understand this being criticized, but I don't think it's an abuse of power in any way.

As for Youtube, that's just an extremely popular website. It ranks highly organically because it has tens of thousands of links coming in all the time. There's also always fresh content to index which Google ranks favorably. The site has every expectation of ranking highly. So I don't buy that one without some evidence.

I mean, where do you expect links to go? If you look at the biggest websites there's:

* Facebook,which has large portions of its content invisible to Google * Wikipedia, which is probably in the #1 spot * YouTube really is the next most likely result for many queries.

For profit companies doing business for profit is not that shocking imo. The holier-than-thou attitude like the don't be evil motto is a bit rich coming from a company that participated in the prism program the same way as others and one of its main revenue source is selling ads. I mean, I don't get the special/fan treatment for some companies, Google included. Unless I'm a shareholder I don't believe for a second there is a Big Corp out there looking out for my interests.

> so it becomes harder to use some Google products without using others.

This was a phase around the boss of Google+. Google found that people don't like it and stopped doing it, like 2-4 years ago. Now it's perfectly possible to use things separately I would argue.

really? I still can't unlink my gmail account from my youtube account. Voice is still falling to the wayside, and hangouts is being pushed instead.

I'm going to have to respectfully disagree with you

Microsoft has never been "cool" and I can tell you, even in the 90's.

>Google is acting more like Microsoft.

No company will ever act as Microsoft did.

>They are building huge moats around their business ( Android, Chrome etc ) so it becomes harder to use some Google products without using others.

You must not use iOS because you're forced to use their apps as the default apps and they cannot be changed.

>They had no-poaching agreements with rival companies.

Steve Jobs/Apple instigated this and threatened Google if they didn't comply. To level this accusation at Google and not even mention Apple reveals your agenda.

How did they threaten Google?

The author should launch iTunes on Windows and realize that Apple is pulling the same kind of crap on Windows.

Large companies have large egos.

Safari for Windows did as well, complete with confirmation dialogs that came out of the top toolbar like a receipt from an ATM and bubbly blue Ok buttons like OS X of its day.

As a PC user who aspired to buy a Mac at the time, I happened to like it. But I'd also wager it was one of the many reasons Safari for Windows didn't really take off.

But man was it fun to feel like you had some of the Mac's lickable UI on a PC.

> But man was it fun to feel like you had some of the Mac's lickable UI on a PC.

Well played sir, now nobody who knows you from HN will ever touch your Macbook

The author addresses this in the article: “Good Mac apps should feel like Mac apps, and good Windows apps should do likewise. If iTunes for Windows feels like a Mac app, Apple’s doing it wrong. (One could argue Apple’s doing it wrong with iTunes everywhere, of course…)”

That's not addressing it. That's making a hollow, unqualified claim, using authoritative tone to make it sound like a proper, true absolute.

iTunes on Windows is mentioned in the article. Does it help that Steve Jobs hated the whole idea?

Personally I'd say it was mild in comparison to the usability hell that Microsoft inflicted on Mac OS and later OS X users with its office programs.

An Steve Jobs was an idiot in this regard. iPod sales went no where until iTunes as released on Windows.

To be fair, iTunes on Mac is also a buggy, confusing, slow and generally terrible application.

I actually think it's a pretty okay marketing strategy. If you truly believe your own interface is a selling point,then you need to show it off to people who aren't familiar with it.

If iTunes truly has a superior user experience (ha!) people will think, hey wouldn't it be nice if all my apps were like that.

But superior user experience comes in no small part from familiarity within the ecosystem. Material design on iOS is alien mainly because most iOS application behave in the same way.

This is the same for Office on OSX. Since most of the OSX apps have the same look & feel, having an application that is even slightly different is jarring.

On Windows though, it seems to me that most of the applications have gone the way of re-implementing their UI. This does not make iTunes on Windows any less horrible though, but it seems like a case of broken windows theory.

"If iTunes truly has a superior user experience "

It has not

I thought the parenthesis made that quite clear.

Anyway, in the early days of iTunes on Windows, the design and looks was a big selling point.

They do and the authors point stands regardless.

Apple generally doesn't try porting their software, iTunes being a notable exception. Google Maps however is rage inducing on iOS.

Well, Apple Music for Android is also a good example of what the author criticizes from Google. It doesn't follow material design and the position of the menus is the iOS one, not the Android one.

So, if all the apps they port doesn't follow the guidelines, can we conclude that Apple is also the Microsoft of the 2010s?

>Google Maps however is rage inducing on iOS.

Can you clarify how it bothers you? I've found it to be not much different with my new 6S vs. my previous Sony Z3C. I feel like it has become less user-friendly on both platforms, but I don't recall significant differences between them.

Apple Maps, however, I cannot put up with.

Apple Maps wouldn't be able to find itself on the homescreen of your phone. Google maps on iOS any day!

I noticed that when I was visiting NYC, there was so much more available on Apple Maps. Returning home to the Netherlands showed me again how much it sucks and is devoid of information, especially with the lack of biking directions!


It's behavior is unpredictable and entirely different from all other apps on iOS. Especially hidden functions are aggravating.

Google's data is superior for points of interest but the app is less integrated with the platform (e.g. lock screen, watchOS)

Ah, OK. I don't have an apple watch and I don't use it from the lock screen. I agree that finding some features can be a pain but I definitely also noticed that on the Android version. For a while there they hid (eliminated?) local map storage and the "reverse route" option seems to only recently have reappeared.

Major gripes I still have is the inability to create a multi-destination route or to modify the plotted route. As far as I can tell it's only possible from the desktop site.

You should read the article, he did call out Apple for pushing the Mac look to Windows with iTunes.

> Large companies have large egos.

So true:) Apart from what's best for user experience,they tend to enforce their tech and design everywhere. But in this case, i feel material design shouldn't be an issues since it's now increasingly used on the web.

It's worth pointing out one major difference between Word 93 and Google apps in 2016. Back in 1993, we were pretty much living in a 1-device-per-user world. People had one computer, and they used all their apps on that one computer. Hence, if consistency is the goal, the only thing to be consistent with is other apps on that computer.

However, in 2016, we're living in a multi-device world. A single person can easily own a smartphone, a tablet, a laptop as well as a desktop. Some of them may be iOS, others may be Windows, and others may be Android. And they are likely to use the same apps (eg, google Maps) on all of those different devices. Hence, I would argue that consistency across devices today, is more important than consistency across different apps. As someone who owns a mix of both Mac and Android products, I would like for Google docs to look and behave similarly no matter which device I'm on, even if it means that Google Maps ends up looking differently from Apple-Music.

Of the apps I use most of them I use on only one device. So it's better to stick to the platform guidelines.

While in general I'd agree with Jason, in this case I can't. There's a big difference between the case of Word on the Mac back in the 90s and Google apps on iOS.

I use Gmail, Google Maps and Google Docs, but I use them equally on iOS and on the web. What I want from these apps is a consistent UI on the web and in the iOS apps. I couldn't give two craps about what it looks like on Android. No disrespect to Android, but that's just not an issue for me.

Jason's position is reasonable. Making the UI on iOS more like iOS conventions would have advantages and for some people this would be a better option, but there's an extra issue here he's not acknowledging.

I must be a very weird person I feel lately (this theme is recurrent on HN); I don't actually notice the difference. I use iOS & Android and if the app works well I don't notice if it doesn't behave 'like it is supposed to do' on the respective OS. It is far more noticeable on desktops. However, if copy/cut/paste (Firefox on Linux notably which is unusable because I cannot copy to/from it), file dialog and drag & drop works with the rest of the applications and the application is solid otherwise as well I don't care about that either and probably won't notice it. I notice it with software that presents me a hard to use custom file open/save dialog only. And I tend to just not use that anymore.

But on mobile; if the app is good (I for one like Google docs) I don't believe many people actually notice this difference.

> I use iOS & Android and if the app works well I don't notice if it doesn't behave 'like it is supposed to do' on the respective OS.

I think that's the issue. I don't use both iOS and Android, and I suspect most users don't. So you're used to the conventions of both platforms so when you see something that looks Android-y you know how to use it.

As an iOS only user, I don't have the Android training. So Google's apps are their own weird little world to me, different from everything else on my phone and in my tablet.

To me the web and my desktops are separate platforms, so I accept that they behave different. For whatever reason that doesn't mess with my mental model.

But if two apps on my phone behave vastly different, that causes unnecessary confusion.

I imagine I'd be the same as you if I used Android on a semi-frequent basis.

Have you tried to remove your Firefox profile on Linux? Just rename it so you can move it back later if needed. Then try to copy/paste. Then disable all addons and try again. It should work of course.

I tried a few things and then gave up; I will revisit. It is a known problem as there are a lot of posts all over the web from people with the same issue.

>copy/cut/paste (Firefox on Linux notably which is unusable because I cannot copy to/from it)

You just highlight text and press ctrl+c, ctrl+v, etc.

You could also use the right click menu. I've never had a problem like that before.

This works for me on firefox 46.0.1 on Fedora 23.

Must be something with my environment; i'll remove it as apparently it's just me. There are more instances I ran into that, but my example of the non standard file explorer is more annoying usually anyway.

The funny thing is: I understand his argument, but the Android like Google apps where what finally made the iPhone a little usable for me. I have it for nearly a year now and still every day wish myself back to the times I had a Nexus 4. It is just way more efficient. I don't what the goal of a normal iPhone user is. But my goal is to get things done as fast as possible. I need to work. But for that iPhones are really painful to use. And I don't know but if you have seen the Gmail App, can you ever go back to the Mail app from iOS? It's like a Porsche vs a rikshaw. Why would anybody want to use the latter one?

I agree with the point being made: I would be really pissed if a desktop app had the window management buttons on a different corner, even the same corner but different icons would feel bad. However, mobile apps are more like websites rather than desktop apps. The 'shell' has to be consistent with UI design and behaviour whereas the 'content' can have a UI relevant to function and maybe a different brand. For example, if you open gmail on Chromium and Safari, you'd expect it to behave and look the same on both.

"and the target of dislike and rage from many people who love Apple products."

He managed to lose me in the first paragraph. Not a record, but really close.

Do you usually find that you enjoy reading articles in MacWorld to the end?

I don't even know if that's a made up magazine or a real one. :)

This seems like a trivially silly article. In essence it argues: "OSes are special sauce and apps are commodities - Google should recognize this and stop trying to differentiate their app designs."

That's certainly a valid opinion, but its reverse is just as defensible - if one considers services to be special sauce and OSes to be commodities, then it directly follows that app UIs should first be consistent across platforms. And considering that Google's entire business model is based on the latter view, why on earth would they take the author's view?

Just some icons and menu colors? If that's their biggest problem then they're doing well.

What you are describing is the entire field of interaction design. It's not "just some icons and menu colors".

No I'm not. The two different UI styles are extremely similar. Look at how little changes on the screenshot of apple music, the good example.

Complaining about the direction of the three dots that make up the menu button is the ultimate in bikeshedding.

Honestly as a user I think Apple and Google can fry frogs with their design guidelines. I want app makers to make apps that are fun to use and enjoyable and more importantly useful. I could not care less if they are following company X's design guidelines or company Y's design guidelines.

There is nothing earth shattering or innovative or useful about Apple or Material design guidelines. It is just an attempt to establish their brand.

Remember when Facebook and Google had strict styling "guidelines" for their login buttons that were completely different and didn't fit aesthetically on anybody's login screen together?

That was big ego

The article has some good points. Material Design is a fine convention for Android and for Google's Web apps, and is well-supported for those if you use Google's libraries and frameworks. But I would not recommend that app developers should take MD to iOS. iOS has it's own conventions. Observe them. On top of all that, Web UI design lacks universal conventions. There isn't much to be gained by aping Google's style on the Web, unless you really like it. Every developer needs distinctive design elements in the areas that are not covered by platform conventions, and their Web UI is a good place to develop distinctive elements.

BUT that doesn't mean Google is making a mistake, except possibly on iOS. If Google's iOS apps are not close enough to iOS conventions, Google is, at least potentially, confusing their iOS users.

If Google docs had a mac like ui on ios, the author would be writing about how inconsistent Google docs is. "They should unify their design"

And by "unify" the author would most likely mean "change all the other apps to have Mac-like UI".

Google is also resembling Microsoft in the sortof-broken-but-usable cross-product features.

For example, when I browse to google maps, and try to look at the reviews list of a point of interest on the map, it takes me to a google search - completely out of the context I was in - and opens as modal dialog in that search area.

There are lots of examples of similar functionality. Individually, its harmless, but as a whole, it feels sluggish and clunky.

This kind of behavior seems to be common in large software companies that have separate divisions with communication issues between them.

It's sad to see Google go down that road.

Reading the headline, I was half expecting the article to say that Google's just-announced Instant Apps initiative is the resurrection of ActiveX in IE, a comparison I'm just waiting for some journalist to make. (To this point, I've mostly read nothing but praise for the idea (instant apps). I see instant apps as another sad retreat from the promise of the open web.)

While I prefer adherence to the OS’ conventions, I can handle variations as long as they solve some problem. For example, one could argue in favor of something like a non-standard icon if that makes gestures easier to discover than they are by default on iOS.

Gratuitous redesigns are silly though, and by nature have to consume engineering effort that otherwise would’ve been spent elsewhere. And when engineering effort has clearly gone into a new veneer while there are still broken app features, I become really angry. Too many apps on iOS alone have been “updated” with redesigns and mysteriously lost functionality in the process (or effectively lost functionality, by hiding previously-known features somewhere new).

tl;dr--- Google is the equivalent of 90s-era Microsoft because it is angrily disliked by some Apple fans, and it incorporates Material Design in its iOS apps.

That was a suprisingly accurate summary. The whole thing, including the incoherent rant about material design

I know that 'tl;dr' is frowned upon here but this particular tl;dr is better written and just as in depth as the article itself.

Wry tl;dr's like this should be exempted.

couldn't agree more. this article is nothing more than an ignorant rant. i wanted to give it the benefit of the doubt, even though it's from macworld but oh well...

just take a look at the two app comparisons. you have to be an idiot to write stuff like that and actually believe it.

on material: google has, from the start, said it's a design style and philosophy that it has chose to adapt on android (and on the web too), so it's only natural they try to do it on ios.

I was going to write a similar reply, but since you've nailed it, I refrain.

But it's okay for Apple to inflict their design on Android because it's Apple.

But they DON'T. That's the amazing thing here.

Apple does on Windows, which everyone has known sucks since the early 2000s.

But when they released Apple Music on Android? It followed platform conventions. It actually made news in the Apple community because Apple DIDN'T make the Android app look like iOS. The Apple people I follow were actually surprised that Apple decided to be a good citizen instead of going with the usual "We know best".

Apple inflicts their design on Android? They only have three apps in the play store and they all look like modern Android apps with material design.

Example: https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=com.apple.andr...

Particularly irritatingly: Google disables “shake to undo”, which I've actually needed, instead making it “shake to give feedback”, which is never something I've needed.

Presumably just to upset iOS users?

They're just looking after they're business. By having the same applications layout/behaviour, it will help users to switch to Android easily in the future.

What a sad and click bait-y article.

So, there's not a million other examples of apps that also don't follow the iOS style?

This article was written just to beat the Android vs iOS war drums.

I don't think it is click-bait, nor to incite wars. I think it expresses clearly something I noticed long ago: Google apps's--under iOS--UX/UI is completely different from the rest. They look odd, they do not behave as an iOS user would expect an iOS app to behave. Same as the Microsoft applications he mentions.

I love that Google has picked a unique UI/UX for Android, that's great. Yet, when providing apps for iOS, they should behave, and conform like the rest of iOS apps do.

The only google app I regularly use on my iPhone is their Photos app, and I like that it's cohesive across platforms. The subtle switch to being material design land on iOS gives me reassurance that my pictures will be safe in google's cloud. This feels worlds away from the design wars 20 years ago, when all you got was frustration and no real user benefit.

That's why we all have different furniture.

Apple has strict rules for allowing apps into the iOS AppStore, and they are enforced for every developer, including Google. While I disagree with the contents of the article, the rant should not be against Google only. If material design apps are accepted then it is not only Google's "fault".

I'm going to go out on a limb and assume that most users of google apps also use google-as-a-website.

So what's google to do, provide consistency between the app and other apps or between the app and the corresponding web UI?

That isn't a simple question with a simple answer...

I for one miss the 3.x-4.x Holo UI.

Holo was the best UI Google ever did. It felt like the future. Now I feel like Android is living in some wannabe iOS thing with paper-based skeu.

Material design is not android design. It is googles design concept. Being surprised that the company uses it for their applications, is like an American traveling to a far off country called Great Britain and be surprised they speak English there

And Microsoft is 'unmaking' many of the mistakes it made in the past two decades

I think the author misses the point. Using a native-looking interface will only encourage users to stay on their iTems, and Google (not so) secretly wants to convert those users to their own native platforms+.

I've never really used iOS so can someone tell me if this is even a real problem?

The apps shown in the linked piece seem totally fine to me, so maybe there are better examples out there?

They seem fine to you because you don't use iOS.

I'm guessing you're an Android person. Have you run across apps that don't feel like Android apps? They feel like someone made a least-effort attempt to port an iOS app over to "the other platform" and the result is just sort of jarring and weird?

That's the issue. It's not necessarily that they look bad, your app can look like what you want. The issue is that they don't follow lots of little platform conventions that you get used to and so they feel foreign and slightly annoy you every time you try to use them.

UI "conventions" (i.e. fashions) wouldn't be such a big deal if people adhered more closely to first principles like discoverability, etc.

The more you understand product design and usability, the more you value consistency with the platform.

The problem is, no one starts out with this knowledge or value system.

an apple fanboy dislikes android, quelle surprise

According to the author, they made that mistake in 1993.

In 1993, Microsoft's market cap was under $30 billion. Today it is over $400 billion.

"Boo hoo" - every Android user with an app drawer full of iOS rounded rect, flat, gradient-shaded icons.

So you recognize that it is a problem. I've heard that kind of complaint from Android users before and they're correct.

So shouldn't Google fix it on iOS?

Apple, of all people, did it right when they brought Apple Music over to Android. I'm still amazed at that. They don't have a good history (i.e. everything they released on Windows).

Another crappy Jason Snell's Original

Making analogies between Microsoft in the 90s and X without mentioning the huge antitrust lawsuit[0] always seems dubious to me. The evolution of Microsoft as a business is not purely due to its product strategy.

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States_v._Microsoft_Cor....

Actually Google currently is facing some serious anti-trust cases as well.

Maybe Google is better at hiding it or just being 'less evil', but MS was pretty open with their 'destroy everything that comes in our path'. I think it is important to mention that when mentioning the antitrust case.

Edit: I was against the antitrust case at the time even though I did not like nor used MS /products/ and did not approve of their practices. I believed they got that power because they managed to get enough people drink the coolaid and that's a part of what a business does; kudos to them basically. Still don't like most software they make, but as a company it seems a lot better now. Why restrict that? I have another opinion (I would be for the antitrust case now) now as I grow older.

MS wasn't aware they needed to hide it, Google's advantage..

There have been other antithrust cases which were about abuse of power (AT&T Co) so they should've been aware?

I don't really see capturing browser market by shoving it in your face at every opportunity and taking advantage of shady opt-out bundle installers as that much different than bundling with the OS.

Google is really the same as any other big company. They will do what they can get away with to further their goals.

Microsoft now aren't that great with the following examples:

* Constant starting/shuttering of their mobile OS offerings.

* Disregarding user privacy in Windows 10 (and extending that to Windows 7/8 via updates)

* Forcing users of Windows 7/8 to update to 10. It's basically malware at this stage.

* Removing admin abilities in Enterprise offerings of Windows 10.

What admin abilities were removed in Windows 10 Enterprise?

For one, you can no longer completely disable certain (feature) updates. The most you can do is delay the feature by a year.

That doesn't seem to be what they claim in [1] for a managed environment. We are still using 2008 R2 and Windows 7, but it is getting to the point where we need to at least upgrade Windows Server. What a headache.

[1] https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/itpro/windows/manage/int...

You mean because of the existence of the LTSB branch? Yes, that may be an option for some. However, LTSB still doesn't give the administrator control over feature updates: it just removes feature updates completely.

No, I mean the continued existence of WSUS and Configuration Manager. Although I find it really unclear. It says under CBB servicing, "When devices are being managed through Windows Server Update Services, the same workflows are executed as with Windows Update except IT administrators must approve releases before installations begin."

Are you saying that there is no selective feature control anymore, you have to accept the entire feature pack or not? That different from the past, but it is really hard to compare since Windows didn't really operate on the CU model before. What is the analog to a feature pack?

But the bullet point immediately following that says:

Microsoft will not produce servicing updates for a feature upgrade after its corresponding CBB reaches the end of its servicing lifetime. This means that feature upgrade deployments cannot be extended indefinitely

Microsoft will not keep releasing security updates for "old" feature versions: miss too many feature updates, and you also no longer get security updates. And with a declared feature cadence of roughly once per 4 months, it means when you defer a feature for more than 8 months, you will no longer receive security updates either.

As for feature packs, I do not know if Microsoft will continue to maintain optional features for the desktop. The impression I got is that they are moving towards a unified desktop image across all deployments.

Interesting, thanks for the discussion on the subject. I just can't see moving away from Windows 7 embedded / Windows 7 enterprise in the near future. I envision all sorts of nightmare scenarios where we have to redeploy all the embedded hosts because of some update on the development machines. It wont necessarily be Microsoft's fault directly, but some vendor other vendor driver or such will have to be updated due to the new 'feature' pack. Hah.

You can't disable users from accessing the Windows Store, from what I've heard.

That is for Windows 10 Pro, which as far as I can tell they are not even pushing on small business like us. I am seriously concerned though. It was hard enough transitioning to 7.

Totally disagree. I love the iOS material design apps like Inbox and Google Photos

TL&DR: Author doesn't like material design

WebKit and Blink: Embrace, Extend, Extinguish.

He says "Truth be told, just as I used Word 5.1 back in the day, I use many Google services today."

Just as? No, he paid good money for the Microsoft software.

Do you think MS Word should have been free? Or that google should have charged for it?

Three words for the author of this post: iTunes for Windows

It's mentioned explicitly as an example of what not to do.

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