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iTunes 11: the convergence of iOS and OS X design (theindustry.cc)
29 points by jarederondu 1755 days ago | hide | past | web | 52 comments | favorite

Funny, the one thing that is making we more and more wary of using Mac OSX in the future is the convergence of iOS.

Different strokes, I guess. It just seems odd to celebrate it.

Absolutely agreed. Snow Leopard was the last "true" desktop OS. I really don't see the need for Launchpad and co. when everything is and always has been a cmd+space away.


In response to the heated discussion below, it's not just the launchpad that has me a little peeved about Lion and ML (I'm on ML now). Some of things that are being taken from iOS that I don't necessarily feel belong on the desktop: natural scrolling, skeuomorphication of interfaces, suggested words, "all my files", social media integration (yes, this is just me), etc.

But my biggest pet peeve is just the sheer dumbing down of things. iTunes 11 is pretty, but why put everything a click away? What was so bad about a sidebar that makes everything instantly accessible and only takes 80px? Why does the app now prefer to be run in full screen?

You can ignore features like Launchpad if you don't want them; I do. You can also revert scrolling behaviour, disable word suggestions and autocorrect, disable "all my files", simply not enable social media integration. These aren't hidden preferences, they're just a second away in system preferences.

Meanwhile, by sticking to Snow Leopard, you miss out on:

* Robust full disk encryption (and the underlying filesystem improvements that allowed it to happen)

* Improved security (e.g. kernel ASLR, signed apps -- if you want them, sandboxing)

* Much improved user apps (Safari, Preview, QuickTime to name a few)

* Recovery partitions for improved disaster recovery

* Access to the App Store (edit: I'd forgotten you can get this on 10.6 too, though I couldn't speak to how many apps still support 10.6)

* For developers, there've been improvements to Objective-C, including the addition of ARC and simpler syntax

Snow Leopard is starting to look really old now, and as far as I can tell the only unavoidable difference is that Spaces acts differently. It's a big sacrifice to make just for that.

Mac App Store works fine on 10.6.8.

Apparently you missed the part where I said I'm on ML (and have done pretty much exactly what you suggest). I'm merely observing that I do not like the direction that OS X is taking in terms of UI/UX.

Many regular users beg to differ. At least, in my experience, the people who are less familiar with computers are the ones that love the new features the most. Especially launchpad and such. Also, just curious, but what about Lion / Mountain lion disqualifies it from being a "true" desktop OS?

The 90s seem like they would have been a good time to worry about users who don't really know what computers are. Why are we now driving for that market when everyone under the age of 30 grew up using modern computers? Are we still gunning from the mostly imaginary "grandmother who doesn't know how to use computers" market? The market that 1) is only shrinking, if indeed it ever existed and 2) presumably doesn't buy computers...

Makes about as much sense as designing all cars in the 50s for people who grew up with horses. While those people are certainly still alive, it is a business strategy decades out of place.

I have family members who have used Apple products since at least System 7 (probably earlier, that's the first one I can remember). But they're still more comfortable with an iPad than a Mac.

There are a ton of things that we assume are second nature, but are really learned skills. I think the notion that applications that aren't in the dock still exist (in the Applications folder) is starting to sink in, but installing software from disk images? You have to mount it, copy the program to the Applications folder, understand where it went so you can launch it, and then eject the disk image.

I knew people when I was in high school (granted that was a while ago, but it wasn't their first time using a computer) who would download software and just run it off of the disk image every time they wanted it. Unless the developer has put in an alias and a background image to explain things, there's no indication that there's a better solution.

> I knew people when I was in high school...

Yeah, these people exist, but I think they are a dying breed. Children who grew up using computers are not going to have these problems. I think our obsession with this dying breed of computer users is very convenient, since it paints a narrative of "regular users (read: most users) are so much dumber than we are."

It strokes our ego to believe that dumbing down interfaces is necessary.

It's not about people who don't know what computers are. It's about creating simple solutions to common problems. Most people do not want to fiddle with their computers regardless of how well they understand them, they want to accomplish a task and move on. Even as a developer this is why I choose OS X over Linux.

The question is how far can they push it without totally frustrating the power users. I think it may be inevitable that Apple eventually stops making machines that the majority of non-Apple developers can tolerate.

I don't think that is what is being done. Making things better is something that can be enjoyed by all users, not just "regular" users.

This part of ComputerGuru's post is what resonates with me:

> But my biggest pet peeve is just the sheer dumbing down of things. iTunes 11 is pretty, but why put everything a click away? What was so bad about a sidebar that makes everything instantly accessible and only takes 80px? Why does the app now prefer to be run in full screen?

Some things are legitimately being improved. Network configuration in all of the major operating systems is a great example of this. NetworkManager is wildly better than manually editing a wpa_supplicant file, and Windows/Macs have seen similar improvements. Not "Better for 'Regular Users'(tm).", just "Better.".

There seems to be a sort of schizophrenia in the field of "improving" computers. On one hand you have people who are honestly just trying to make things better (and are, for the most part, succeeding). It seems to me like you fall into this camp. You see value in changing things to improve the situation for everybody. I totally dig that attitude. However on the other hand you have people who are trying to make things better... for people who are perpetually trapped in the 90s. The improvements these people create are the ones that concern me.

Both are trying to improve things, but the attitude towards users is very different. I only mean to attack the second camp of "software improvement"; I think their motivation is flawed, outdated, and toxic.

Do you work with people? General people 'get' computers as much as they did in the 90's and they've been using them the whole time.

The success of the iPad shows that there is still a market for making computers easier to use--why not take some of those ease-of-use features and put them on actual computers?

Power users might not like some of the changes, but it's easy to provide them with advanced setting options to change them back (like scrolling or Gatekeeper)--or build the new features in such a way that they're easily ignored (like Launch Pad).

I think the success of the iPad has more to do with it being a good piece of product that does what people want it to do, and less to do with all of it's users being trapped in the 90s.

So why not take iPad design mentalities and slap it into a computer? Because the iPad experience was engineered for the iPad. Simple interfaces are necessary due to the nature of touch devices, and usage patterns are designed for the form factor of the iPad. Dumping all of that into a PC because "Users are dumb, but they are smart enough to use the iPad" is missing the point entirely I think. If the same people are involved in both efforts, then I think either they have lost their focus, or I am giving them too much credit to begin with.

iOS is good. OSX is good.

The attitude "OSX is too hard, we need to make it more like iOS" is my concern.

If you can create a legitimate case for making changes to OSX that look like iOS features, then by all means do so. Natural scrolling direction is a great example of that, I remember wishing I could make my touchpad in linux do it 5 years ago. "Users are dumb" is not a legitimate case though.

Just because people are used to something doesn't mean that the something is optimal, that no improvements can be made, or that a simplification isn't useful.

The reversed scrolling direction jumps to mind. Minor in the large scheme of things, but it shows a conscious move towards combining the desktop and mobile concepts.

The thing is, on a trackpad it makes more sense now after getting used to our phones touch.

Also its a quick defaults away to change back to the old way.

defaults write -g com.apple.swipescrolldirection -bool false

I find it amusing that on a site like Hacker News people are complaining about vastly simple things to change. If they remove the choice maybe then complain, but this is a vast non-issue compared to the tweaking I have to do on linux.

They're not complaining because it's difficult to change. They're complaining because they are unhappy with the mentality and the direction OSX is going.

I understand that, it just comes across as someone moving their cheese. I guess I don't expect my desktop os to stay static forever. Change isn't always bad, I was in their camp until about a day after using it in which I realized it wasn't that big of a deal in the first place.

- parlor trick animations everywhere

- Sandboxing non-App store apps

- obfuscating "active" icon for running apps

- daffy notification center

- hidden user Library

- focus on weaker iOS UI w/ fullscreen apps and Launchpad

- half-ass support for multiple monitors (fullscreen, auto-brightness)

- iTunes 11 dumbed down to iPad version

- Time Machine won't restore previous Apple apps

- massive Finder UI bugs (lists don't update, don't always order correctly, show as blank, coverflow view doesn't match list view)

- threading freezes when copying files

hardware degradation:

- device noise in audio port

- crash when connecting to Cinema Display

- MBP keyboard & trackpad don't respond after using external mouse & keyboard

old classics:

- migration away from desktop view, can't see hard drive / files

- QuickTime X dumbed down from QT7

Anonymous downvoters: how am I wrong? I've been exclusively Mac for almost 20 years so I know the difference.

Could you elaborate on:

> Sandboxing non-App store apps

I thought sandboxing was only required for App store apps?

Some features in the OS require the app to be distributed via the App Store.

I've never understood why people complain about features being added they don't use/want/need.

Don't use it.

You're like a person complaining about the addition of seat belts in cars that doesn't want to use one, or a person complaining about the addition of world time zones to your phone when you never leave your own timezone.

Don't use it.

With Windows 8, the same thing is happening to Windows, leaving Linux as the only real "desktop" OS. Even there, you have stuff like Unity, but Linux's flexibility lets you choose not to use it. This is what my Xubuntu desktop looks like, and I don't intend to change it any time soon: http://i.imgur.com/mVAey.png

I am keeping a keen eye on Linux. I'm not quite disgruntled enough with OS X, but I'm getting there. If Apple and Microsoft will continue on their current trajectory, I am confident that I'll switch over to Linux in two or three years.

And I think I won't be the only one. And I think we tech people are always the head of the wave. We are the early adopters. If Apple and Microsoft manage to drive us to Linux en masse, we might just create enough momentum to start a bigger migration.

But whatever. Linux is getting more and more interesting to me every year.

Here's a post from yesterday by me about my experiences with Linux on an ultrabook, I think it's quite indicative of the advances we've seen in the Linux PC world over the last 3-5 years: http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=4848375

And you can ignore Launchpad in Lion and Mountain Lion as if it were Snow Leopard.

Honestly, I don't notice most of the changes. And full screen mode for apps is much better than expanding a window to fit the screen.

Granted all I really use is chrome/firefox/emacs/terminal but really I don't see why everyone continues to whine about the changes. They're minimal to non-existent to users like us.

> And full screen mode for apps is much better than expanding a window to fit the screen.

Which doesn't work the way you expect if you have multiple monitors.

> But my biggest pet peeve is just the sheer dumbing down of things. iTunes 11 is pretty, but why put everything a click away? What was so bad about a sidebar that makes everything instantly accessible and only takes 80px? Why does the app now prefer to be run in full screen?

Is "number-of-clicks" really the best metric to measure usability? I can't imagine something like this being considered a good interface, even though everything is one double-click away: http://it.sheridanc.on.ca/images/cluttered-desktop.jpg

Good point. But can you find a better metric or pattern for this?

Thing is, it still is cmd+space away. Launchpad would make sense if it was easier to "configure", but I simply ignore it... my parents however, really like it.

I feel the same way about Snow Leopard. I try to ignore all the things that alter my OSX experience. Like; launchpad, the lack of "proper spaces", and saving files.

Overall, I prefer to use my old Macbook with Snow Leopard, than my new iMac. It is a sad state. Sometimes, I feel like I should not be "that" guy stuck in the past. But, I dislike the iOS-fication of OSX.

One stop shopping to fix a slew of OSX annoyances: https://github.com/mathiasbynens/dotfiles/blob/master/.osx?o...

You can bring the sidebar back with Cmd-Option-S

I'm loving it! iTunes just disappeared, and all that's left is content, just perfect. Now using iTunes is not a burden anymore. It's snappy, and fun. I'm even rediscovering music in my library. Kudos to the guys who designed and coded the new iTunes!

I have only one wish, that these same guys take over Xcode, and pimp it out!

[...] however iTunes’ new display of Apps is horrid; every app icon has an ugly faux-perspective bevel that just doesn’t seem to work.

I don't understand what the author is referring to here. The screenshot looks just like I remember iOS app icons looking -- they've always had that canned bevel+gloss look applied to them.

Overall, the new iTunes makes me think that Apple keeps inching towards the Metro look. Gradients, colors and embossing are gradually fading out, and one day there will be nothing left except various weights of Helvetica and monochrome icons on a pure white canvas.

I can't see Apple following Microsoft into a UI language that dispatches with affordance to the point that users are confused as to what's an actionable UI element and what isn't.

I agree they're going that way; to a definitely more-modern, understated look. But I think the big difference is going to be that they hold onto visual contrast precisely where Microsoft has let it go and/or confused it.

I'm not sure. In the new iTunes, almost all on-screen elements are now actionable, but only some of them have traditional visual indicators like button outlines or pop-up menu arrows. (For example, a playlist can be renamed by clicking on the large title which looks just like a static header.)

The new iTunes UI doesn't have any mouse-hover effects either, apart from those that are part of the OS X standard window decorations. This suggests that the new UI is designed primarily for touch rather than mouse use.

Good point. Hover is dead.

I think the iOS icons always had a gloss, but they now have a strong bevel particularly noticeable on the bottom. I've noticed that icons with text or design elements overlapping the bevel look especially strange.

Ah, you're right, that must be it. It's quite subtle, but certainly a noticeable change for someone who looks at iOS icons more often than I do.

The idea with that bevel is probably to make the icons look somewhat more three-dimensional when they are "stood up" on a perspective plane (like the OS X dock does with icons in its default position at the bottom). The problem of course is that the icons were not designed for this kind of pseudo-3D look, and that's not something that can be fixed by simply compositing a sharp dark shadow at the bottom edge of the icon.

To me the usability has suffered quite a bit with the update. Everything is a little further away in terms of how many clicks it takes to get to it. Until you show the sidebar that is. I'm glad to see the side bar now has color. But why is it off by default? Just for the sake of change? And why is the keyboard shortcut/menu item the only way to show it (i.e. UI is not discoverable)?

And why is the iTunes icon a musical note? iTunes is more about everything else but music. It's apps/books/video/podcasts/radio/TV/device syncing/music. Something like this would be much more appropriate:


It would be nice if Apple made a music player which only plays music. It is quite confusing to tell people that to download apps for the iPhone, they need to open iTunes, instead of the more appropriately-named App Store.

Tradition is why it's still called iTunes and still has a music note for an icon, which is surprising given how Apple is pretty unsentimental about all of its products.

My take is that iTunes 11 pivots away from making playlists and focuses on the 99% of users that simply buy and listen to albums.

I'm a heavy playlist user and the changes are shockingly bad. For "normal" users there's a dozen different ways to navigate and sort by album. But for playlist users there's now only one view - a text list - and a demoted tool menu on the bottom. Even command keys (i.e. Cmd-N) have been changed. Instead of just making a new playlist it changes the entire app view and the only available action is adding full albums to a playlist.

The only part worse is that I can't restore iTunes 10 via Time Machine without restoring my entire system.

There are 2 opinions that i can see. If you have the sidebar enabled, you get what seems (at least superficially) to be close to the old iTunes interface, with CMD + N for new lists, etc. If you have it disabled, then you can use the column browser, which rather curiously wont work with the sidebar.

Anyway, its more than likely that I completely missed the entire point of the post. Also, downgrading doesn't need a full timemachine restore, the only bit that may be easier with time machine is restoring the old library file, but its apparently not entirely essential.

I missed the difference. The two sidebars were similar enough I just used the new default playlist sidebar.

It looks like Cmd-N works differently depending on which sidebar you're using. Old sidebar it works in classic mode (thanks for pointing that out!). New sidebar it opens the newer New Playlist view.

You can't restore the iTunes app directly: you'll get an OS warning. Using "Restore to..." the Desktop will result in a corrupted app file on the desktop. Also, iTunes 11 changes the library file system a bit.

Lots of thoughts. It looks nice and simple. Too simple. I think it actually looks much sharper and more modern than iOS does these days. Hopefully the design influence runs both ways.

Also, I know everyone has their own opinion, but yikes, this looks just bad to me (from the article): http://theindustry.cc/assets/2012/11/mini.png (edit, maybe it's my high res monitor but that font is painful to look at)

Here's one with more pixels: http://imgur.com/vn0J0

I think that's just a bad screenshot maybe... http://d.pssdbt.com/ruIf

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