I happened to catch a clip of an old interview with Steve Jobs on NPR's Fresh Air yesterday. It was early 1990s Steve Jobs, but one of the things that he said about the Macintosh was this notion of bringing "a liberal arts mindset to the computer". If there is anything that embodies a classic Apple value, it is -- or was -- this notion of good design.
Good design isn't simply interesting colors and appearances that make you go wow, it's functional, meaningful, and with purpose. And this aspect is where Apple has totally gone off the rails. A perfect reminder of it, one that I find myself interacting with nearly every day, is the iTunes interface on the phone. I've collected some screenshots for you.
But there are multiple aspects that suck. Here you'll see the tiny control for playing the playlist. Alternatively, you can click on the specific tune to get it to play.
Another aspect that sucks is Transparency. I've already written about how frustratingly in the way transparency is on the desktop. Here, it's grabbing color from the album image to shade the background, making the UI more difficult to navigate. Even more useless is if you build a playlist using multiple artists. It uses the background from the first album in the playlist.
The team at Apple is probably patting themselves on the back for how they extract color from the album image to define the color palette, selecting the background and then the contrasting colors. But being clever doesn't make it good design. Here's an example of a playlist that is quite difficult to read.
Controls that don't work well suck, regardless of how cool they look
The primary function of iTunes is to make it easy to organize and play the electronic music files that you have stored on your device. If it's difficult to operate the controls, then the UI sucks. If your using iTunes and you're listening to a track, the track progress indicator is a thin little line around the play button on the track and a thin line running through the middle of the controller at the bottom. If you want to fast forward or rewind, you need to interact with line -- or attempt to find another screen to control the software.
The main function of this software is to play music and yet it makes the controls for doing this nearly impossible to access.
This is why any love that I may have had for Apple products is being trampled and crushed. New Apple is high fructose corn syrup sweetened and tastes nothing like the product we've grown to love over the years.