Apple was the legend of design but the crown is slipping and Google following suit

I have serious concerns about the scale and size of Apple and their quest for peoples data and control over their information but I have always loved their design, it was always so intuitive and felt in tune (no pun intended) with my life and the way I work but with the release of iOS7  they have let their standards slip and frankly made life a little bit harder for the average person in the street and disappointing if you love design.  Here are some examples of what I mean

  • Adding a new contact – If you wish to add a new contact the default telephone number type is “Radio” come on Apple get a grip will you, “Mobile” maybe these days.  Even the list of options when you call it up to change from radio is actually not in Alphabetical order and it does not look like it is a heuristic algorithm that works out your most common choices and ranks them in that order, in short it is simply poor thinking and they have let themselves down.
  • Selecting which speakers you want to use on Airplay – Well it used to be next to the volume control and now its gone, no amount of playing with the environment would reveal its location, I tried settings, everywhere I could in music and then resorted to using Google search to find an answer and there it was sitting in some new feature that is really hard to find called a sort of control dashboard.

ios7control screen

 

Now I am sure someone somewhere spent several millions pounds on UX design research focus groups and had the classic 5 a day testing undertaken but how can we end up with some thing that fundamentally delivers the following issues to a user.  Where in the god of design manual does it say this makes sense, any of it.  Lets look at the one by one

  1. Adding unnecessary extra steps to an established approach – To do something that took one touch in context has now moved to taking three steps and only if you actually know where to look. You cannot search for the feature you need try searching for AirPlay on your phone, nothing
  2. Offering simply ludicrous options that reflect no currently reality for any demographic under the sun, give me a break “Radio” we are in the bizarre situation of young people actually discovering radio anew and it is not in the context of storing a contact record
  3. Making the contrast and overall UX harder to understand – We used to rely on Apple providing some leadership focused on human need but now we seem to be part of a flat white design culture where everything is harder to determine the edges of.  I personally loved the feeling of the real world on my phone and the clarity of edges and where to touch things to make them happen.  Now it is less clear, you have to guess, how is that a good user experience.

Just as guys like Aral Balkan are picking the open source community up by the bootstraps and saying get real about design, those that were synonymous with design and frankly have the sort of budgets people would die for are getting worse and worse. Apple are not alone, just look at the latest iteration of Google Apps and the weak thinking going on there

  • Three steps where one would do in the past, gone is the black top nav bar, you now have to click a grid on the right and then select what you want one click to two or three – Mad
  • Google Drive Folders – Now this was one of the great innovations in my view – Simple concept, you can tag any document with what ever you want and build structure from tags.  The glaring flaw in Microsoft world was duplication of documents across different folders because no one used shortcuts.  Google implemented this well, you could add a document to as many folders are as you wanted with a single click.  Now as they try to compete for local storage battle with Dropbox and SkyDrive they make this feature harder to use by insisting you hold down the Ctrl (Cmd) key while you tick which folders you want a document to appear in. If you forget and tick a folder all the others become unticked and you lose all the sharing you had set up.  how did this help people versus help google try and compete with local synchronised storage.  I do not use the local folder option as I do not see the point but if i did I would want Google to do better and sort out how to deal with reconciling their innovative approach in the cloud to work locally not remove a valued feature a perpetuate increased volume in storage

At the heart of it all I think is a basic contempt for their customers and a disregard for their needs in favour of achieving their corporate goals or simply losing control of the fundamental ethos of their business.  And please do not get me started on the fundamental issue of their Data Feudalism, they want our data, they want our behaviour and they want to analyse the hell out of us.  Google give you loads of stuff for free and your data and your behaviour is the price you pay.  Apple have managed to get us to pay and still get the data and behaviour, how amazing is that.  If you want some festive viewing then look not further than terms and conditions may apply

And if that is not enough fun check out spoof of Apples terms, you have been warned

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