Grumpy Apple design old-timers hate iPad & Mac user interfaces

Tim Cook has no clothes. Don and Tog don togs of righteous indignation.

Apple design fail

“They said...clothes made of this cloth had a wonderful way of becoming invisible to anyone who was...unusually stupid.”

Credit: The Hans Christian Andersen Centre

Two ex-Apple design “legends” are ripping into Tim Cook’s magical gang. Apparently, Cupertino has lost its way, focusing on prettiness over usability.

Typical of their complaints are Apple's font choices: Recent typefaces used are too thin, with insufficient contrast. Also, apps are incredibly inconsistent, hiding complex functionality behind wildly varying metaphors.

Don Norman and Bruce Tognazzini complain that Apple has eschewed the user-interface guidelines that they themselves had a hand in developing. They claim Apple no longer cares about established UX rules that were developed atop deep experience and academic rigor.

In IT Blogwatch, bloggers break out the popcorn. Not to mention that half the cast of The Simpsons agree...

curated these bloggy bits for your entertainment.
[Developing story: Updated 9:11 am PST with more comment]

Prof. Don “jdn” Norman and Bruce “Tog” Tognazzini tell a scary story:

Once upon a time, Apple was known for designing easy-to-use [and] -understand products. ... No more.

Apple has lost its way. [It] is destroying design [by] reinforcing the...discredited idea that the designer’s sole job is to make things beautiful.

Good for Apple. Bad for the customer. ... It matters when people [think] they are stupid because they can’t...use an interface.

A Bauhaus minimalist design ethic...does not result in ease of use, as the vast literature...demonstrates.

Somewhere along the line, Apple lost track of the key principles. ... Developers are not the problem. Apple is.  MORE

Nilay Patel recklessly tweets thuswise:

Wow. Harsh words from...Apple design legend[s].  MORE

And Lukas Mathis seems to sing, “When a blog is born”: [You're fired -Ed.]

3D Touch...while technically astonishingly impressive, is only the most recent example. ... Apple has added a hardware feature...whose sole purpose is to help developers add hidden features.

It’s «wow!» design, not «it just works» design.

People made fun of Windows 8...but one of its genius decisions was to put all of its hidden features behind edge swipes. ... You had to learn exactly one thing: swipe from the sides of the screen.  MORE

Next up, Jared Sinclair pays special attention to the iPad’s issues:

iOS user interface paradigms are not suited to...multi-tasking. [It] was designed almost a decade ago for a phone. ... Recent additions...are essentially bolted-on, aftermarket parts.

Apple...encourage[s] developers to use scaled-up versions of iPhone layouts [resulting in] an awkard mess of usability.

Apple [tacked] features onto a decade-old smartphone OS. [But] the design principles of an iPhone simply don’t scale up. [So] the iPad should be rebooted with a set of fresh [ones].  MORE

But Michael Tsai is a bit more understanding of Apple’s dilemma:

The solutions [aren’t] necessarily clear. There are tough choices to make when the screen is so small.

The biggest usability problem right now is not Apple’s design but rather the general buggy state of its software.  MORE

Similarly, Chris Pirillo says the problem is wider than just UI design:

Apple’s been failing...since the release of iOS 7.

Hardware is worthless with software that wasn’t developed to keep up.

Apple...should take a hard look at how Google is schooling them.

Nobody in any position of perceived importance seems to be talking about it.  MORE

Speaking of Emperors’ clothing, Stefan Constantine has this great snappy precis:

Ex-Apple employees...say the company is going to hell in a handbasket.  MORE

Update: Meanwhile, Skeptic9 gives his take:

Sadly, there is a lot of truth in this article. And when Bruce Tognazinni calls you out, it's serious. ... It is maddening that Apple has strayed so far from those simple ideas of discoverability, recoverability, and clear user feedback.

There are SO many examples where these ideas fail in iOS.

The Mac is, very sadly, following suit, with "gestures" that are bizarrely complicated and totally inconsistent. ... Pathetic.

Apple needs to get back to its roots and fix these issues.  MORE

And Finally...
Half the cast of The Simpsons agree

You have been reading IT Blogwatch by , who curates the best bloggy bits, finest forums, and weirdest websites… so you don’t have to. Catch the key commentary from around the Web every morning. Hatemail may be directed to @RiCHi or
Opinions expressed may not represent those of Computerworld. Ask your doctor before reading. Your mileage may vary. E&OE.

From CIO: 8 Free Online Courses to Grow Your Tech Skills
View Comments
Join the discussion
Be the first to comment on this article. Our Commenting Policies