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Designers Criticize Apple's User Interface For OS X and iOS 484

Posted by Soulskill
from the how-many-devices-have-they-sold dept.
Hugh Pickens writes "Austin Carr notes that a number of user interface designers have become increasingly critical of Apple's approach to software user interface design. Much of their censure is directed against a trend called skeuomorphism, a term for when objects retain ornamental elements of the past that are no longer necessary to the current objects' functions, such as calendars with faux leather-stitching, bookshelves with wood veneers, fake glass and paper and brushed chrome. A former senior UI designer at Apple who worked closely with Steve Jobs said, 'It's like the designers are flexing their muscles to show you how good of a visual rendering they can do of a physical object. Who cares?' The issue is two-fold: first, that traditional visual metaphors no longer translate to modern users; and second, that excessive digital imitation of real-world objects creates confusion among users. 'I'm old enough, sure, but some of the guys in my office have never seen a Rolodex in real life,' says Designer Gadi Amit. 'Our culture has changed. We don't need translation of the digital medium in mechanical real-life terms. It's an old-fashioned paradigm.' One beneficiary could be Microsoft, where the design of Windows 8 distances itself from skeuomorphism by emphasizing a flat user interface that's minimalist to the core: no bevel, no 3-D flourishes, no glossiness and no drop shadow."
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Designers Criticize Apple's User Interface For OS X and iOS

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  • Re:Skeu (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SquarePixel (1851068) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @07:32AM (#41385533)

    Actually, I found some of the webpages in the pics very well done. Let's take for example the burger menu webpage. It's simple, elegant and probably the best done choose what items you want on a burger, just because it's so simple.

  • by eldavojohn (898314) * <eldavojohn AT gmail DOT com> on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @07:33AM (#41385537) Journal
    If OS X and iOS are bad then iTunes is a crime against humanity. And I think that's because the original program came from outside Apple [wikipedia.org].

    I feel like Apple's UI can be compared to Disney's take over of animation stylings. Before Disney, you could find a whole variety of animation styles. But the vision of Disney was to make everything round and smooth and beautiful. Every animation cel was to look like a masterpiece portrait -- because that was the general populace's desired art at the time. And that's what Disney was trying to make, animated art. You might have found a sharp edge on a villain like Jafar in Aladdin but the main character would be round and warm. Others tried to mimic the stylings and it became a de facto standard mostly because it sold.

    Similarly, Apple has done their UIs to be as beautiful as possible. And they've done it really well and it's expensive (I'd imagine both computationally and price). And both Steve Jobs and Walt Disney appeared to be this monolithic men pushing this new way (in reality it's probably a bunch of artists in a cohesive team) but they've both come and gone. And Apple clings to that vision but the vision never changes.

    What happened to Disney was another production house, Nickelodeon, slowly discovered that square and rigid corners were not only acceptable but Spongebob Squarepants became an icon. Gross humor could be applied to shows like Ren & Stimpy and some people enjoyed this more than the safe beauty of Disney. Disney has no grit because Walt Disney wouldn't allow it. Disney got into disagreements with Pixar about Toy Story 2 and I think it is best if they left Pixar separate from Disney despite the acquisition. Similarly in the future Apple will be usurped by someone who is willing to experiment and deviate. Jobs is dead so Apple is committed to his vision ... probably until they go under. They'll acquire new ideas along the way with their massive piles of cash but what happens when those visions are at odds with The Great Master who has transcended to Nirvana? That's still a long way off but these rumblings of criticism just show you can make another interface that is completely the opposite of Apple and actually do well.
  • by imagined.by (2589739) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @08:00AM (#41385755)

    Fair point, the use of the word need seems misplaced. English is not my native tongue ;) What I wanted to express is the following.

    I handed my 83yr old , technical-illiterate grandma an iPad and she was able to use most of the apps because they resembled physical devices she knew.

    Of course she doesn't "need" to use a digital calendar, or even an iPad. But that device and ample use of skeuomorphisms are enabling her to participate in a lot of places which were inaccessible for her before. It makes a lot of people feel familiar with usually (for them) almost frightening devices.

    This is empowerment, and as long as nobody else is hindered I think the debate is quite pointless.

  • by ericloewe (2129490) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @08:21AM (#41385981)

    As you said, not knowing the OS is the problem. However, some things are clearly intended to distance OS X from Windows, while providing no usability improvement.
    Just the other day, I spent some 45 seconds trying to delete a file the Windows way. First I realized there was no Delete key, which is annoying even if it's not strictly the OS' fault. So I tried backspace, seems like a logical alternative when you want to delete stuff. Nope, so I tried right-clicking and all sorts of weird click+button combinations I could remember.

    Only then did I remember that you must absolutely drag files to the trash.

  • by Xest (935314) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @08:47AM (#41386245)

    One might argue that both Microsoft (Outlook) and Google's calendar and contacts apps do exactly that, and are both much more widely used than Apple's.

  • by Clsid (564627) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @08:47AM (#41386257)

    I was kind of opposed to the "tabletization" of OS X in the beginning, but now that I have used Mountain Lion for several weeks I have to say that it is a great idea. I enjoy Launchpad and the Notification Center a lot. Notes and Mail that behave exactly like my iPhone is a big plus, especially since Notes are like Evernote but much much faster. I really should mention Mail since I really thought that e-mail clients kind of hit a ceiling and that program proved me wrong. Reminders are ok but nothing spectacular. The deep App Store integration is also a good thing considering that OS X Lion and Mountain Lion breaks a lot of old software, Photoshop included, so when you get something from there you never have to wonder "will it run on my Mac?".

    I think what Apple is doing wrong is breaking application support. I was very annoyed at not being able to use most of my games and a lot of software with the latest releases. I think when Apple was using Rosetta to run PowerPC programs they were doing fine. Once they took that attitude of "update your apps or else", it really made me appreciate all the hard work that Microsoft has done in that sense. I can still run a lot of old stuff in the latest Windows, and even the DOS applications can be run with a bunch of free emulators like DOSBox. There is no way to run an emulated OSX 10.2 or similar that I know of in a Mac.

  • by Gideon Wells (1412675) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @09:32AM (#41386817)

    This anti-skeuo fad is basically an artistic/aesthtic movement. Like or hate it, I don't think they were looking at Win 8 from a functionality standpoint. It is the visual design equivalent of a group of people going around saying "You know, full service gas stations barely exist any more. We should go on a crusade against people using the term 'fill 'er up'."

    Or more geek/nerd realted "Why the heck is a 3.25 floppy the symbol for saving still? We should invent some entirely new symbol or just use the word 'save'. Why are folders looking like folders on computers? That's lazy thinking. In fact, we should consider calling them something other than folders too...".

  • by Urza9814 (883915) on Wednesday September 19, 2012 @10:42AM (#41387751)

    Yea, as a Linux user I never thought I'd be supporting a Microsoft app, but...well, I just started a new job recently that uses Outlook. And I never had much of an opinion on it until reading this...because it's never made me think about it. It's never gotten in my way. Gives me my email and my calendar available in a single glance, everything just works...I've got no complaints.

    Well -- actually I do have one complaint: There's no 'minimize to tray' type function (at least not that I've found) so it's always taking up space on my taskbar...but otherwise, no complaints.

  • by adobelis (2669881) on Friday September 21, 2012 @08:09AM (#41409835)
    My biggest problem with OSX has always been the lack of Alt- sequences -- key-stroke sequences that allow you to access menu items without touching the mouse. As a power-user of at least two productivity applications (Word and Excel), I have forever avoided *unnecessary* mouse usage by memorizing my favorite sequences like Alt-e-s-t (Paste->Special->Formats). My use of these applications is, frankly, bewilderingly fast (pat, pat), in the eyes of users who use drop-down menus to access these same functions. If you have never seen someone use Excel without ever touching the mouse, you should: you will learn something about user experience and interface efficiency.
    In *some* previous versions of OSX you could turn on alt-sequences. Others, not -- I bought a used MacBook Pro in 2005 and couldn't figure out how to get these to work after ~10 hours of research, so I resold it a month later. I frankly don't use Macs enough to know whether it's easy to do this now, but from casual use I know that it isn't available as a default, which is silly, whereas it is on Windows. And thus Windows encourages developers to include these sequences, which is a real boon for every app where they work.
    Mice are great, but they are slow! Why would you ever want to aim three clicks when you could type four letters? Imagine if you had to type text in Word, Excel, VS or Eclipse by clicking an on-screen keyboard with your mouse... you'd probably just give up and write with pen and paper (or a manual typewriter), and hire some low-wage laborers to do all that slow, boring clicking. That's how I feel when I use Excel on a Mac.

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