Linked by Thom Holwerda on Tue 26th Jul 2016 22:08 UTC
Mac OS X

Nicholas W. Howard:

Wander into almost any online forum or article comment section about a controversial announcement from Apple Inc. and you will almost certainly hear a variation of this sentence: "Apple has gone downhill since Steve Jobs died." The sentence slithers around vaguely; it never seems to specify how, or in what ways, Apple has gone downhill. I agree, nonetheless, that it has. Whether or not Steve Jobs's absence caused the decline (though I suspect it did), I grow frustrated as I watch each software update further erode one pillar of Apple's formerly astronomical greatness.

No: I am not referring to their software's stability, important and perhaps worsening with time as it may be. I walk a different tightrope. The design-community-approved articles pertaining to an "Apple software decline" focus on bugs (see Marco Arment, Glenn Fleishman, Russell Ivanovic) or even lunge for their shields to claim that Apple has no such software problems (see Jim Lynch), with the glaring exception of this thoughtful and much-needed lament by Don Norman and Bruce Tognazzini. The article you are about to read will address the same unsung subject as Norman and Tognazzini's article: the design, not the engineering, of Apple's graphical user interfaces. But where their article is general, I have harvested specific example after specific example of the user interface decline of (the now-former) OS X.

A great article with which I wholeheartedly agree - but my agreement comes with a twist.

Where Howard seems to regard the purest form of the Aqua graphical user interface as the bar for the decline, I consider the bar to be what is now referred to as the Classic graphical user interface, but which is actually named Platinum, which reached its zenith in Mac OS 9.

Platinum in Mac OS 9 was elegant, clear, memorable, focused, and pleasant. Forget OS 9's multitude of structural problems - it was a terribly designed house of cards that would crumble if you looked at it funny - and just focus on the UI, in which elements are clearly marked, there's tons of useful but not annoying visual feedback, and a rare sense of spatiality to it all.

Aqua has always been too candy cane for me, and it's only gone downhill from there for Apple - iOS and Mac OS today are dreadfully bland and void of character, and this article does a decent job illustrating it.

Order by: Score:
Aqua bad? WTF?!
by sergio on Tue 26th Jul 2016 22:36 UTC
sergio
Member since:
2005-07-06

Aqua UI blended perfectly with my PowerMac G4 Quicksilver... both were aesthetically unique and super cohesive.

To me the Aqua/G3/G4 era was Apple Computers at its best... from software to hardware, from UI design to customer support. Everything was "different" in a good way: creative, personal and also pretty affordable.

Computers for the masses (not the classes!;) with that artistic and human touch Apple had in the past. Good old times...

Reply Score: 5

Oooof
by WorknMan on Tue 26th Jul 2016 22:44 UTC
WorknMan
Member since:
2005-11-13

Didn't like the 'classic' look back then, and sure as hell don't like it now. Not even a little. I mean, I'm sure it's fine from a design point of view, but these things always come down to subjectivity anyway ...

Edited 2016-07-26 22:44 UTC

Reply Score: 2

RE: Oooof
by sergio on Wed 27th Jul 2016 02:11 UTC in reply to "Oooof"
sergio Member since:
2005-07-06

Didn't like the 'classic' look back then, and sure as hell don't like it now. Not even a little. I mean, I'm sure it's fine from a design point of view, but these things always come down to subjectivity anyway ...


Me neither, 'classic' sucked and it was totally outdated even Windows 95 UI was better.

IMHO Mac OSX with Aqua was a HUGE step forward in every aspect, when I used it for the first time I thought: "wow, this is something from the future!!"

Reply Score: 3

RE: Oooof
by Bill Shooter of Bul on Wed 27th Jul 2016 13:14 UTC in reply to "Oooof"
Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:
2006-07-14

Didn't like the 'classic' look back then, and sure as hell don't like it now. Not even a little. I mean, I'm sure it's fine from a design point of view, but these things always come down to subjectivity anyway ...


^ Comments like this are the problem. People complain loudly about the way things look, but rarely how they work. Another instance of wood-shedding.

Reply Score: 3

Agreed.
by CaptainN- on Tue 26th Jul 2016 22:55 UTC
CaptainN-
Member since:
2005-07-07

I recently reformatted my entire Mac Book Pro, and briefly had the last skeuomorphic UI before the refresh. It's better. No candy, clear icons, clean lines, buttons are obvious. It's rare that I install or come across an old version of a thing and thing - gee, that was better - Windows, Cars, etc. - the old one just seems old when I come across it. It's not so with OSX. The old one was better.

Reply Score: 7

RE: Agreed.
by Alfman on Tue 26th Jul 2016 23:27 UTC in reply to "Agreed."
Alfman Member since:
2011-01-28

CaptainN-,

I also object strongly to the elimination of context clues. The design world has always favored style over substance, but with moderation you could have a balance with the best of both. However absolute minimalism became a fad that swept the consumer tech industry like crazy and nobody seemed willing stand up and say that interfaces are becoming less predictable and more difficult.

I think this line sums it up:

Unfortunately, visually simple appearance does not result in ease of use, as the vast literature in academic journals on human-computer interaction and human factors demonstrates.


Edited 2016-07-26 23:40 UTC

Reply Score: 6

Elegance
by tomz on Tue 26th Jul 2016 23:06 UTC
tomz
Member since:
2010-05-06

I'm not for skeuomorphic per se. Sometimes it just gets annoying, but the release of Windows "Aero" served to clarify the differences of thought.

Jobs - and there are others but none apparently work for Apple - understood the idea that the UI must simply and clearly indicate what is going to happen, status, etc. or otherwise is just Eye Candy like Aero.

This has been lost. Like a 5 star restaurant that loses its chef. It still serves soup but there is something not quite right.

Reply Score: 5

Still like it but....
by mlankton on Tue 26th Jul 2016 23:10 UTC
mlankton
Member since:
2009-06-11

....the UI peaked with Snow Leopard and has been declining since.

As a long time NeXT user it took me a while to warm up to Aqua, but I did, in a big way. It's very long in the tooth now and needs a major overhaul.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Still like it but....
by bryanv on Tue 26th Jul 2016 23:14 UTC in reply to "Still like it but...."
bryanv Member since:
2005-08-26

Also agree. Snow Leopard was the peak for Aqua. The early iterations were pretty out there with the use of the effects -- which was all for the ohhhhh and ahhhhhh factor.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: Still like it but....
by LaceySnr on Wed 27th Jul 2016 03:36 UTC in reply to "RE: Still like it but...."
LaceySnr Member since:
2009-09-28

SL was definitely the peak my book too. Consistent but looked good.

I find it funny that Apple are so 'grey' these days... they used to be about personality.

Reply Score: 1

Hear Hear, Tom!
by bryanv on Tue 26th Jul 2016 23:13 UTC
bryanv
Member since:
2005-08-26

I couldn't possibly agree more.

Platinum was a thing of beauty. Platinum was the singular reason I would install Kaleidoscope on Mac OS 7.x machines. It's feedback and use was top. notch. And for craps sake -- the Finder was actually useful back then.

MacOS Platinum stands right up there with later iterations of OpenTracker / OpenDeskbar as my ideal desktop metaphor -- for which I still pine.

Reply Score: 2

2 GUI Things
by MrEcho on Wed 27th Jul 2016 01:45 UTC
MrEcho
Member since:
2005-07-07

Theres only really 2 major GUI things that bug me. One being that the Dock will randomly switch screens, its not sticky on the primary monitor. Second is the lack of 'snap' and window functions.
Damn it, no mac, not full full screen, just the view area or what ever you call it.
I guess a third thing would be OpenGL/Vulkan, come on Apple.

Reply Score: 1

RE: 2 GUI Things
by LaceySnr on Wed 27th Jul 2016 03:34 UTC in reply to "2 GUI Things"
LaceySnr Member since:
2009-09-28

The Dock thing is INFURIATING! So tedious.

As a rule I hate using third party apps for OS things, but if you want window snapping & full screen made easy I can't recommend Magnet highly enough. As a heavy keyboard & multi-monitor user it's changed my life.

Reply Score: 1

weak
by nicubunu on Wed 27th Jul 2016 06:23 UTC
nicubunu
Member since:
2014-01-08

As one who hates the new "flat" UIs, I can say the article is weak: the same old "old Apple pretty, new Apple ugly" without any depth.
You know, the designers didn't move to "flat" because is trendy (well, not completely because that) or because they are lazy and flat widgets are easy to draw, they came with a full line of argumentation for the change and the article was quick to dismiss them with "the ideological roots of the redesigns are flimsy: thickly coated with bloated art theory language, so that no common person can detect their flimsiness".
Now, a good piece (with examples) of why those reasons were/are wrong, that would worth a read...

Reply Score: 5

I disagree on Classic
by enryfox on Wed 27th Jul 2016 06:49 UTC
enryfox
Member since:
2012-02-19

I have to disagree on classic (OS 9) being this thing of beauty. Putting aside the severe flaws of the system architectures, I just give you some examples of its oddness:

1) spatial navigation: while nice in principle, it is a royal PITA when having to deal with basic file operations: if you have to move files from nested folders you will soon find your desktop cluttered with useless windows and you will have to hunt for the needed ones to move the files.

2) the desktop: being a metaphor for an actual desktop I would expect items to stay when dropped on it; instead if I move a file off a usb stick onto the desktop, it is gone as soon as I eject the drive. This is a legacy of the early 80's floppy-disk-only mac still present in late 90's mac; but it is not the only one ...

3) the system preference is cluttered with tenth of control applest which overlaps in some cases (you can install two different applets to set system sounds or change display resolution)

4) what so special about wanting to turn off you mac ? that menu really makes no sense

5) UI look & feel: that's just me, but the "emboss everything" L&F of platinum never really appealed to me. It's just too much .. and that horrible progress bar! MacOS 7.x had the nicest L&F ever: clean, simple, effective, immediate...

Reply Score: 4

RE: I disagree on Classic
by sergio on Wed 27th Jul 2016 20:27 UTC in reply to "I disagree on Classic"
sergio Member since:
2005-07-06

Classic is a thing of beauty now, but It was shit back then..

Just like the cassettes or vinyls... it's cool to praise old things just because, very hipster.

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: I disagree on Classic
by Megol on Sat 30th Jul 2016 09:08 UTC in reply to "RE: I disagree on Classic"
Megol Member since:
2011-04-11

Classic is a thing of beauty now, but It was shit back then..

Just like the cassettes or vinyls... it's cool to praise old things just because, very hipster.


Modern UIs are for hipsters. We have people that doesn't understand anything about computers but like how the screen look - looks are more important than functionality.

While not perfect the "classic" Mac had an interface that was thoroughly researched from everything from icon design to interactions. Test - refine - test -refine.

The original interface was limited because the underlying OS was limited, there were not multitasking* there were limitations for nearly everything etc.
Then there were idiotic things like focusing on _one_ mouse button - strange that Mr. Jobs thought that ordinary people couldn't understand more than one button but gladly used things like double-clicking** and keyboard+mouse commands.

(* multitasking is overrated - people are more efficient doing a thing at a time. But it is still important to have)
(** IME people that doesn't use computers often have trouble doing double clicks, a dedicated button for executing stuff would solve that)

Reply Score: 1

Decline since steve
by REM2000 on Wed 27th Jul 2016 07:49 UTC
REM2000
Member since:
2006-07-25

For me the two things that really show since steve's passing is,

First,

Product line up, Steve was great at cutting down the cruft as he said you only end up competing against yourself.

We have iPad Mini 2, iPad Mini 4, iPad Air 2, iPad Pro 9.7, iPad Pro 12.9. Dont get me wrong i love the screen choices but do we need 2 minis and 2 9.7's?

MacBook, MacBook Air, MacBook Pro, surely the Air should be dropped leaving only the MacBook and the Pro's like it was 10 years ago.

The second,

Standing still and not saying no, it seems that a lot of products and items have been released when they could have done with a bit longer. I own an apple watch, but from the demo at WWDC'16 it appears that v3 of WatchOS is what the watch should have shipped with (excluding the argument of battery life, as i think thats something people accept with the a device that small). Its fast and responsive, exactly how the watch should have been.

Obviously Steves rain wasn't perfect there were plenty of products which flopped, but It feels as if apple doesn't really push anymore, i understand products mature, im not asking for a revolutionary phone every year, but surely things like waterproofing should have been included sooner.

The Pro line of iPads signify that apple now see the iPad not just for consumption but as a productivity tool, im surprised we haven't seen more integration with the Mac line, similar to what microsoft is trying to accomplish with Continuum.

As for the topic on hand, i don't know what i want to see from the UI in MacOS. For me i like the flat feel of the UI and how sharp the Fonts and UI elements appear, to me they seem more well defined. I booted up an old MacBook with MacOS 10.6 on it and the difference was a lot larger than i expected, the font and general UI seems more blurry and bubbly.

Personally in some respects i prefer the flat and the bland as at it's core i want the UI and the OS to get out of the way and let me do what i want to do with the computer.

I hate interruptions to my workflow, something im finding more and more annoying with each iteration on Windows, Windows 10 UI to me is like a hammer, the notifications jump up and demand a lot of attention, the notifications on MacOS are a lot smaller, easily defined and not as obstructive, they move out of the way quicker into the notification side bar.

Reply Score: 5

Flawed premise
by pooo on Wed 27th Jul 2016 08:14 UTC
pooo
Member since:
2006-04-22

Apple UX design has *always* been totally overrated in absolute terms. In relative terms (speaking temporally) there were periods when Apple was on another planet from their competition (early days of iOS before Android matured, early days of OSX before... well ok I guess everything else still sucks).

But anyway, in absolute terms I really think Apple software is just OK. I think they haven't really been challenged in all areas but I will say that modern, Nexus Android wipes the floor with iOS.

Hardware design on the other hand is where Apple really is exceptional.

Reply Score: 3

RE: Flawed premise
by pooo on Wed 27th Jul 2016 08:18 UTC in reply to "Flawed premise"
pooo Member since:
2006-04-22

Actually I'd even go so far as to say *both* iOS and Android completely embarrass OSX (won't even mention Windows, ChromeOS, etc). The integration of notifications, media controls on my lockscreen, permissions, etc on these mobile OSs is so far ahead of any desktop OS (except Win but it just sucks so bad) it is just silly.

Reply Score: 2

The awful truth
by MrHood on Wed 27th Jul 2016 08:24 UTC
MrHood
Member since:
2014-12-02

I couldn't agree more with this article...

Once upon a time, fine skeuomorphic design and detailed/photorealistic icons were OSX (and Apple's) trademark of luxury and distinction - they literally attracted you towards the platform, and did a very good job at making the UI intuitive.

Now all the magic has gone, and the UI of macOS (and iOS, of course) is just plain bland and cartoony - cartoony as in 'My Little Pony' with those colour hues.
They chased the minimalist style, and failed to be impressive at that; IMHO the real outsider in this regard was (and remains) Microsoft's original 'Modern UI' vision (even taking into account all of its well-known drawbacks anyway).

Also,

When you’re a carpenter making a beautiful chest of drawers, you’re not going to use a piece of plywood on the back, even though it faces the wall and nobody will ever see it. You’ll know it’s there, so you’re going to use a beautiful piece of wood in the back. For you to sleep well at night, the aesthetic, the quality, has to be carried all the way through.

- Steve Jobs


THIS. ABSOLUTELY.

When I discover that a (otherwise apparently well-working) piece of software has badly-written code or even just bad indentation, I Want To Stop Using It.

Everything.
Must.
Be.
Perfect.

Reply Score: 2

RE: The awful truth
by sergio on Wed 27th Jul 2016 21:28 UTC in reply to "The awful truth"
sergio Member since:
2005-07-06

When I discover that a (otherwise apparently well-working) piece of software has badly-written code or even just bad indentation, I Want To Stop Using It.


Well, close your browser and power off your computer cause 90% of the apps you use everyday are a complete mess. xD

Reply Score: 3

RE[2]: The awful truth
by Bill Shooter of Bul on Wed 27th Jul 2016 21:36 UTC in reply to "RE: The awful truth"
Bill Shooter of Bul Member since:
2006-07-14

I find it especially funny on osnews. Yup, this is perfection, right here*.



*Actually, I *do* think os news is pretty darn close to perfect as is. But I'm guessing most people don't, cause utf-8 support or what not.

Reply Score: 2

RE[2]: The awful truth
by MrHood on Thu 28th Jul 2016 09:24 UTC in reply to "RE: The awful truth"
MrHood Member since:
2014-12-02

Well, close your browser and power off your computer cause 90% of the apps you use everyday are a complete mess. xD


Yeah, I suppose so... :-D That's why I used the word 'discover'. Now, lemme say I don't wanna discover! ;-)

Reply Score: 2

Reactionary design
by Chrispynutt on Wed 27th Jul 2016 10:06 UTC
Chrispynutt
Member since:
2012-03-14

Flat design has been a reaction against the weaknesses of Skeu design.

Largerly boiling down to the business that illustrated Skeu towards the end. For example an interface with a galaxy, stiched leather and brushed metal all on one screen.

However not everything was bad about it, what we have now is all the charm, colour and affordance striped away. All the individuality, essentially the same design applied to a plumber, a resteraunt or hosting firm's site design.

Reply Score: 4

Balance
by franksands on Wed 27th Jul 2016 13:09 UTC
franksands
Member since:
2009-08-18

First of all, I think Aqua is a lot better and easier to use than MacOS 9's gui.
Secondly, I prefer some of the more clear design of the current interface, than when it had a lot of skeumorphism. I agree that the icons and use of color, to a degree, were better before, making things more recognizable, but I really didn't like all that fake leather and brushed metal everywhere.
The main point is that any radicalism is rarely healthy, so we can, and should, pick and choose the best designs for each specific scenario.

Reply Score: 1

Comment by Yasu
by Yasu on Wed 27th Jul 2016 13:25 UTC
Yasu
Member since:
2014-05-15

Can this development have anything to do with that computers today are getting thinner and thinner and thus more and more two dimensional? Laptops are flat today, so are computer screens. I wonder if this flatness is there so it will give a two dimensional looking piece of hardware a cohesive design, even if we don't really know why we prefer that all of a sudden.

Reply Score: 2

Biggest Problem
by darknexus on Wed 27th Jul 2016 13:39 UTC
darknexus
Member since:
2008-07-15

OS X (now MacOS)'s biggest problem is, to me, the decreasing stability. It could be ugly as sin for all I care if it were rock solid the way it used to be. These days though, its stability is far from what it was. It's nowhere near as unstable as, say, Windows 10 or Ubuntu but the drop in software quality is definitely noticeable. Icons? Forget that, it can come after they fix stability. Here's hoping they start with Sierra though the betas do not give me much hope from what I've seen.
iOS, on the other hand, seems more stable than it ever was for me and I can't help but think this is a direct result of more focus being put there. Perhaps MacOS has to die for iOS to fully rise, sad as that will be for me personally.

Reply Score: 2

RE: Biggest Problem
by MrHood on Wed 27th Jul 2016 15:16 UTC in reply to "Biggest Problem"
MrHood Member since:
2014-12-02

I don't know about macOS (never used it personally for any notable amount of time) but for me, Windows 10 has proven stable so far - I upgraded early in the free period (i.e. end of September 2015?) and it has never failed on me ever since...

Granted, it also depends on the specific kind of software / activities you run on the PC - your mileage may vary according to this.

Reply Score: 1

RE: Biggest Problem
by Sidux on Thu 28th Jul 2016 09:31 UTC in reply to "Biggest Problem"
Sidux Member since:
2015-03-10

It's where the money is made today: mobile, cloud and web platform. iOS and Android are perfect (cost wise) for this.
If it was not for gaming abilities, Windows was in a far worse situation as it is right now, regardless its stability in recent releases.
ChromeOS still has to prove its ability in running all Android apps natively. When that happens, it will be a game changer as well.

Reply Score: 1

RE[2]: Biggest Problem
by darknexus on Thu 28th Jul 2016 13:26 UTC in reply to "RE: Biggest Problem"
darknexus Member since:
2008-07-15

ChromeOS still has to prove its ability in running all Android apps natively. When that happens, it will be a game changer as well.

Maybe, but only if app developers accommodate it. We all saw what happens when you try to shoehorn a touch experience on to a platform that wasn't originally designed for touch as a primary input. If developers code a proper interface for their Android apps on ChromeOS though, you may well be right. If not, it'll be as vilified as Windows 8 was and with good reason.

Reply Score: 3

Sabon
Member since:
2005-07-06

I really, REALLY miss the 3D icons for programs such as Pages but many others. Pages used to have a 3D inkwell which was gorgeous enough to just stare out. Then when you get to see it, and many other 3D icons for programs on Mac OS X, you got to see more detail and sometimes writing on icons such as I believe TextEdit (sorry, on my 12.9" iPad Pro right now) where it actually had writing on it that really meant something.

Now the icons couldn't be more BORING to look at than looking at paint drying.

Yes I understand that the backgrounds sucked in OS X because of Forstall but the ICONS were beautiful and should have survived and if there was any way I could think of to get the old ones back I would. This is one, and there are few, times where I wish I could save the icon and associate it to the new version of a program. You can do that with Windows but not with OS X that I know of. If someone knows how please post. But if you ask me to run some script that I can't figure out what it is doing I'm not running it.

Reply Score: 2

Another old timer
by pauls101 on Fri 29th Jul 2016 16:32 UTC
pauls101
Member since:
2005-07-07

First off, I prefer the look and usability of OS9 too and it's nice to hear someone agree rather than just chant "OS X rulz" louder and louder. The BSD underpinnings do have major advantages for a few, but for many users OS X itself has been a failure. I don't develop on or for it anymore.

I also remember when most Mac programs didn't need a manual to get started. That used to be a Windows thing we laughed about. I hate not knowing which of those ugly little flat symbols do what. It's not risk free to just start trying them!

Reply Score: 1