Interface Hall of Shame: QuickTime 4.0 Player

Let me take you back to 25 May, 1999.

One look at QuickTime 4.0 Player and one must wonder whether Apple, arguably the most zealous defender of consistency in user interface design, has abandoned its twenty-year effort to champion interface standards. As with IBM’s RealThings, it would seem that appearance has taken precedence to the basic principles of graphical interface design. In an effort to achieve what some consider to be a more modern appearance, Apple has removed the very interface clues and subtleties that allowed us to learn how to use GUI in the first place. Window borders, title bars, window management controls, meaningful control labels, state indicators, focus indicators, default control indicators, and discernible keyboard access mechanisms are all gone. According to IBM’s RealThings, and apparently to Apple, such items and the meaningful information they provide are merely “visual noise and clutter”. While the graphical designer may be pleased with the result, the user is left in a state of confusion: unable to determine which objects are controls, which are available at any point in the interaction, how they are activated, where they may be located, and how basic functions can be performed.

Looking back, QuickTime 4.0 Player really signaled the end of proper GUI design at Apple. Up until that point, Apple had refined what became known as Platinum to a T – it was a beautifully consistent, logical, easy to use, and pleasant to look at UI. After introducing the world to ‘brushed metal’, Apple slowly slid downhill – and they’ve never been able to recover.

Fascinating to look back and read articles such as these, almost 20 years later.

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