What’s missing in those screens? Simplicity. Elegance. Intuitive understanding of the interface. Already Apple is being knocked by critics and fans alike for creating a complex user interface. Why is it complex? To make a use case, Apple had to cram in plenty of features, and plenty of features means complexity.
Nothing Is Simple Anymore
For those of us who live, eat, breathe, and sleep technology and gadgets, we’re finding it difficult to keep up with advances in computers, smartphones, tablets, and now watches, so imagine how much more complex it gets for the average user.
My case in point today are the neighbors to the left and right of my condo. Thanks to some personal evangelizing through the years, both couples are Mac, iPhone, and iPad users.
Without question, both couples prefer the Mac over a Windows PC, an iPhone over a BlackBerry, and an iPad over any tablet that existed anywhere on earth, ever.
Every now and again I’m called upon to answer a question, or check out a problem with one of their devices and what stuns me is how much more each device could be used, but is not.
Mac, iPhone, and iPad are too complex, so my neighbors use each device for basics. Music, movies, TV shows, AirPlay, Microsoft Office (switchers feel comfortable with the legacy), iPhoto, iTunes, Calendar and Contacts, and, now, FaceTime and Messages. Once I set up iCloud to keep their info in sync there’s little need to bother with System Preferences or Settings again.
What about Watch?
What made the Mac, iPhone, and iPad so immensely popular, and which changed how we use technology devices forever, is the intuitive, almost simplistic user interface. The Mac is point and click. Things happen. iPhone and iPad are touch. Things happen.
Wait. Isn’t Apple Watch even more simple? Yes. And no. If you’ve ever seen a new iPhone or iPad user try to figure out the Settings options then you know that simplicity has left the building. Apple Watch will tell the time with a flick of the wrist, and let you view incoming alerts, alarms, notifications, and communication with another flick. You can even respond to incoming whatever with a touch.
It’s the Settings in our devices that sets the user’s hair on fire, and it doesn’t matter which device is being used. Simplicity is gone. Complexity is being disguised in Apple Watch by dozens of photos which display colorful watch faces and bands and cases, a few photos of apps, but not what makes it all happen. Settings.
On the surface, iPhone and iPad are simple to operate. Just touch. Something happens. What’s complex is Settings (way too many layers with confusing options) and understanding of what the Settings options actually do.
That causes the average Mac, iPhone, and iPad user to focus only on specific functions and ignore many other capabilities that are built-in but not obvious. Why? They’re hidden in plain sight; lumped into menu options which don’t accurately or obviously describe the function or the benefit. Browse through Apple’s Watch section and you’ll see beautiful watches, elegantly styled watch faces and bands, but very little about the setup and usage of anything more than time and alerts.
I collected a few of the Watch images I could find which describe a use-case for Watch, and much of them are, for obvious reasons, pulled from iPhone which makes Watch not much more than an extra and convenient screen for iPhone. There is little question that Watch can do many wonderful things, but the real trick to making products that advance the state of the art is to make products that get used to their fullest potential.
Judging by how so many people– those not connected to media or the technology industry; just average folks– have trouble using their Macs, iPhones, and iPads makes me worry about Apple Watch. Amazingly, the user interface and settings are more complex than an iPhone or iPad. Touch, yes. Swipe, yes. But also touch physical buttons (two) and turn a dial (one) for additional settings and options. Plus, there are settings on the iPhone itself.
There’s a reason you see so many Mac, iPhone, and iPad classes in Apple Stores. These devices are increasingly complex, complicated, and functionality has become heavy with arcane options; so much so that people tend to stick with mere basics and do not delve into all the device provides.
Make no mistake about this situation. These devices, when they work as advertised, are both cool to use and provide real benefits in a personally customized package. Yet, for the average Mac, iPhone, and iPad user, setting up each device properly and educating the user on how to get the most from the device is a slower process which requires time and education.
The days of simplicity are gone.