If you were to pen two letters to iTunes what would they be? For me, the first would be, ‘How do I love thee, iTunes? Let me count the ways‘ and I would go on to enumerate the many things iTunes does well.
The second letter would be, obviously, a break up letter. No, not an open letter to Apple CEO Tim Cook telling him why I’m breaking up with iTunes (he won’t respond; I’ve tried), but a Dear John letter direct to iTunes itself enumerating all the things iTunes does wrong.
The Good, The Bad
It’s likely iTunes was never meant to be what it is today, a digital media mall and media player and media organizer all wrapped up into one cumbersome interface. That’s the price of success. Apple got the iTunes ball rolling back in the Rip. Mix. Burn days, and just kept bolting on new pieces under it became a Franken-app.
iTunes has some positives, most of which have been around a few years, and for those of us blessed with enough patience, these are features we know and love.
iTunes Store – Hey, it’s where you go to buy stuff, which is why iTunes is called a media mall. It’s the biggest media store in the world.
Home Sharing – I love this and it just works, and works better with Apple TV, or iPhone and iPad elsewhere in the home. Much love, Home Sharing.
Video Player – Apple doesn’t go in for the esoteric video file formats, but iTunes is a good place to store and manage videos from movies to clips to TV shows. And iTunes remembers where you paused for that bathroom break, class, or work assignment.
Playlist Management – This is done right. Think of iPhoto albums and what that means to organizing a gazillion and 12 photos. iTunes does playlists right, even organizable as a massive set of lists in a folder.
Tags – My Mac is home to a pristine and detailed list of media tags (the result of a bout of OCD) and iTunes does tags about as good as tags can get; songs, artists, album, genre, artwork, lyrics, and much more.
Rip. Mix. Burn. – This is iTunes’ roots and you can still rip a CD, mix a playlist, and burn CDs. If you have a Mac with a SuperDrive. They’re dinosaurs.
Allow me to identify the problem and the solution in one Super Gulp. iTunes is messy, seemingly disorganized, and loaded with functionality far beyond the original game plan. Through the years Apple’s iTunes has become a brand unto itself, with feature and function after function loaded on and bolted to the original so that iTunes no longer resembles what it once was, though it does much more.
For whatever reason, Apple’s chief designer Jonny Ive has a dislike of tabs and based upon how iOS 7 and iOS 8 look, he has a dislike of buttons, too. But there’s the solution, Apple, not staring you in the face. Tabs. iTunes doesn’t even bother with the skeuomorphism of feigning buttons; Ive prefers plain old text, but tabs are the de facto standard visual element for sections of an app. They’re everywhere, and understood by everyone, so let the tabs games begin, Apple.
Instead of teeny tiny icons without a label, put an icon and the label into a window with tabs. Click Music and view everything iTunes can do with your music. Click the Movies tab and view everything iTunes can do with your movies collection. See? That wasn’t hard, was it?
Carried forward to a logical conclusion, there would be tabs for Podcasts, Store, TV shows, Books, Apps, and whatever else Apple sees fit to dump into iTunes. Even the Store could have tabs for music, TV shows, movies, books, apps, and whatever else Apple sees fit to put a price tag on.
Tabs alone would make the interface clean and simple without burying important functionality. Even iTunes Preferences, which now has icon buttons, is easier to understand and navigate than iTunes itself.
iTunes 2015 is good, bad, and a little bit ugly in places, a far different entity than it was back in the pre-iPod days, but as a brand Apple is careful not to tinker with a successful formula, but needs to modernize and improve how iTunes works.
Tabs, folks. Tabs.