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How is a Mac OS X application supposed to look and behave these days? Metallic windows? Striped windows? iTunes 6 windows? The pro-look used in Final Cut Pro etc? There are now so many different styles of buttons and other controls that I have no idea anymore. I used to know the name, usage and precise pixel layout rules for ever control supplied by the OS...
Apple is really catching up to Windows here in the competition for breaking user interface conventions and confusing the hell out of people for no appearent reason <bitter sarcasm>.
I have no problem with tweaking the appearance of user interface stuff, but what's going on is just random from my point of view.
The Spotlight feature in Mac OS X Tiger is great - love it! But please click "Show All" in the Spotlight menu and look at the Spotlight window you get. This window alone changes look-and-feel of almost everything I expect, compared to a normal Finder window, or compared even to iTunes. Is this window a floating window? I think so, but it really looks like a document window. But it doesn't sit in the Windows menu of the Finder? All the sorting and folding and stuff works differently.
These are an few example applications/features in Mac OS X Tiger that are all used for finding and organizing hug lists of items (songs, emails etc) - all of them with sorting, filtering, getting information for the items and so on:
2. iTunes 6
3. Smart Folder
4. Spotlight Show-All window
6. The standard open-dialog
They are all behaving and looking completely differently! For me, getting to grips with Spotlight's Show-All window is just as frustrating and confusing as learning a comparable feature on another operating system or even a web-based user interface!
Some time ago I installed the latest version of Windows XP and the latest version of Microsoft Office on my PC at home. When I started Windows, created a Word document and then saved it I had seen four or five different types of toolbar buttons! In the same generation software from the same company! Not much consistency there either.
Mac OS X and Windows have long had a huge advantage over the crappy user interface you usually have in a web browser. How are they thinking when they themselves are actively sabotaging one of their greatest competitive advantages?
On a slightly different note: we've had windows, menus, the mouse, keyboard shortcuts, floating palettes, icons and dialog boxes in commercial products since the 80:ies. Since then, the real improvements in user interfaces have been scarce. Mouse wheel. Context menus. Proportional scrollbar handles. 25 years.
Maybe the time has come for a next-generation user interface design? It won't be much tougher for me to get used to than Apple's or Microsoft's upcoming features...
I feel better now, getting this off my chest! :-)
Comment posted by: presiato - 2008-05-30 09:51
I was looking at Alan Cooper's About Face 3 Essentials of Interaction Design at the bookstore to find what the difference was between it and the 2.0 version of the book I have. It's been reorganized to be more topically related, but there's a bunch of stuff on cutting edge interface design and guess what - tons of the examples he shows are screenshots of music software: in particular I saw Reaktor and Ableton Live, both of which he raved about, and set up design guidelines for circular knobs and such. I said to myself "Finally, the UI community has figured out that the coolest UI stuff is being done by musicians in the design of music software."
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