And It Becomes Nothing

Many people have written about how Mac OS X is not enjoyable to use any longer. I am one more.

An interface to an operating system, like an interface to anything else, should be beautiful. It should radiate craftsmanship, quality, ethos; it should have been loved, so that I too will be drawn to love it. Even as late as Mavericks, OS X did that. You saw the gorgeous icons, the sense of everything in its place, the three-dimensional buttons that invited touch.

Somewhere along the way, the beauty and the sense of quality has been eaten away in OS X. Now flat is the new thing. The icons have no depth and are cryptic; you are lost in a world of symbols, however, the symbols are meaningless. Safari’s icon was at one time a compass. Now you would be hard-pressed to recognize it as such. It is just another mysterious symbol with no connection to the real world. I think that this interface is the kind that a dying alien civilization would use – a society that had long lost any connection to the real and had grown used to discussing stale and mouldering concepts amongst themselves, a kind of mental incest. I think that the Apple UI/UX lab is such an alien civilization.

Some may argue that what Apple is doing is making the interface transparent, almost invisible. And as a devotee of the late Jeff Raskin, I can see why. However, to make the interface invisible means you must either rely upon a minimal set of interactions or symbols, or you use universal symbols/actions. Apple is doing neither, and the interface that remains is harsh and childish. If OS X is a critical part of the computer, then where is the evidence that any care was made in its design and usability? I see none.

Part of the peril of popularity is a hubris that comes from success. Companies start to think they know what people want without asking them and end up misunderstanding their audience. Gateway did this. HP did it too. Microsoft did it, most famously. Now Apple is falling down the same hole. Perhaps visual beauty is not something the average Joe may be able to articulate, but people do sense when something shows no time or attention. Why is Apple designing an interface for slackers? Why are they employing people to design rudimentary designs? It is the misapplication of focus groups, I fear. If you look at other iconic companies, such as McDonald’s, Target, Sony, Ford, and so on, they don’t let popularity murder design. Apple has and does.

El Capitan needs to be skinnable. Please, Interacto Labs, come through. I do not mind remaining on Mavericks for a good long while, but technology marches on, and at some point some point, I will need to use a new tool that requires a new operating system.

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