Apple has struggled on the UX design front over the last few years. You can see some of the problems in both the hardware and the software across a number of products but I’m going to go deep on just one feature that you use every day the lock screen…
The iPhone lock screen and it’s overall design was part of the original launch of the iPhone, but the simplicity of the original design has eroded over the years.
The original design was:
- Hard to trigger by accident
- Simple and intuitive (even for a baby)
- Could be done with one hand and taking the phone out your pocket couldn’t cause an accidental gesture
- There was nothing to confuse you
As the iPhone grew in popularity there was a lot of interest in having more functionality quickly available. The iPhone was the most popular camera and quick access to the camera was added to the lock screen in iOS 6.
All the way through iOS 8, there were two primary gestures… Swipe across to unlock and a new gesture to swipe up to get the camera. The camera was hard to trigger by accident and gave a hint if you tapped it.
In iOS 10 things started to get more complicated.
- The home button had become a fingerprint reader
- The home screen was now the primary way to view notifications and act on them.
- Apple was also experimenting with HandOff allowing you to launch or hand off applications from your computer to your phone.
That brings us to iOS 12 & 13. With the elimination of the home button, FaceID, 3D Touch, Control Center, Widgets and Notification Management… the functionality of the home screen got confusing and the original simplicity and vision were lost.
Apple introduced gestures from every edge of the screen and even used 3D-Touch to overload additional actions. The obvious on-screen gestures were gone and in it’s place were a large collection of ways to access secondary functionality.
- The time is harder to read – thinner font
- No on-screen instruction or obvious visual area to drag to unlock.
- Camera no-longer bounces to show the direction of camera bounce/hint.
- If you drag up to show notifications, you can’t drag down to hide them.
- If you drag right you end up in widgets (unused by most people)
- If you drag to the left you get locked in the camera area with no obvious way to get out
None of these things is a show-stopper but combined they clutter the simplicity of the original design. While the new design has more features it’s not necessarily better for the majority of people. While it adds features that 5-10% of folks may care about it complicates the experience for the other 90%.
When Apple originally released the iPhone they also released the Human Interface Guidelines (HIG). Over the years the HIG has gotten diluted and much of the advice on simplicity, legibility, texture, and usability has been diluted or removed.
As Apple continues to grow and evolve, I’m hoping they re-focus on the simplicity and elegance of the user experience. While there’s no doubt that Apple has been successful from a financial perspective the quality of their products have been declining. I’m hoping Apple’s able to re-focus on the core experiences and bring back the simplicity and delight that made the first generations of the device so magical.