Simple Design is Dead. Welcome to Apple’s Era of Customization

Simple Design is Dead. Welcome to Apple’s Era of Customization

Mark the year: 2020. That was the year when Apple decided to crowdsource its design. At Apple’s largest event of the year, the Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) this week, the company revealed all sorts of big news. An iPhone can now translate French and unlock a BMW. Your Homekit doorbell can now identify who is standing at your porch—and beam that to your Apple TV. Perhaps most importantly, Macbooks and iPhones will soon have the same chips inside, as Apple has started transitioning its computers to its own silicon instead of Intel’s. Yet with all these new capabilities, Apple is inching away from the very design thesis upon which Steve Jobs founded the company: that technology should be reduced to its most essential components in order to reach the largest number of users. But Apple has found, as it has scaled to nearly every corner of the earth, that one size doesn’t fit all. And so Apple is giving users the ability to design their own interfaces. The irony is that Apple could have used this exact moment to unify its design and devices all over again. Instead, it’s handing that responsibility to every customer—and frankly, it’s a job most of us can’t possibly do as well as Apple. [Image: Apple] What got crowdsourced? Two new features demonstrate the shift to crowdsourcing. On iOS, you’ll now be able to drag widgets of various sizes and shapes into your app screens. That means you might have a weather report taking up a quarter of your main screen, then have app icons to Facebook, Mail, and whatever else taking up the rest. Or you can give the whole top of your screen over to Apple’s own predictive algorithms, and ask it to guess which widget you’ll want to see most at any time during the day. Or you can let Apple group together your apps into categories to keep them straight. Or you can do none of this! Just leave your 50 pages of apps as they’ve always been! [Image: Apple] On the Watch, Apple has made it so that you, or the App Store, or even your friends design your watchface. You can create all sorts of custom screen designs that might emphasize exercise, or notifications, or just style. If you don’t feel particularly creative, you can go online to see what developers suggest, or your contacts can literally send you their watchface design for you to download to your own Watch. Remember when Apple Watch customization pretty much just meant you could put Mickey Mouse on it? Those days are over now! Look forward to a new wave of designs that track your steps taken, hours slept, and burritos consumed in the last month. Of course, we’ve always been able to customize some aspects of the Apple experience. You can drag apps to a different screen, set up custom wallpapers, or have Siri call you by a nickname. But these newer updates affect the core functionality of Apple products, not just the window dressing. [Image: Apple] What’s wrong with that? For power users, this is all great news. The people who know the most about technology often want the most control over their technology. They ask, “Why can’t I put my weather report where I want it on my phone?” And that question is perfectly valid. Why, in the era of touchscreens, do we have artificial limitations on what is possible with pixels? [Image: Apple] But that’s not Apple’s style.  » Read More

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