“Once upon a time, Apple was known for designing easy-to-use, easy-to-understand products,” Don Norman and Bruce Tognazzini write for Fast Company. “It was a champion of the graphical user interface, where it is always possible to discover what actions are possible, clearly see how to select that action, receive unambiguous feedback as to the results of that action, and to have the power to reverse that action—to undo it—if the result is not what was intended.”

“No more. Now, although the products are indeed even more beautiful than before, that beauty has come at a great price,” Norman and Tognazzini write. “Gone are the fundamental principles of good design: discoverability, feedback, recovery, and so on. Instead, Apple has, in striving for beauty, created fonts that are so small or thin, coupled with low contrast, that they are difficult or impossible for many people with normal vision to read. We have obscure gestures that are beyond even the developer’s ability to remember. We have great features that most people don’t realize exist.”

“Apple’s design guidelines for developers for both iOS and the Mac OS X still pay token homage to the principles, but, inside Apple, many of the principles are no longer practiced at all. Apple has lost its way, driven by concern for style and appearance at the expense of understandability and usage,” Norman and Tognazzini write. “A woman told one of us that she had to use Apple’s assistive tool to make Apple’s undersize fonts large and contrasty enough to be readable. However, she complained that on many app screens, this option made normal fonts so large that the text wouldn’t fit on the screen. It’s important to note that she did not have defective vision. She just didn’t have the eyesight of a 17-year-old… What kind of design philosophy requires millions of its users to have to pretend they are disabled in order to be able to use the product?”

Read more in the full article – very highly recommendedhere.

MacDailyNews Take: Some might say this is what you get when you make an industrial designer the final arbiter of user interface design. If so, the fault lies not with Jony Ive, but with Tim Cook, the man who gave Ive a job for which is not well-suited. “This guy’s a really good designer and software design is design, too, so…” is something you might think an operations guy-cum-CEO might say to himself in late October 2012 amidst a rather existential crisis.

If you do say things like this, we concur that there is a modicum of truth somewhere in your statements, but that things of late are actually getting better. Let’s face it: Ive was forced to learn a new discipline after the Maps/Forstall fiasco blew up and the responsibilities for basically, oh, everything were plopped on his lap. (No one person could actually do Jony’s job as assigned by Tim Cook).

Now, with Ive moved up into the “Chief Design Officer” position, Richard Howarth becoming the new vice president of Industrial Design, and Alan Dye becoming the new vice president of User Interface Design, we suspect usability to improve.

Don Norman and Bruce Tognazzini each led projects in the early-1980s that resulted in their extracting and codifying the principles that underlay the then-new generation of user-centered visual design, as embodied in the Xerox Star, Apple Lisa, and Apple Macintosh computers, as well as the experimental systems that preceded them.

We hope the powers that be at Apple read Norman’s and Tog’s full article and takes what it says to heart.

Jony Ive promoted to ‘Chief Design Officer’ – May 25, 2015
Open letter to Tim Cook: Apple needs to do better – January 5, 2015
Usability, not ‘flat’ design, key to Monday’s iOS refresh – June 10, 2013
Tim Cook takes full control of Apple: John Browett and Scott Forstall out; Jony Ive, Bob Mansfield, Eddy Cue and Craig Federighi get expanded responsibilities – October 29, 2012

[Thanks to MacDailyNews Reader “Tom R.” for the heads up.]