iTunes 10 Interface: Where Apple Went Wrong

86 Comments

Almost every year, Apple (s aapl) releases a new version of iTunes with some new feature. Last year it was Home Sharing. This year, it’s Ping. Apple also usually tweaks the UI, many times creating a backlash. This year Apple has outdone itself.

Vertical Buttons

I’ll start with the most obvious UI tweak: the close/minimize/maximize buttons. I understand why Apple made this change: it saves space. When you hit the maximize button in iTunes, you get the mini-player, which has vertical close/min/max buttons in order to save space. Apple used the same reasoning with the main iTunes window.

There is a way you can disable it. Fire up Terminal and enter the following code:

defaults write com.apple.iTunes full-window -boolean YES

That will put the buttons back horizontally. You can change it back if you want to by changing the “YES” to a “NO”.

I don’t mind this change that much. I usually use the keyboard shortcuts to close or minimize iTunes anyway, and the vertical buttons do save space (if only a little).

Monochrome Sidebar

This one really irks me: Apple completely did away with color in the icons in the sidebar. To show you why this was such a dumb idea, I’m going to quote from Apple’s own Human Interface Guidelines:

Making each toolbar icon distinct helps the user associate it with its purpose and locate it quickly. Variations in shape, color, and image all help to differentiate one toolbar icon from another.

Making all the sidebar icons monochrome makes it harder to identify them, especially since they’re all similar in size. Back in iTunes 9, you could easily tell where the iTunes Store was because its icon was green. In iTunes 10, you have to distinguish between the shapes, which is harder for us to do and takes more time.

There are currently a couple of hacks available to address this.

Show/Hide in the Sidebar

Another change made to the sidebar is getting rid of the triangle buttons on the left of list headings. These have been replaced by “Show/Hide” buttons that only appear when you’re hovering over a list name.

Album List View

Album list view is basically list view, but with albums on the side. A version of this existed in iTunes 9, but Apple tweaked the functionality of it as well as added a new toolbar button for it.

The New Icon

The new iTunes icon isn’t bad, it’s just not terribly interesting. I think Apple should have used a color other than blue, because, as Josh pointed out, there’s already a surplus of blue icons in OS X (Finder, Mail, Safari, iChat, QuickTime, etc). Purple would’ve worked nicely.

Apple chose to change the icon as the former “CD” icon has become less and less relevant in the age of digital downloads. But Apple could have taken it a step further. It could have changed the name as well, seeing as iTunes has long been for more than just music. My current favorite is “iMedia,” but that’s a little too broad; media can be images, as well. Also, “iMedia” doesn’t sound as good as “iTunes.” I think Apple will eventually change the name (and the icon to reflect that).

If you’d like tou can change the icon yourself:

  1. Open your Applications folder in Finder and highlight iTunes.
  2. Right click on it and select “Show Package Contents”.
  3. Go to Content -> Resources and replace the iTunes.icns with a new one. There’s already some great replacement icons coming out, like this one from Mattias Ekstrom. Of course, you can also just use the old iTunes icon.

Conclusion

It seems to me like most of the changes in iTunes are changes for change’s sake; just to make it look newer. The only really new feature in iTunes is Ping, and that’s basically just a link in the sidebar.

Do you love or hate iTunes 10? What other new names might work for it? Tell us in the comments.

Related GigaOM Pro Research: With Ping, Apple Builds a Social Network Inside a Walled Garden

86 Comments

MacSean

I hate the gui redesign! In addition to hiding Ping and the iTunes Sidebar, reverting back to no album art, I’ve also done the terminal hack to restore horizontal min/max/close buttons, and the package hacks to restore the app icon and left bar color icons.

What is still getting me are the strange new icons showing up in my playlists. It looks like there is a new checkmark field in all of my lists and I haven’t found a way to make it go away. (Any suggestions?) But worse than that is in my streaming radios list, there are several incomplete and meaningless icons. Next to every radio station name is a white exclamation mark in a gray circle, with a tiny blue dot over it – wtf? (Any ideas?) Next to the track number of the station currently playing is the bottom-half of a speaker icon and the top-half of a green circle with a bit of white in it (I suspect it’s a white checkmark, but since I can only see the top half, I’m not certain) – again, wtf? And then, to the right of the name of the station playing there are two similar icons, one is light gray and complete, the other is dark gray and missing it’s right-side, both of them look sorta like the “Show or hide iTunes sidebark” button, except that they point up instead of right or left – yet another, wtf?

While it wouldn’t have bothered me as much if they hadn’t fubar’d the rest of the gui, the new fugly volume selector bar is just salt in the gushing gui wound!

I haven’t found any new features that I like in iTunes 10, I don’t notice any improvement in sound, all I notice about the new iTunes is the fugly gui! I admit, I’m an Apple fanboi, but seriously, Apple fubar’d the gui on iTunes 10!

Elliott (Set Yourself Freelance)

New icon is fugly…don’t know what happened there. The monochrome icons really frustrate me.

The other thing that frustrates me is the area above the track info at the very top of the interface got smaller. This is the main area I would click on to drag the iTunes window. It has now become smaller vertically, and ever so slightly harder to click and drag….

I do like that you can now separately adjust the volume of different airport speakers…

I do like the larger volume control..

Don’t know what happened to the arrow that would take me to the track’s page in the iTunes store when that track was selected…guess that got replaced with Ping.

Always frustrates me when Apple design updates seem to be one step forward at the expense of two steps back..

Moise

And also please name Music as Audio. There are audio files which are not music.

caryn

i hate it and i think they should revert back to the old one which was more functional and attractive.

Jeff

I hate the new icy white background. It strains my eyes from the too sharp contrast with the standard black background on my iMac. I’ve been trying to find a way to dim it or change the color. I’m finding lots of people saying they hate it online but no way to change it yet.

PrincessT

I wish the icons were in color again, even the icons in iTunes Preferences are now monochrome. I found it pretty annoying at first, I thought something was wrong, like when something is grey due to it being unable to be selected. Now it’s just uncomfortable and boring. Bring back the colors Apple!

nathan

why so bleak? the new icon is generic and the “upgrades” decrease functionality and usability. bleh.

iTunes should really only be the store along with a big sleek user-library search engine where you search based on all the formats (song, artist, genre, rating, playlist, genius, etc). This list stuff in an age of smaller files and easy accessibilty to more and more songs just doesn’t help anymore.

gcoryell

Way to go Apple. You’ve optimized iTunes for the singles collector instead of the album collector. The “no-larger than 7 lines” artwork stinks.

James Dolan

I really don’t like iTunes 10 – Mainly because the new update made ALL of my artwork turn greyscale. It’s only in iTunes libary and it doen’t effect my iPod. It’s just nice to have the artwork in colour.. I hope other people are having the same problem and not just me. If anyone knows a solution/answer I will appreciate it,

Cheers,

James Dolan | james-dolan.co.uk ©
Email: hello@james-dolan.co.uk

Alex Layne

Re the greyscale album art issue: I’m pretty sure it shouldn’t be like that. Mine isn’t, at least. You might want to contact Apple about that.

bob

great blog, i hate the new itunes. apple has really outdone themselves – too many changes. why change things when there is absolutely no reason to, and it makes it worse? i dunno. more and more people will be using itunes, but more and more people wont be as happy with apple. Bad move apple….

weigumr

Can live with the icon, it’s something I spend little time with. The user interface on the other hand is something a user spends a lot of time with. I gotta say it is the ugliest user interface I have seen since monochrome green screens. Apple follow your own Human Interface guidelines. They are successful and made Apple what it is today, user friendly. Please do not follow some fading, gothic engineers false inspiration to be different. Bland is NOT it.

weigumr

Can live with the icon, it’s something I spend little time with. The user interface on the other hand is something a user spends a lot of time with. I gotta say it is the ugliest user interface I have seen since monochrome green screens. Apple follow your own Human Interface guidelines. They are successful and made Apple what it is today, user friendly. Please do follow some gothic engineers false inspiration to be different. Use to be Apple researched this with users before making changes.

weigumr

Can live with the icon, it’s something I spend little time with. The user interface on the other hand is something a user spends a lot of time with. I gotta say it is the ugliest user interface I have seen since monchrome green screens. Apple follow your own Human Interface guidelines. They are successful and made Apple what it is today, user friendly. Please do follow some gothic engineers false inspiration to be different. Use to be Apple researched this with users before making changes.

Joseph Cebula

I have always supported Apple–both financially and philosophically–but I have to say very clearly: iTunes 10.0 interface is UGLY! A major step back. Everything from the drab, BORING, grey to the rigid, uniform font used.

Of all the words ever used to describe Apple, I never thought in my wildest dreams “BORING” would be in the list.

You guys can do better–much better–make it happen!

christopher Gaudin

Argh… Why the monochrome sidebar?, and why not give us the choice to put it back. I thought there was something wrong with the download. I Found this article and was relieved to know that there are other people who are just as disappointed as I am in the new look and the new icon looks like something that an employee of microcrap designed. C’mon Apple listen to the people that love your products not the over-java-ed college grad who wants to uniform a color and make distinguishing options harder to differentiate because he’s had a little to much crack to smoke!

pixelated

HATE. Hate so much. Gray on gray?! I just don’t understand how a company that devotes such an incredible amount of time and effort into attractive and usable interfaces could think this was better than the last version.

For the record though, I’m on Windows 7 and have had zero issues with iTunes (bugs or performance problems).

Audrey

I hate the new iTunes and the only reason is because it’s hard to look at. It just all seems to clash.

Giox

Other than the ugly monochrome scheme and the bland icon (I don’t understand why people outraged over that…) that I’m replacement icon-shopping for, iTunes is still iTunes to me. Whatever.

lorne

does anyone like to spend time getting artwork for over 120gb’s of music to have iTunes decide that albums with 5 songs or less don’t deserve cover art in the album by artist column? i don’t. i miss version 9 and it’s been only been 10 minutes.

Alex Layne

In fairness, there is an option to show artwork next to albums with less than five songs. Go to View -> Always Show Artwork.

Lucas

I personally think that the underpinnings of the new iTunes is different and I would like to hear from a programmer that knows about that stuff. I think that iTunes 10 is part of a gradual transition to an all Cocoa 64-bit iTunes. At this point iTunes uses little of the new core features brought out in snow leopard. I think that converting carbon to Cocoa is a difficult process.
I also think they have started the transition towards a new ui interface. Remember “marble”? I’m thinking that that will be the step they take for 10.7.

The horizontal bottons at the top left are actually taking 1 cm of space in most apps and beside the title, is the only thing using that space. It serves them best to make them vertical.

Cade

I am usually on board with all updates to iTunes, however, iTunes 10 new interface is bland and more hard to distinguish my music. They messed with my favorite List view showing artwork making the art smaller and with more text next to it which just looks awful. The softness of the whole look is just wrong. As a graphic designer, I understand the use of color to quickly draw the eye to where you need to go. COME ON designers! It’s on of the 5 design principles!

Ping makes absolutely no sense to me. Why? They should have integrated a company that have been doing this really well already like LastFM. Their music suggestions have been spot on and are a great compliment tool for my iTunes music listening.

I use iTunes heavily on a daily basis but iTunes 10 forget it. I downloaded iTunes 9 again (as I didn’t back up, silly me) and reinstalled my fav version yet. What really annoyed me was that when I went to open it, it wouldn’t let me as the library was now created with a newer version of iTunes. With some messing around, I basically had to start fresh with iTunes 9 and put all my music back in losing my lists, play counts etc. What an experience iTunes 10 was for me last Friday.

The logo sucks. It’s bold, brash and has little style. The glassy look is also dated. Looks like a Microsoft icon.

Cade

I am usually on board with all updates to iTunes, however, iTunes 10 new interface is bland and more hard to distinguish my music. They messed with my favorite List view showing artwork making the art smaller and with more text next to it which just looks awful. The softness of the whole look is just wrong. As a graphic designer, I understand the use of color to quickly draw the eye to where you need to go. COME ON designers! It’s on of the 5 design principles!

Ping makes absolutely no sense to me. Why? They should have integrated a company that have been doing this really well already like LastFM. Their music suggestions have been spot on and are a great compliment tool for my iTunes music listening.

I use iTunes heavily on a daily basis but iTunes 10 forget it. I downloaded iTunes 9 again (as I didn’t back up, silly me) and reinstalled my fav version yet. What really annoyed me was that when I went to open it, it wouldn’t let me as the library was now created with a newer version of iTunes. With some messing around, I basically had to start fresh with iTunes 9 and put all my music back in losing my lists, play counts etc. What an experience iTunes 10 was for me last Friday.

BM

Folks, I completely agree with this blogpost and I personally think new iTunes 10 GUI looks like sh!t. They also added some whitespace in the table near the track names.

Vertical buttons: well, maybe next time Apple will do it diagonal, you never know!

Monochrome icons: I might guess why. Since Android and Sony oversells Apple recently, obviously Apple should get some cheaper designers and a application tests is done by a tech support call center. Since there are possibly people suffering from achromatopsia (complete color-blindness), hence the result.

Table header is made by Microsoft Office 2011 designer, I would guess.

If you look at preferences dialog box, icons reminds me back in times old OS7. Actually, totally foreign to Cocoa older versions of Firefox had much better Preferences dialog.

New icon, actually nice, I would say. That’s the only change I like. :-)

Result: Fugly crap. Steve’s designers should stop smoking drugs.

Austin

I like the new close/minimize/maximize buttons, they save space in the window which is useful for me because I never have a window occupying the entire screen. I’m not very shaken over the monochrome sidebar icons either, I think they look nice and cohesive. But they could’ve made it an option or made the icon color when that menu is open. What I really don’t like is the new dock icon, it looks so crappy and low-quality in comparison to all the other detail-rich Apple icons.

bsangs

Really? People are pouting about the new icon? Jesus. Who cares what a dock icon looks like? As long as the program works and works well – which iTunes does – they could use a picture of Pol Pot for all I care.

TMX01

@bsangs
Ha! that gave me a good chuckle! thanks for bringing a little wit to this otherwise dreary little line of discussion. I think this version of iTunes is going to be just fine

TH

cajrumbum

Yes, itunes 10 design is a complete joke – icons, three buttons to close/etc, weird volume slider, totally weird minimalization of album art pictures, no more table-like row colouring in list view, and so on!

Sean

Has anyone noticed that one can play iPhone music in iTunes without sycing? This is new for 10. In iTunes the music is no longer grayed out in the iPhone folder.

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