My Usability Wish List for Apple

I’m picking on the big boys today.  If you’re going to tout your usability, you’ve got to be good.  There’s some big areas where I believe Apple fails in usability.  Here they are…

itunes for my iphone?
I came to Apple late in the game, so I missed the ipod entirely.  I was baffled as to why I had to create an itunes account to sync apps to my iphone.  I didn’t want music, I just wanted apps.  I was confused even more when I realized I had to…

… install software?
I just wanted to get apps on my iphone, not on my computer.  So why did I have to download and install an application on my PC from, create an account, and then sync with my phone?  It would have made more sense if I could create the account on my phone and just use it “in the cloud”.  It felt very early 21st century.

Lack of real people
I was panicking earlier in the year when I checked my email only to find 100s of dollars of itunes receipts.  I looked everywhere to find a customer service number for itunes and couldn’t find one.  I wasn’t sure if I had been hacked and my checking account compromised, so I called the bank to cancel my checking account.  I went online to send an email request to Apple as well.  I was promised a response within “24 hours.” To make a long story short, my 9 year old son thought the game he was playing was asking him to spend pretend money, not real.  Within minutes, he’d racked up 100s of dollars in charges.  Thankfully, Apple did reply (24 hours later) and refunded my money.  I was very appreciative.  But if you’re going to deal in that much money, you need to have a way for people to call you.

iphone size and shape
It’s just too darn hard to hold to my ear.  I don’t even want to use it to talk on the phone with anyone.  It’s great for email though.

This list isn’t to bash Apple, because they’ve done amazing things.  I love my iphone and ipad.  But these examples show that anyone can miss the boat on usability because they haven’t stepped back to take a look at how the “novice” sees them.  The take-away from all of this is to always test your products and apps with new eyes, using actual novice users.  That is absolutely the only way you’ll be able to discover usability issues.  Because no one is immune from usability issues… even the big boys.

“After all, usability really just means that making sure that something works well: that a person of average (or even below average) ability and experience can use the thing – whether it’s a Web site, a fighter jet, or a revolving door – for its intended purpose without getting hopelessly frustrated.”
~Steve Krug in his book Don’t Make Me Think


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