The decline of usability in OS X and iOS

Apple’s UX/UI has been getting worse for a while now. There were changes to iOS  7 that I really didn’t like, but I figured I’d get used to them. I didn’t. iOS 8 had a handful of annoyances I assumed would be resolved in an update. They weren’t. Now we have iOS 9, and it’s basically another downgrade to me. It all adds up to me being frustrated and annoyed with Apple in a way I never have before. And the OS X “upgrade” to iTunes and from iPhoto to Photos as made it significantly more difficult to perform tasks I do on a daily basis.

If I weren’t so locked in to Apple, I’d switch to Android. If they continue on this trajectory, I may switch anyway.

iOS 9

Not everybody is having these problems, but a quick search shows that I am far from alone.

App switcher with large thumbnails of each app showing no information

App switcher: No longer useful.

  • My devices are sluggish. It frequently takes 3 or 4 tries to get the screen to respond to a text or a swipe. TouchID is so slow I don’t bother to use it to unlock my phone.
  • Switching between landscape and portrait is frequently very slow. It doesn’t get stuck like it did in iOS 8, but I do still have to restart the app from time to time.
  • I can no longer sync new apps or update apps on my iPhone or iPad.
  • App switching is so much less useful. How useful are these large thumbnails? You tell me. Unless I’m switching to the app I used most recently, I use search instead.
  • Search has gone downhill too. You used to be able to search using the second word of an app. Not any more. You have to remember the exact name of the app.
  • Apple has installed another unwanted app — News — that can’t be deleted.
  • I have only sporadically received notifications of text messages since iOS 7. Not fixed in iOS 8 or iOS 9.
  • The difficulty switching between iMessage and SMS in a single thread that appeared in iOS8 has not been resolved.

iOS 8

  • Switching between iMessage and sms in a single message thread is completely unintuitive. I never figured out how to do it. This continued in iOS 9. At some point I found a kludgy solution, but it no longer works for me.
  • After I upgraded, I got only sporadic notifications of new text messages. This was also not resolved in iOS 9.
  • The device regularly gets stuck in landscape or portrait mode. I have to restart the app, and sometimes restart the phone to fix it.

iOS 7

  • Alarm and Timer screenshots

    This is way to confusing at 6am.

    Flat design 1. I get it. Skeuomorphism seems dated. The flat icons may be pretty, but they all look too similar now. Too many have the same color scheme, so nothing jumps out at first glance. Photos looks like Chrome looks like Contacts.

  • Flat design 2. I can’t use the alarm any more. The giant SNOOZE button went away, replaced by difficult-to-read-at-6am blue text. Additionally, the alarm and timer have opposite UIs. On the alarm, the blue text in the middle is Tap to Snooze. On the timer, the blue text is Tap to Stop. Guess how many times I’ve inadvertently turned off my alarm and overslept?


Holy crap. Photos.

  • It’s a bitch to find anything. It would have been fine if I had put all my photos in albums with iPhoto, but I didn’t. Did anyone? Now to find an older photo, I have to look in iPhoto moments, or remember the date it was taken. Again, fuck that.
  • The option to “Open with…” is gone. I can no longer open a photo in any  3rd party app. I have to export the photo before I can use it elsewhere, and I end up doing this several times per day. Fuck that.


iTunes 12 bring us to yet another decline in usability, especially if you have a large music library.

  • The sidebar has disappeared. Along with it the artist or album list view has disappeared. Instead you get a screen with giant album artwork, making it cumbersome to quickly browse your collection.
  • You can restore these views, but you have to do it EACH TIME YOU LAUNCH iTUNES! And there are several steps to do the restore, and I keep forgetting what they are. So I no longer browse, I only search.

Easily measure the pixel size of any part of a web page

screenshot of measureit ruler in ChromeHow often have you wondered what the pixel measurement of a given image or space was on a web page? How wide is that column? How much room do I have for a banner? Kevin A. Freitas has created a brilliant add-on that works with Firefox, Chrome, and Safari called MeasureIt. Once installed, you’ll see a small ruler-like icon in the upper right corner of the browser window (this screenshot is in Chrome).

web page with picture of a zombie and measure it in action

Just what size is a zombie, anyway?

Click on it, and you get a crosshairs cursor that lets you measure anywhere within the browser window. Figuring out web page measurements used to be a pain. If I wanted to know the size of an image, I’d copy the image and open it in an image editing program to check. If I wanted to know the size of an available space, I’d make an educated guess and do trial and error until I got it right. Those days are gone, thankfully :) 


How to lose an app sale: use bad typography for a typography app

screen shot of type itType It! is an iPad app that promises to turn your photos into beautiful typography.

I don’t believe you, Type It!

As a huge iPad fan and type geek, I’d normally buy this app without a second thought. Sadly, this epic fail of a screenshot not only lost the developer a sale, it flagrantly bolsters the stereotype of coders being inherently bad at design.

For starters, Brush Script?! Brush Script has to be one of the ugliest typefaces out there. Comic Sans would be an improvement! Ok, maybe not, but it wouldn’t make it any worse.

And what’s with the double primes instead of real quotation marks? On top of that, this slogan doesn’t need quotation marks. There was absolutely no excuse for making this typography 101 mistake.

The sample picture? It’s not typography. This is a photo with a bunch of typographic characters on it. I think. I don’t know, but it sure is ugly.

Lastly, “beautiful” and “typography” are not a proper nouns, and do not require capitalization.

(Yeah, I’m feeling kinda cranky today.)


Read this *bleep*ing post, *bleep* it!

punctuation symbols with red prohibitive circle and slashUsed to be, you only heard “bleeps” on TV when a network aired a movie that had PG language in the original. Lots of series get bleeped now too, because the original, uncensored version is often available elsewhere.

I don’t understand all the upset these words cause, but that’s another issue.

I get it. You don’t want little Timmy to hear grownups swear, and you don’t want delicate Susie to think that people use the awful, awful words on a regular basis.

But are these bleeps helping? When I hear one, I immediately cycle through the Seven Words You Can Never Say On TV to try to figure out what was said. So instead of hearing some frustrated cop say shit, I end up thinking “Did he say shit? Or dickhead? Or was it *gasp* the dreaded f-word”? (A word so awful we have to give it a nickname.)

Bleeps leave the interpretation open to our imaginations, which are far richer than the disallowed words.

I don’t know if anyone offended by these words actually reads this blog, but if you’re out there, tell me what you think. Are the bleeps better? If so, why?


Find your lost phone or get out of a boring meeting

Phone My Phone logoI haven’t had a land line since the early 00s. The only time I miss it is when I lose my mobile phone. I check every room, I check under piles of paper, I check the fridge, but I can’t find it.

Form to use Phone My Phone I no longer let myself get apoplectic. Instead I turn to PhoneMyPhone. Type in your number, and PhoneMyPhone does just like the name says. It phones your phone. A few times, if you want, to give you time to run to the car and check there.

You could also use it to be sure you receive an important call during a boring meeting or a bad date. I’d never use it for that though. Never.


Live Website Analysis at RISE Austin

RISE LogoOn Friday, March 30, I’ll be holding another session of live website analysis during RISE Austin. I first held “Room for Improvement” at the last BlogathonATX. It was such a hit, I’ll be doing again at the next BlogathonATX, and have done another at a recent B2B Meetup. Read the comments to see what people had to say.

People love it, and I love doing it!

Room For Improvement: Live Website Analysis (logo)

Here’s how it works: If you’d like some advice on your website, whether it’s regarding design, user experience, SEO, information architecture, messaging, or marketing, submit your url here, and I’ll choose 3 sites to review live. I promise you real, substantive, actionable advice. And be sure to register for the actual RISE session (it’s free).

So come join me. I guarantee you’ll learn something (and I probably will too :)


I’ll be on the Hot Seat at the Content Marketing Meetup

I’ll be on the Hot Seat at the Austin Content Marketing Meetup on Friday, June 24 (noon, at the Flying Saucer in the Triangle). Several folks have asked what I’ll be talking about. This particular meetup isn’t a “talking about” kind of event — it has a much more interesting format. Basically after a brief intro, attendees can ask me anything.

I’ve been immersed in the online world since 1993, when I built my first website. And I’ve been immersed in some flavor of marketing, social media, and content marketing since 1996, when I sold my company, Go Media, to Excite. I’m a generalist, so I know a little bit about a lot of things. Some of you might be wondering what might make a good question for me.

Here are some of the things I’ve done, and what they mean in the context of content marketing. Hope this gives you some ideas :)

I’ve helped 3 microbusinesses and 2 small businesses achieve national recognition in under a year.

Things I got really good at as a result:

  • Cross-channel marketing strategy (get the word out in the right places)
  • Users & goals assessment, information architecture & wireframing (provide the right content for the right people in the right format)
  • Creative, organic traffic-building

I started a new blog, Queen of Points, a few months ago. After only 6 weeks I was appearing on the front page of Google for significant keywords and phrases.

What I learned/did right:

  • I SEO’d the shit out of this blog. Turns out it’s not rocket science.
  • Best practices for categories, tags, and meta-data
  • Best practices for using images to boost SEO
  • How to use Google’s tools — keyword tools, speed test, webmaster tools
  • All sorts of great tools to make all this hapen

Other areas I know very well:

  • graphic design
  • project management
  • social media
  • web development

Did I miss anything?

Looking forward to the Hot Seat tomorrow. I’ll take any and all questions :)



Be nice.