A bit more than a year ago, I called Apple’s Time Machine “the worst interface Apple has ever made.” There is absolutely no reason to present a user interface with a slowly moving background. It’s disorienting to some, and downright problematic to others. The moving stars make me dizzy, and there’s no way you can turn them off.
With the release of iOS, Apple has doubled down. There are a number of interface elements that can cause motion sickness and dizziness, and the slim fonts and other interface elements in iOS make them very hard to read in certain conditions. I pointed out that you can make text bold in iOS 7, and a great TidBITS article discusses other settings you can tweak to make iOS 7 easier on the eyes.
Apple was long at the forefront of providing accessibility options, but in recent years, this has gone by the wayside. While skeuomorphism was esthetically questionable, these issues are more problematic for users who find it difficult to interact with their iOS devices and their Macs. I wonder if Jony Ive is such a design fundamentalist that he refuses to understand that there are users – probably a large number – who are having difficulty with these interface elements. Things like parallax and translucency are cool, and look good in an Apple keynote, but in the real world, they can affect many users who have issues with their eyesight, or who have balance problems.
I’m all in favor of snazzy interface elements; as long as I can turn off the ones that don’t work for me. I remember when Apple introduced a translucent menu bar in Mac OS X; it took a while for them to realize that many users found it hard to use, and to provide a setting to turn it off. (There was a way to turn it off from Terminal, but most users wouldn’t be able to find out that this hack existed.)
I wonder if Apple is afraid that lots of users might turn off these features. When they show their devices to their friends, the OSes might not look whiz-bang enough. If this is Apple’s logic, it’s flawed; nothing is more important than ensuring that users can easily interact with their devices. An iPhone or a Mac is a tool; it’s a means to an end. Tools need to be crafted for users, not for marketing.
Apple needs to be more sensitive to these issues. Their apparent disregard is disturbing, and shows a trend toward paying lip service to accessibility, but not thinking it through.