The UX of iTunes 11

I hate iTunes 11.

Did I get to the point too quickly?  OK, I’ll try again.

I use iTunes specifically because I use iPods.  We have 3-4 iPods, more if you count the ones we have lost.  We use them mainly for music, especially in the car.  I use iTunes to manage the music and create playlists for the iPod.

They updated the user interface and eliminated the tree.  They also updated tons of stuff I never use, like the Apple store.

Trees are one of the most powerful UI tools in organizing complex software.  Yes, they can be taken too far and made unusable, but in general, they are great for quick progressive disclosure and navigation of 20-100 items.

They eliminated the tree and replaced it with buttons scattered around the app instead.  No longer can I quickly see where I am, what I am doing and navigate the right areas.  They made the product much more “modal”.  You are in one mode or another such as “iPod Mode” or “Music Search Mode” or “Store Mode”.  Most importantly, I can’t tell which mode I am in quickly.  Aza Raskin wrote this great article on modes and why they are bad.

This is a trend I see stemming from the iPad and the IPhone.  You are in one game or another.  No multi-tasking allowed!  Full screen “apps” are the rage like in Windows 8.  It uses heavy modes as well.  This fad is NOT good UX, but it is fashionable nonetheless.  Part of the reason has to do with touch interfaces and low CPU power.

The missing tree is why I don’t like using iTunes and why I can’t find the damn playlist editor in it.  Yet, I will keep using it because I have no choice.  What am I going to get that is better?  Nothing is better.  I am trapped.  Trapped and forced to use bad software.

Thanks Apple designers.

Wishlist: Have a button to let me put the tree back for navigation.  I have a giant monitor.  I have the room.  Give me the tree back.

4 replies on “The UX of iTunes 11”

I always hated iTunes and it always tried to make me play by its rules. What is wrong with a very simple folder system, each artist has a folder and album folders in that. You can to make a play-list, you click on a folder and there is an option add add to playlist.

In my opinion, iTunes was never designed to with the user in mind. It was specifically designed to get people to buy music and make it very difficult for them to change to a non-apple product. It was a trap.

Google music is almost as bad. It tries to make things too automatic and doesn’t offer any flexibility.

At least 5 years before the very first i-pod, my life had an mp3 player. It was somewhat bulky, but it worked perfectly. You had a CD, you ripped it, you connected your mp3 player and just dragged the files over.

I think having a button to put the tree back would allow them to gather analytics on how many users are doing this. I also prefer the old tree method. The new modes seems to support buying from the store and feel less about helping me navigate and enjoy what I have already purchased.

Whatya think?