It's All About Conditioning - 27 Jan 2012

By Lucas Menge on Misc

I've been thinking of writing about Apple's choices for interaction in the home screen, but this post by Federico Viticci on MacStories pushed me over:

Throughout the release history of iOS, Apple had to compromise and, I believe, implement functionalities the original Home screen wasn't meant to support.

I agree with him. However, the homescreen – with its innate simplicity – is just one instance of a place where Apple has conditioned and entire generation into intuitively knowing how to use an entire OS. And yes, I mean much in the same way as you'd do to a dog.

Think of folders: traditional filesystem approaches allow for multiple levels of folder nesting and iOS only allows for one level. This occurred to me while going to sleep the other day: My mother doesn't have two levels of folders in her own documents folder and whenever she has to use something that does have, she gets lost. It's not that the homescreen folder implementation is limited. It might just be intentionally simple.

I think the main reason why the homescreen has been "patched", as Federico would say, is that throwing away all that knowledge that users have built over this time would be a waste. That's valuable knowledge. Anyone who learned how to use an iPhone back in 2007 still knows how to use an iPhone today. For someone who grew up with the command line, typing commands was easy for them. Same with the Windows "Start" menu. It's all about what your users are... erm... used to.

Making the UI grow hidden complexity like that can be useful to gradually teach users how to use more advanced aspects of the OS. For a user that doesn't know about the existence of folders, using the homescreen is business as usual. For someone who does know, then he can go on and do this more advanced gesturing to do so. But this has the aforementioned drawback: things might start to feel cobbled together.

It would be very refreshing – from a geek/nerd point-of-view – to see an updated shell for iOS because the homescreen does feel fairly inadequate. It was great in 2007. Not today.

© Copyright 2012, Lucas Menge