Apple and “Cinematic Experiences”

An interesting discussion is going on about the “iPhone Black” UI over at Paul Goracke’s Corporation Unknown blog. The post itself is really about how the current trend to ‘all-black’ iPhone apps is a lot like the way Apple and other developers went crazy over the brushed metal look in their applications, violating Apple’s own HIG in the process. Of course, one key difference here is that it is only third party developers who are using the all-black look and not Apple.

But the more interesting part of the discussion is going on in the comments on the article. Scott Stevenson makes an excellent point:

In my experience, if you try to determine a specific set of rules for every UI convention, you’ll find yourself lost down the rabbit hole. I think this is one of the biggest stumbling blocks for UI in the classic engineering approach: there isn’t always a series of logical decisions to arrive at the destination.

Your example of interior design is a great way to illustrate this. The idea of “mood lighting” doesn’t always lead you to the most practical results in terms of visibility, but it does succeed in creating an experience. In a lot of cases, that’s what the developer is looking to do and that’s what the user reacts to.

Chris W’s comment above mentions that that Weather and Stocks are “unnecessarily” different (and you address these as immersive), but I think it’s a mistake to assume consumers want everything to be as uniform and structured as possible. In fact, that can lead to a very monotonous experience. It’s a delicate balancing act between chaos and stagnation.

I agree with you that developers often use UI conventions in contexts that don’t fit well, but that’s nothing new and will continue to be the case whenever they don’t have the the funds for or availability of a dedicated designer.

I don’t know if it was Scott’s intent or not, but he is clearly arguing against the position of having a rigid set of guidelines (e.g. the HIG) and for a more tailored experience. Interestingly, the next commenter, “JB”, says that Apple is making this much more explicit:

At WWDC, I was in many 1:1s with designers, and every single one pushed me to get more daring with the designs. They told my friend the HIG is for people that don’t know how to design.

This was all strange to hear from Apple, and a little hard to swallow. But there you go — Apple is actively pushing to reduce consistency, and to increase, as they told me “cinematic software experiences”.

I don’t know that Apple’s intent is to actually push to “reduce consistency”, but I agree that the trend at Apple is towards more tailored experiences, and I think that follows along very nicely with the stuff I’ve written about earlier: I have seen the future, and it looks a lot like Flash… and The Death of UI Consistency. I’m curious to see where the conversation goes from here, and whether or not this is the beginning of the end for the HIG-zealots…

~ by Andrew Shebanow on 29Sep08.

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