The Cost of Design

This has been an intense week for Apple. The most interesting thing, in my opinion, is the reaction to iOS7. I’ve heard negative reactions from ages 12 to 65, male and female alike. The positive responses are mostly surrounded in the features and interactions. The visual, and very impressionable side of the OS, is truly ‘polarizing’ as Apple mentioned.

What I thought would happen to the death-spin the stock has been in (since last September) is that it would turn for the better. I found the leathery and papered interfaces to be, at times, silly. Rumors of a more digital-like interface were exciting.

Instead this week has cost Apple shareholders. At the time of this writing, this week alone has sunk Apple by $18,000,000,000 (that’s billions by the way). That’s the cost of a (perceived) bad design. $18B.

Shareholders read the responses and are concerned that with a poor iteration of the latest OS, people will defect to Android or Windows. Each time Apple has released something massive since the departure of Steve Jobs, Tim Cook has apologized. Maps, China, Customer Support, selling WWDC out in one minute. Will the same happen for iOS7?

One of the key things I felt when I slid to unlock on Monday was that I was no longer a pro. No longer a power user. This often happens with redesigns and new interfaces, the relearning of systems and it is quite normal. The problem I found on Monday was that I was lost. I have always been a pro at iOS. We all have been. Even the very first iPhone with iOS 1.0 enabled the user to be a completely avid and expert operator. The communications were succinct and affordances were ideal. It was everything we ever wanted in a phone.

The newest iteration, though, was unable to give me that same power and that seems to be a critical shift for Apple. To the tune of at least $18B. Maybe it’s the thin fonts and the lack of at-a-glance information I lost having to read everything in the UI. Maybe it’s the lacking contrast of elements or having to parse the lack of negative space around an icon. Maybe all of that.

What I hope is not that Apple apologizes for it’s interfaces or revises it’s work. That’s easy to do. What I hope is that they continue to amaze the world with their design, without apology and feedback, as they’ve done for over 30 years. I hope design at Apple is an asset and not a cost.

Update We’re a week later and the tally is now $32.9B in losses since iOS7 dropped.

 
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