Nearly 10 Years of iTunes
We've been a little hard on iTunes in the past, like when we wrote about six things that have to change about iTunes. One of the major things we wrote about was the UI (User Interface). Knowing that Apple places so much importance on simple, clean UIs we are surprised that iTunes only seems to become worse over time.
In all fairness to the software, iTunes has been around since 2001. It had to show its age at some point. iTunes has also been adding features on top of features, and it's no longer just a music player. It's a storefront with applications, movies and a built-in social network. Needless to say, it's become a lot more than it was ever intended to be. We can understand that, as we've noted before, iTunes has been reported to be a break-even business that serves as nothing more as a means of giving buyers reason to buy iPods and iPhones (where the real money is). They need to keep people interested, right?
Still, the result is a very busy, very cluttered interface compared to what Apple usually presents us with. Meanwhile, iTunes for iPhone, and iTunes for iPad look great. Anything they can learn from those Apps?
1) Do something about that side bar
The sidebar in the main iTunes window has become a monster: Music, Movies, TV Shows, Books, iTunes U, Apps, Ping, Ringtones, iTunes Store, Ping, Purchased, Purchased from iPad, Purchased from iPhone, Purchased from iPod Touch, Purchased From Apple TV, Playlists…the list goes on. I know what some of you are thinking, "You can choose to hide/remove those," but I'll bet Mom or Dad has no idea how. Yeah, those of us who use computers regularly know where settings are, or have found alternatives to iTunes. Still, perhaps cutting it back a little would make it easier on the eyes. They don't have to totally remove the option, but maybe by turning them into small drop down menus like the concept below:
Click on image above for full-size
(Artist Credit: Scott Jensen)
Aside from the cleaner sidebar, the album tracklists are broken up a little better than they are on the real iTunes in the same view setting. Much of that is thanks to the small space between albums. Which actually makes a big difference.
2) Micromanage Those Purchases Much?
Speaking of that sidebar, does iTunes really have to separate everything purchased between devices? In the end, it all ends up syncing to the desktop client. This just adds more stuff to that sidebar. Instead of just having a simple "Purchased on iTunes," which is reasonable, it divides our content up between "Purchased on iTunes," "Purchased on iPad" and "Purchased on iPhone" if you have an iPod Touch or Apple TV 1st-gen, it wants to create even more playlists. We understand you can delete those playlists, but as it is they aren't totally necessary and it just ends up cramming more stuff into that already crammed panel.
3) More Side Bars?
While at the iTunes Store, you have that sidebar that just adds to the clutter. It's about 210 pixels (wide) of space that could be used for the for the main section of the store front.
Look at the difference here:
That brings us to the clutter of the storefront.
4) That Storefront is Loaded to the Brim
If you look at the iTunes storefronts you will also see the desktop version has become cluttered with "Recommendations For You," $7.99 Holiday Albums, Indies, etc.
The iPad version is nicely divided into "New and Noteworthy," and "What's Hot" then a section of quick links with nice little features like "Complete My Album" in plain sight. Something is more pleasing about navigating dividing things up into clean, easy to distinguish boxes with pages within them. "Redeem" for iTunes gift card codes are easy to find. It's great.
5) There are Menu Options Everywhere
Take a look at the main iTunes window. There are options and icons everywhere:
The top-left portion has the volume and play/stop controls, the opposite side has view controls, below that are AirPlay and the controls for yet another sidebar. The far left bottom has the repeat, fade and other controls. iTunes has a lot of features, but we can't help but think that it's become a crazy interface. We aren't saying we could come up with a better user interface, but is there not a way to streamline some of these options? They are in all four corners of the window.
When Will it Happen?
It would be nice to see some of these changes happen sometime. We are surprised some of the stuff hasn't been changed already along with a rebranding. Think about it, the iTunes Store isn't even just music anymore. It's not unlike Apple to rebrand themselves or their products. In the past they've changed their name from Apple Computer, Inc. to Apple, Inc. they have changed the name of their iPhone operating system and they have even changed the iTunes logo. Two of those changes were made to reflect the broader scope of their products. Could an iTunes rebranding also be in the works?