Ex Apple engineer claims Steve Jobs rejected new Apple TV UI 5 years ago [u]

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  • rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by kotatsu View Post


    The way I see it, the biggest problem with the ATV at present is a lack of vision/effort. The current UI is a hodgepodge of some iOS elements stuck over various old ATV text and cover art based elements. There's no consistency, and so it's a mess.



    If Apple want to go down the iOS route, then make it like iOS. Open up an app store and let third parties make their own 'channel' apps. Each would inevitably be their own little worlds with different interfaces. Not ideal, but it's the current situation on the iPhone and iPad, and those devices seem rather popular. It would be the quickest way to make the ATV into a truly useful, mass market product.



    The other route would be to essentially do what Microsoft are trying to do with the Xbox. Decide on a single interface design and use it everywhere. For third party content, develop their 'apps' in-house and so force them to use the same consistent UI. Add universal voice search to allow users to find content across all providers in a single search.



    Either way would be better than the current ATV debacle.



    First thing I wondered is why the app icons didn't mirror iOS. That would have made the most sense. And for apps that don't exist in iOS world make them look as much like an iOS app as possible. This interface looks so dated.
  • gmhutgmhut Posts: 242member
    Functionality of the GUI aside, the new icons are petty...



    pretty ugly, that is. They look too "candy" for my tastes, like something you might expect to find in a game aimed at toddlers.
  • dfilerdfiler Posts: 3,420member
    My prediction is that this is a knee-jerk reaction and initially self perpetuating meme that will soon disappear. Almost all of the complaints are that it is ugly. Only a couple have hit upon true usability issues. However I believe that the vast majority of users don't find it ugly and that the new UI is actually more efficient than the old. If sub menus were the same design it would be bad. But for a top-most menu, it actually works quite well.



    The only thing I would change is to make the highlighted item more visually distinct.
  • dzfoodzfoo Posts: 12member
    I've experienced the evolution of the Apple TV interface from its early beginnings to the current implementation. Although I agree with some in this forum that the new UI is not as beautiful as the previous iteration, I must say it certainly is more functional. Let me explain.



    The previous version was simply gorgeous. With subdued colours and a simplistic design, it blended into the background as what it was intended to be: the "default" or "home" screen of your TV set. It was never intended to be a destination, just the transient stop that enabled you to make a content selection. And when a selection was made, a movie, a TV show, or even a song, it took the center stage. There was a clear distinction between the boring (yet beautiful) menu screen, and the content it presented.



    Amidst all its beauty and appeal, the default screen had one rather nasty flaw. It was not scalable. What's more, the limits it imposed were painfully felt throughout your daily navigation.



    Sure, it was better than many other systems out there, and it was still gorgeous to behold; but the content selections kept growing, and navigating through them was getting a bit tenuous.



    At fault, mostly, was the "Internet" section. It seemed that everything that was not strictly an iTunes movie or TV show, or that did not exist in your computer, fell under "Internet." That's mostly because the Apple TV was growing into an access point of Internet services, and that wasn't going stop.



    All those services made the list under "Internet" grow beyond what could be displayed, making the user scroll down. Not only did the scrolling prevent easy discoverability of new options, but it forced the user to navigate through all options in order to get to the ones at the bottom.



    What to do, then? The "Internet" section could be decomposed further, but this would expand the number of buttons in the menu bar, and lets face it, that bar would not make things easier if it kept growing outside the periphery of the TV screen.



    In comes the new screen layout, designed for a growing selection of options and services, or like some people call them, "apps."



    As I understand the new design, it seems that Apple has classified all available content into the three obvious classes: iTunes content, your own content in your computer, and everything else. And really, this is just a natural realization from the usage of the previous UI version.



    Once this insight is grasped and put in its proper context, the entire UI makes a lot of sense, and its virtues can be appreciated.



    To start, the top half of the screen always displays prominently the most common items from the currently selected button or "app," including perhaps most recent selections, depending on the category. This aids navigation, and allows you to easily return to previously accessed or popular content.



    Then, the bottom half of the screen, by default, shows the four main buttons: "Movies," "TV Shows," "Computers," and "Settings." These are the bread and butter of the Apple TV: the content provided by iTunes, and that available in your own computer. They are shown first and foremost in the default screen because they are expected to be the most commonly used ones, and to some significant measure of users, perhaps the only options they'll need.



    Following the main row of "apps" is what looks like half of the next row. This is done in a tasteful way that lets the user know without doubt that there is more to the Apple TV than the main row, but without cluttering the screen with all options at once. Navigating into any of these options will scroll the screen up, filling it with more of these additional "apps." The user can then access any of them at once, or scroll back up to the main row.



    This new layout allows for a greater selection of "apps" without hampering discoverability or navigation: the user can see more items at once in a screen-full of "app" buttons than on a narrow vertical menu of the Apple TV 2.0. Also, the user can select any "app" simply by navigating the grid rather than having to scroll through all items to get from one end to the other, as in the previous version.



    Thus, I feel this new UI is much more functional and definitely more scalable than the previous one. I do, however, feel there were some questionable choices made in the overall "look." For instance, out is the old subdued colour scheme of bluish grays and white on black, and in come a variety of gaudy colours polluting the screen. It is hard to distinguish at first glance what is content, which is important, and what is an "app," which should just be part of the furniture.



    Not only are the colours bright and flashy, but the visual emphasis this causes obscures the selection cursor. It is sometimes hard to tell which item is actually selected; the slight blue "glow" surrounding the selected item blends much too easily with the button colours.



    To me the whole thing looks like it was designed for children. If it wasn't for the easy navigation and the very functional approach, I'd be fooled into believing it was designed by Microsoft.



    But ugly is easily fixed, especially by Apple. Functional and easy to use is a lot harder, and that's already there.



    -dZ.
  • dfilerdfiler Posts: 3,420member
    I find it strange that so many people are harping on "ugly".



    Isn't it the same look as all other iOS devices? All have a grid of brightly colored icons.



    The new design lends itself better to subconscious use. Fewer button clicks are needed to reach items and each is visual distinct. After a short period of use, users won't even consciously see the icons. Instead their brain will be on auto-pilot, guided by visual cues that require the least brain power to process.



    And this isn't me just having low expectations. My opinion is that nearly all media players have pathetically bad user interfaces. For instance, the PS3 menu system should be classified as a war crime against the field of interaction design. Magnification of selected items ruins the readability of text as it scrolls by in a non-linear fashion. And that's only the first of the atrocities.



    By comparison, the new ATV interface is one of the best available. We seem to have lost perspective. Not just on a relative scale, but also in absolute terms. Given time, my bet is that the ATV interface will come to be heralded as the correct way to do TV based GUIs. There certainly needs to be refinement. But it is arguably the best, or one of the best GUIs available.
  • dfilerdfiler Posts: 3,420member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Marvin View Post


    So something like this might be easier:







    You'd just do up/down to pick the main or subcategory on the left and then the content from each section could be displayed in shelves on the right, which would just be navigated vertically.



    If they do apps, then there would be an extra menu on the left called 'apps' and the apps themselves would show in a similar shelf view which could be customised.



    This UI means you'd always use the same screen for everything.



    Vertical list navigation is more suited to some tasks than others.



    The ATV has relatively few items at the top level of the menu hierarchy. Currently all can be displayed on the screen simultaneously. That includes custom icons that are visually distinct. This would not be possible with a vertical list. There isn't enough room for the icons or even the text unless it is made too small for small TVs.



    I'm currently waffling on a prediction of if apple will open up the AppleTV for app development. My guess is that this isn't a can of worms they want to open. To do it right would involve a lot of forethought. The interaction methods and usage scenarios inherent to handheld touch screens are fundamentally different than a large screen operated by a 7 button remote. In other words, designing apps for a TV has little if any relationship to designing apps for current iOS devices.



    What seems more likely is that airplay will evolve further and operation TVs in the future will augmented by auxiliary handheld touchscreens. Remotes are still optimal for volume and play/pause type functionality. But browsing is greatly aided by the richer interaction possible on touch devices. If this is the path apple pursues, it is unlikely that the top level menu will balloon significantly in size and that the current GUI might be sustainable.



    My main complaint right now is the nonsense above the grid of icons. In my opinion, that should be removed entirely. The top menu should be a brutally simple grid of icons. When more are added, a bit of screen scrolling will bee necessary.



    Oh, and the selected icon needs to be more distinguished. Currently it isn't obvious at all.
  • MarvinMarvin Posts: 13,734member, moderator
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by dfiler View Post


    The ATV has relatively few items at the top level of the menu hierarchy. Currently all can be displayed on the screen simultaneously. That includes custom icons that are visually distinct. This would not be possible with a vertical list.



    They can do something similar to the iPad preferences menu:







    It could zoom up like the Dock zoom when navigating the list to make it clearer.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by dfiler View Post


    I'm currently waffling on a prediction of if apple will open up the AppleTV for app development. My guess is that this isn't a can of worms they want to open.



    They would, as you say, have to settle on the control method before building the API. They might still be at the experimental stage with this. Other people have done TV testing with games:



    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DYuV_MRYbD8



    Apple wouldn't want to commit to a limited API and control method only to be superseded and have to make a difficult choice about what to do next.



    Also, they'd have to think about the long term interest in the controls. While the gaming scenario above looks nice, I would probably never want to play games like that long term. The Wii has proven to be very popular though so it might appeal to a wide audience but who knows.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by dfiler View Post


    My main complaint right now is the nonsense above the grid of icons.



    Yeah, that layout is not nice at all.



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by dfiler View Post


    Oh, and the selected icon needs to be more distinguished. Currently it isn't obvious at all.



    It isn't very clear but the selection state does move as a floating square when you click the remote so you'll know exactly where the selection is after moving it. They just have to highlight the text to show which is selected.
  • dfilerdfiler Posts: 3,420member
    Interesting post! It is good to see people putting thought into this rather than just complaining.



    One point I disagree on is the following...



    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Marvin View Post


    They can do something similar to the iPad preferences menu:







    It could zoom up like the Dock zoom when navigating the list to make it clearer.



    Dock zooming was cool looking and impressive but also horrible from an interaction design perspective. It was likely only included in OS X because it made people immediately aware of the advanced graphics sub-system. The windows7 taskbar preview methodology is actually superior in terms of keeping items in a fixed position yet still allowing enlargement.



    Zooming in while hovering over an item in a list causes all other items in the list to move. This makes it hard to visually identify scrolling items via rough recognition of word forms. It is far easier to browse with scrolling lists that keep items at a constant size and moving at a constant speed.



    Usage of zoom in the dock isn't quite as bad because enlarged previews are valuable and people tend to remember the spacial location and are not truly relying on zoom much of the time. But use on the ATV would result in the same interface shortcomings as seen on the PS3.



    The iPad preference menu is designed the way it is because it makes sense for the device at hand. All the items in the left-side menu are immediately available for interaction. The screen shape and resolution also lends itself to the design. TVs are drastically different. Having the left-side menu persistent would be of little value because the menu items can't be interacted with anyway without first hitting another button. Given the disparity in screen size, resolution, and viewing distance found between various TVs, a better design would be to limit each menu screen to only the level of hierarchy currently being interacted with.



    [edit: added one sentences and fixed a few others]
  • philboogiephilboogie Posts: 7,286member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by dfiler View Post


    Dock zooming was cool looking and impressive but also horrible from an interaction design perspective. It was likely only included in OS X because it made people immediately aware of the advanced graphics sub-system. The windows7 taskbar preview methodology is actually superior in terms of keeping items in a fixed position yet still allowing enlargement.



    But the icons in the W7 taskbar get enlarged from square to rectangular when opening an application. This moves the icons that are to the right of that enlarged icon to the right. Which is excruciating - to me.
  • dfilerdfiler Posts: 3,420member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by PhilBoogie View Post


    But the icons in the W7 taskbar get enlarged from square to rectangular when opening an application. This moves the icons that are to the right of that enlarged icon to the right. Which is excruciating - to me.



    The point wasn't that one or the other dock/taskbar was better overall, but rather that the specific trait of magnification while hovering is bad when implemented in a manner that ruins visual scannability. It isn't a terribly good way of making a large number of items readily accessible. This is especially true if they are accessed in a sequential manner, such as they would be on an ATV.
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