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Apple's App Store Design Mistake

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Apple is usually known for their witty and minimalist design choices. Almost every single product that Apple puts out is much revered, from the original iPod to the newest MacBook Air, including the packaging design. At least, until Big Sur, which with its inconsistent interface elements is in dire need of redesigning—again. I’m also not a big fan of the big borders and spaciness in the title bars, but I guess we’ll have to make do.

Take for example the App Store. Besides the obtrusiveness of the system (thankfully mas-cli/mas exists, but it’s obviously an unofficial project), the interface of the App Store is very much questionable. Yesterday, I tried updating my Xcode install. A minor revision upgrade—that somehow required me to download 12 GB! What??—refused to install on my system. At least, I think.

In reality, I had no idea what was going on. All I saw was this:

Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we...

Gotta love those contemporary preloaders, right? Except that they do not communicate anything, besides having to exert some form of patience. The App Store’s loading icon does, in some way: a blue circle fills up as the download progresses. Or was it the install progress? Here’s the problem with this:

  1. I have no idea whether or not the App Store is crashing or my internet connection is unstable when I cannot see the circle filling up. Sudden stops simply cause anxiety.
  2. When your download completes, the circle is filled. And then it simply starts again, to install the downloaded files! So the circle goes round twice. Does that sound like a good design choice to you?
  3. For big downloads, especially the Xcode ones going into the ridiculous gigabytes, the circle does not seem to move at all. My download speed is pretty much static. As a result, smaller programs give more feedback when downloading.

Now consider the fact that when your internet connection is unstable, the circle could hang. Should I press the stop button? Should I wait? Is it still doing something? Oh no my laptop went into sleep mode, is it still doing something? Okay, let’s press stop, I’m sure it will have cached parts. Shit, it did not, now I have to download 12 GB again! Damn it Apple, is it that difficult to simply add a simple xMB/sec label next to the circle? Even Windows 95’s installer and Install Shield got this one right, and that was in the nineties! Less is distinctly NOT more here.

After three tries and one entire afternoon, the update was installed. When you boot up Xcode, you are greeted with a messagebox that states:

Install additional required components? Xcode requires additional components to support running and debugging. Choose install to add required components. Quit? Install?

Quit, please.

I'm Wouter Groeneveld, a level 36 Brain Baker, and I love the smell of freshly baked thoughts (and bread) in the morning. I sometimes convince others to bake their brain (and bread) too.

If you found this article amusing and/or helpful, you can buy me a coffee - although I'm more of a tea fan myself. I also like to hear your feedback via Mastodon or e-mail. Thanks!