University Paper about iPhone's Home Screen

iLive

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jan 3, 2012
105
26
Denmark
I am a (new) Digital Design student from Denmark, and in a course called Digital Aesthetics I wrote a paper I think I would like to share with you guys.

In the paper, I talk about how designs, specifically iPhone's home screen interface, creates a desire for an aesthetic satisfaction which is flawed and wrong. You can read it in detail in my paper.

https://www.dropbox.com/s/m35uxo0rrguaiaa
 

trssho

macrumors 6502
May 24, 2009
408
37
That was not a smooth read, but your effort is appreciated.Your point is that IOS home screen enslaves the user into an inefficient pattern of icon layout?
 

iLive

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jan 3, 2012
105
26
Denmark
That was not a smooth read, but your effort is appreciated.Your point is that IOS home screen enslaves the user into an inefficient pattern of icon layout?
It's an academic paper, not an article so it won't be "easy" to read. I can see that.

Not entirely. I'm arguing that iOS through its home screen interface/design invites the user to have an aesthetic desire. This is bad because, it creates a desire which cannot be met without diminishing the functions.

I hope it makes sense.
 

iLive

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jan 3, 2012
105
26
Denmark
Thanks for sharing - I don't agree with many of the points you raised but you put your argument across well
Thanks for reading.

I would really appreciate any form of commentary on my arguments. So would you mind elaborating?
 

Phil A.

Moderator
Staff member
Apr 2, 2006
5,499
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Shropshire, UK
The main issue I have is the argument that placing emphasis on aesthetics naturally leads users to a futile attempt to achieve aesthetic perfection in the layout, thereby diminishing functionality. While that may be true for some people, I'd argue that it's not universally true.

Personally, I hate the layout of the Apple watch home screen with a passion because it looks a mess and is difficult to navigate. I like the simplicity of the iOS home screen and must confess to arranging it in an aesthetically pleasing manner but don't compromise the functionality (or avoid additional apps) in an attempt to make it aesthetically perfect

However, as I said, it's a well written paper with some good points (the comments about volume controls are 100% accurate and not something I would have considered before - I'll never change volume on my TV the same again :)) and I enjoyed reading it
 
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TrueBlou

macrumors 68040
Sep 16, 2014
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Scotland
Well it was clearly a well thought out and considered paper. Though if I'm grasping the intent clearly, then I don't altogether agree.

You are essentially saying that by enforcing strict rules on size, shape and position of home screen icons a person is unwittingly, or otherwise, drawn into a schema that demonises their own desire.

Whereas on something like Android, where icons can be of differing shapes, styles and sizes this frees the users mind and gives scope to form their own clear and individual vision as to how a devices interface should work for them and not how it is dictated to them.

So, I could be wrong there and I've misread the paper (I've had little sleep and I am highly medicated, so that's a possibility.)
However if my interpretation is along the right lines then where I disagree is that fundamentally we do have a choice. We can choose not to use iOS if the interface does not suit us.

Personally, I couldn't be happier with the layout choices Apple made as they suit me perfectly. Long before the existence of iOS and indeed in day-to-day life away from computer systems, I am a person who likes order. On a computer I always like things nicely laid out in a grid, I like the icons and folders to be uniform. I need not necessarily fill an entire screen, but what is there I like to be in harmony with each other.

During the times when I have owned Android devices I found that interface to be an annoyance to me. I did not like that there wasn't the perfect order and unison that I craved in an interface I use.

I think the best thing an interface can do is become, in a way, transparent to the user. It should be something that requires little thought in use as that alone distracts from the actual target of the user, which is to accomplish a task. Creating an interface which is ordered and uniform is much less of a distraction than one which offers a more chaotic appearance. Simplicity is key to good design and from a user perspective that is why I choose to use iOS, it more than any other mobile operating system achieves that ordered simplicity which suits me. I find I can achieve my goals quicker, simpler and with less distraction on iOS than any other mobile operating system I've used (going back the best part of 20 years.)

That of course is my personal opinion, it's how I like things, I'm not by any means suggesting that approach is right for any other person than myself.


Dear god I need coffee and lots of it, clearly my morphine has gone to my head this morning, I'm blathering arse gravy even more than usual :D. My poor wee brain, it struggles enough as it is :p
 
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iLive

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jan 3, 2012
105
26
Denmark
The main issue I have is the argument that placing emphasis on aesthetics naturally leads users to a futilel attempt to achieve aesthetic perfection in the layout, thereby diminishing functionality. While that may be true for some people, I'd argue that it's not universally true.
Hmm, this is a very good point you're raising. I never intended to make it mean that it is universal, but maybe I need to clarify that in the paper. Even if I haven't directly said "it is universal and applies for all", this is still something you've sensed I'm saying so in a way, that becomes what I'm saying. Thanks for pointing that out.

Personally, I hate the layout of the Apple watch home screen with a passion because it looks a mess and is difficult to navigate. I like the simplicity of the iOS home screen and must confess to arranging it in an aesthetically pleasing manner but don't compromise the functionality (or avoid additional apps) in an attempt to make it aesthetically perfect.
I dislike the home screen of watchOS too, but I can understand if you feel the paper puts it on a pedestal when in fact I just tried to say "Here is one way to go away from this that maybe future interfaces can learn from, but not neccesarily adopt fully". I'll work on that as well. Thanks.

However, as I said, it's a well written paper with some good points (the comments about volume controls are 100% accurate and not something I would have considered before - I'll never change volume on my TV the same again :)) and I enjoyed reading it
Haha, I hear you. And thanks! I really enjoy talking about interface-designs on a much deeper level than "What color should we choose for this app?", and I'm looking for like-minded people who shares this passion aswell. So yeah, that's why I put my paper here.
 

serialiphoneuser

macrumors regular
Sep 21, 2016
214
392
Honest opinion below. Very critical.

This paper is just a 8 page fluff around a non-existent issue or trying to make up issues to write a paper.. atleast you have written your academic paper. :)

"this invisible grid creates a space in which users will want to achieve a sense of perfect
pattern. I, for instance, prefer to close rows and for that reason, I might not download addi
tional apps from Apple’s App Store because it disrupts my attempt to achieve this perfect pattern."

You won't download any more apps because, it will result in an odd number of apps in a row?? o_O
How about downloading additional apps to "close out" the row (which is by itself OCD) ?

Apple Watch app grid
"But, through a diagonal and an unlocked grid, the perfect pattern are to some degree challenged because it becomes more difficult to make a perfect pattern and as a result, it diminishes the desire for perfecting icons’ location in relation to each other" :eek:

About homescreen default icon arrangement, More confounding conclusions:
"And this is a flaw in their design because it creates a space in
which you cannot achieve both function and aesthetic pleasure at the same time."


"a desire for perfectly patterned interfaces
and an aesthetic perfection that interfaces just cannot be provided without diminishing their
functions."

What functions are dimished? :eek:

"However, this way of design is flawed because it misleads the user from the function of an interface."
How is the user being misled from the function of the interface? It's just a grid of icons :confused:
 
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TrueBlou

macrumors 68040
Sep 16, 2014
3,796
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Scotland
Honest opinion below. Very critical.

This paper is just a 8 page fluff around a non-existent issue or trying to make up issues to write a paper.. atleast you have written your academic paper. :)

"this invisible grid creates a space in which users will want to achieve a sense of perfect
pattern. I, for instance, prefer to close rows and for that reason, I might not download addi
tional apps from Apple’s App Store because it disrupts my attempt to achieve this perfect pattern."

You won't download any more apps because, it will result in an odd number of apps in a row?? o_O
How about downloading additional apps to "close out" the row (which is by itself OCD) ?

Apple Watch app grid
"But, through a diagonal and an unlocked grid, the perfect pattern are to some degree challenged because it becomes more difficult to make a perfect pattern and as a result, it diminishes the desire for perfecting icons’ location in relation to each other" :eek:

About homescreen default icon arrangement, More confounding conclusions:
"And this is a flaw in their design because it creates a space in
which you cannot achieve both function and aesthetic pleasure at the same time."


"a desire for perfectly patterned interfaces
and an aesthetic perfection that interfaces just cannot be provided without diminishing their
functions."

What functions are dimished? :eek:

"However, this way of design is flawed because it misleads the user from the function of an interface."
How is the user being misled from the function of the interface? It's just a grid of icons :confused:

I wouldn't necessarily say a non-existent issue as such. It's an interesting and very important topic to those of us involved in interface design. It's a seriously, seriously difficult thing to do well. As you may or may not know yourself, for all I know you could be Mr J. I've :D
 

iLive

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jan 3, 2012
105
26
Denmark
Well it was clearly a well thought out and considered paper. Though if I'm grasping the intent clearly, then I don't altogether agree.
Hi TrueBlou. First I'd like to thank you for taking your time to make such a thorough reply. I'll answer your post with best intentions. :)

You are essentially saying that by enforcing strict rules on size, shape and position of home screen icons a person is unwittingly, or otherwise, drawn into a schema that demonises their own desire.
I think "demonize" is a little too harsh. I believe you're referring to my reference to Dunne who uses the term "enslavement". But the idea is, as you're saying, that strict rules creates an aesthetic desire, yes.

Whereas on something like Android, where icons can be of differing shapes, styles and sizes this frees the users mind and gives scope to form their own clear and individual vision as to how a devices interface should work for them and not how it is dictated to them.
Yes, exactly! But, Android is not free from these desires as well. It uses the same swipeable pages for instance. I was only refering to Android's icons. The rest of the os the paper doesn't comment, but I certainly believe it is just as much "demonizing" (hehe).

So, I could be wrong there and I've misread the paper (I've had little sleep and I am highly medicated, so that's a possibility.)
However if my interpretation is along the right lines then where I disagree is that fundamentally we do have a choice. We can choose not to use iOS if the interface does not suit us.
This is a good point. :)

Personally, I couldn't be happier with the layout choices Apple made as they suit me perfectly. Long before the existence of iOS and indeed in day-to-day life away from computer systems, I am a person who likes order. On a computer I always like things nicely laid out in a grid, I like the icons and folders to be uniform. I need not necessarily fill an entire screen, but what is there I like to be in harmony with each other.
And I am in the same way and I think a lot of other poeple are too. But, what the paper is saying is that the ways in which we believe this "harmony" is achieved, and this is something that is enforced by iOS's interface.

During the times when I have owned Android devices I found that interface to be an annoyance to me. I did not like that there wasn't the perfect order and unison that I craved in an interface I use.
I'm sure if you wrote about this in a paper, but aesthetics teacher would enjoy to read it. :)

I think the best thing an interface can do is become, in a way, transparent to the user. It should be something that requires little thought in use as that alone distracts from the actual target of the user, which is to accomplish a task. Creating an interface which is ordered and uniform is much less of a distraction than one which offers a more chaotic appearance. Simplicity is key to good design and from a user perspective that is why I choose to use iOS, it more than any other mobile operating system achieves that ordered simplicity which suits me. I find I can achieve my goals quicker, simpler and with less distraction on iOS than any other mobile operating system I've used (going back the best part of 20 years.)
I agree that an interface should be transparent. I believe this is Don Norman's main argument in his book "The Invisible Computer". But, I, on the other hand, believe that when we as users are presented a space in which specific rules hve to be maintained for it to be organized, then the space creates a desire which misleads us from the "real problem". Suddenly, rather than focusing on what to write, you're focusing on how it looks. nd i

That of course is my personal opinion, it's how I like things, I'm not by any means suggesting that approach is right for any other person than myself.
I appreciate your post, and it was very valuable to me.
 

cynics

macrumors G4
Jan 8, 2012
11,313
1,696
I agree and disagree. For me the organization of my apps and how symmetrical they are is relatively important. But not important enough to affect my behavior of how I use the phone or apps I download....I'll make it work basically.

When using other peoples iPhones (I do this for work quite frequently) by far the most common organization pattern I notice is frequency of use. Meaning first page is most common used apps, second page less frequently, and so on. There is generally no consideration paid to aesthetics. AND generally the problem is no free space caused by unused apps along with other things (iMessages, Photos, etc).

On a side note something I find more interesting is how you can see a persons behavior through something as simple as their iPhone. For example if I see someone with a very organized iPhone, folders, and such. They will generally be a very well organized person in other ways. Clear desk, organized work vehicle, etc. even a lot of common personality traits.
 

Purga

macrumors member
May 12, 2015
30
21
The paper was a very interesting read.
You argue in favor of usability in terms of fulfilling a function and make a point in aesthetics being able to have a negative effect on this. So far i agree. However, i don't fully agree with the conclusion that this is necessarily bad.

Your point being made comes down to an argumentation of usability over user experience. And you argue that usability is most important overall. However, usability is only one part of the overall user experience and a sacrifice in functionality can greatly increase the user experience.

One example:
a) you open an app. The app loads and showing a blank black screen for 400ms and then the app.
b) you open an app. The app loads and showing a fancy animation for 450ms and then the app screen.

Following your argumentation the second approach has a lack of functionality due to loading taking longer. Afterall, the goal of the user is to see the application and not the loading animation. Yet, the second approach can be way more pleasant to the user, since he doesn't experience the waiting time as actual waiting. In this case, the 50ms longer loading time can be a very worthy tradeoff for a overall better experience to the user.

The same is true for the app layout. Yes, Apple is restricting functionality to increase a pleasant aesthetics for the reason of gaining an overall better user experience.

In HCI (human-computer interaction) there has been a general acknowledgement of realizing that usability is only one part of the experience to the user. A problem though is that it is easier to find a metric for usability and functionality (e.g. interaction time), while user experience is very complex and hard to grasp or express in a number.

So as a conclusion: is it more important to like and see what you do and having a pleasant experience while doing so, or is it more important to be as efficient as possible?
 
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iLive

macrumors regular
Original poster
Jan 3, 2012
105
26
Denmark
Honest opinion below. Very critical.

This paper is just a 8 page fluff around a non-existent issue or trying to make up issues to write a paper.. atleast you have written your academic paper. :)
I like an honest opinion. But what you're saying is not true. I am not making up an issue; it does exist. I was hoping that the TV example would be a relatable example to show it is true, and I strengthened my argument by referring to theory from serious experts.
[doublepost=1475926001][/doublepost]
I agree and disagree. For me the organization of my apps and how symmetrical they are is relatively important. But not important enough to affect my behavior of how I use the phone or apps I download....I'll make it work basically.
When using other peoples iPhones (I do this for work quite frequently) by far the most common organization pattern I notice is frequency of use. Meaning first page is most common used apps, second page less frequently, and so on. There is generally no consideration paid to aesthetics. AND generally the problem is no free space caused by unused apps along with other things (iMessages, Photos, etc).
But again, I am not arguing that everyone is abiding by these rules I, for instance, feel I "must" follow. But what I'm saying is that design can teach an individual an aesthetic, and when we don't meet this in other places in the platform, we become aware of it and we want it changed.
[doublepost=1475927113][/doublepost]
The paper was a very interesting read.
You argue in favor of usability in terms of fulfilling a function and make a point in aesthetics being able to have a negative effect on this. So far i agree. However, i don't fully agree with the conclusion that this is necessarily bad.

Your point being made comes down to an argumentation of usability over user experience. And you argue that usability is most important overall. However, usability is only one part of the overall user experience and a sacrifice in functionality can greatly increase the user experience.

One example:
a) you open an app. The app loads and showing a blank black screen for 400ms and then the app.
b) you open an app. The app loads and showing a fancy animation for 450ms and then the app screen.

Following your argumentation the second approach has a lack of functionality due to loading taking longer. Afterall, the goal of the user is to see the application and not the loading animation. Yet, the second approach can be way more pleasant to the user, since he doesn't experience the waiting time as actual waiting. In this case, the 50ms longer loading time can be a very worthy tradeoff for a overall better experience to the user.

The same is true for the app layout. Yes, Apple is restricting functionality to increase a pleasant aesthetics for the reason of gaining an overall better user experience.

In HCI (human-computer interaction) there has been a general acknowledgement of realizing that usability is only one part of the experience to the user. A problem though is that it is easier to find a metric for usability and functionality (e.g. interaction time), while user experience is very complex and hard to grasp or express in a number.

So as a conclusion: is it more important to like and see what you do and having a pleasant experience while doing so, or is it more important to be as efficient as possible?
This is a very good argument against my paper. I actually know of this thing you're talking about with delayed animation giving a feeling of maintained attachment to what ever is going on on your screen. In fact, to make my argument even better, I should probably include an example like yours in the paper to make it more objective and therefore academic.

But at the same time, I think this is another topic than the one the paper is having. I feel this is more an argument of how diminishing functions in a way can be more more effeicient and provide a better user experience. While my argument is that design can add an aesthetic desire which can't be met without sometimes hurting the function.