two examples of bad app design

This is a continuation of my last post about how I was “feeling” about Apple. This drills down into two applications I depend on a lot, Apple Maps and Google Maps.

I configured my iPhone for Dark mode (Settings | Display & Brightness) when it was first released with iOS 13 and I’ve kept it enabled since. There’s an Automatic switch setting which I have turned off, thus it’s always in Dark mode. And that, it turns out, is a problem with Apple Maps. It follows the same setting as iOS overall. It’s readable in any light except out doors in the bright Florida sun. Here’s what it looks like with Dark mode enabled.

Looks kind of hip for all of five minutes, until I have to look up something while out of my vehicle and in the sunlight. Then the map almost totally disappears. My first reaction was to try to turn off Dark mode just for Apple Maps. You can’t do that because the Apple software geniuses made the decision not to add it because they probably thought you would never need to do that. I beg to differ on that. But anyway, I decided to install Google Maps and work with that. That was a mistake, and here’s an example to illustrate why.

It’s bright and readable, and it’s covered with crap. What kind of crap, you ask? Why those lovely category buttons at the top underneath search and the option selections running along the bottom. Guess what? You can’t turn those off either. Since plan ‘A’ wasn’t working, I went back to Google to search for a plan ‘B’. And I didn’t like what I found there. One suggestion in one of the forums was to go to the Control Center (Settings | Control Center) and add a Dark Mode button. The reasoning being that when you wanted to see the map in light mode, you’d pull down the Control Center and hit the Dark Mode toggle button. And that, unfortunately for me, is what I’ve done. For example:

The Dark Mode toggle button is the very right lower corner, and Dark Mode is active. When inactive the button goes black. This is of course how Apple Maps looks in non-Dark Mode. To be honest it’s a bit washed out in illustrating secondary roads. I’m just glad that more of the map surface is given to the map, and not to extraneous buttons and non-critical illustrations.

This work-around reminds me of what I had to do to add autodial back onto my iPhone. The only reason I continue to use Apple Maps is because its interface is much cleaner than Google’s. I don’t know how long that will last.

The principal of least astonishment states that a user interface should behave in a way that most users will expect it to behave. In this case I expected to find a control (a toggle) in Maps Settings (the circled ‘i’ in the upper right corner) to enable or disable it. Having to add a toggle to Control Center to turn off the iPhone’s Dark Mode just to turn it off for Apple Maps is, as they say, quite astonishing.

One thought on “two examples of bad app design

  1. Have we not grown so cynical as to expect this? To me it’s yet another example of why “smart” phones aren’t. You have the sense to recognize it as a problem, yet millions of users will simply accept what is foisted on them and never understand it could be better. Because of that the companies won’t learn either as they listen to the majority not those qualified to evaluate.
    I suppose we could say it’s “popular opinion reality”; that affliction that causes so much trouble in the world today.

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