Fun with Headlines: Giving your article a title it does nothing to prove

by Uluroo — September 30, 2017

Citing only the facts that help prove your side isn't really proving anything.


Welcome to Punditry 101. Have you ever wanted to write an opinion piece about something, anything? The best way to prove your side is to ignore all facts to the contrary. Class dismissed. Now go break some eggs of common sense!

Writing for The Outline, Joshua Topolsky is about to prove that even valid points can be made invalid if you give them the wrong headline.

"Apple is really bad at design"

Yes! If you look at Apple's worst design choices and ignore all others, well, you'll think that Apple is really bad at design. There are plenty of valid complaints in this piece, but it's the title that really makes it a problem.

The “notch” on the new iPhone X is not just strange, interesting, or even odd — it is bad. It is bad design, and as a result, bad for the user experience.

"Bad" is, of course, a subjective word. Uluroo personally does not see the notch as being that bad because a) it enables Face ID and b) he thinks Apple kept the notch obvious so the iPhone X would be recognizable. Obviously we don't know Apple's real reasons behind the notch, but in Uluroo's own opinion, the notch is not an example of Apple being "really bad" at design. It appears we have reached a statistical impasse.

The justification for the notch (the new Face ID tech, which lets you unlock the device just by looking at it) could have easily been accomplished with no visual break in the display.

Is Uluroo the only one who finds it ironic that The Outline's website is filled with animated squiggly lines? And that whenever you hover your mouse over a link, the line underneath it starts moving? Anyway, that has nothing to do with what we're discussing.

Again, this seems to Uluroo like more of a marketing thing. It does have impact on the overall design of the phone, but he understands why Apple may have made that design choice. His hope is that Apple will include a setting in a future iOS update that allows users to opt for a black status bar.

Yet here is this awkward blind spot cradled by two blobs of actual screenspace.

It is a "blind spot" if you're one of those people who likes to stare at the middle of the status bar on their previous-generation iPhone. The notch is a distraction, but Uluroo thinks people will just get used to it. Anyway, it only juts down into the middle of the status bar.

These are all just opinions, though. Uluroo knows some people who vehemently hate the notch, and he can see why. Because Uluroo isn't as big on what he sees as smaller design details, he thinks the notch is a worthy tradeoff for what it offers. You're entitled to your opinion, but don't use this as a supposed example of why Apple is "really bad at design." Did we forget the headline?

... no one wanted or asked for Face ID, and the feature actually raises new concerns about security for users.

Uluroo has written articles in response to security concerns about Face ID. The main point is that Face ID is not meant to be a passcode replacement. It is, however, more secure than the four-digit passcodes most people use, and it enables users to use a stronger passcode and use Face ID for convenient unlocking.

Also, is this our standard? No one asked for Face ID, but no one asked for cars either. No one asked for air conditioning. The list can go on and on, but technology writers should understand that the point of tech companies is not to just give people what they ask for, it's to give people what they will want. Apple doesn't just take feedback from customers, it makes something better than what customers want.

I would love to say that this awful design compromise is an anomaly for Apple. But it would be more accurate to describe it as the norm.

It is, in fact, "the norm" if you cherry-pick examples of bad design choices from the past few years and ignore the good ones.

For the next half of the article, Joshua basically says that there were two Apples: a good Apple and a bad Apple (no pun intended). He thinks that the first Apple was the Apple that got design right and that the second Apple was the one that got design wrong. Apparently, the good Apple rotted around the time the iPhone 5s or the iPhone 6 was released. Man, these puns just write themselves!

Joshua cites the Macintosh and the first few iPhones as examples of the first Apple's awesome design choices and then complains about the lack of skeuomorphism that started in iOS 7.

[Jony] Ive converted understandable buttons into confusing rubrics (the share arrow?), clustered controls into a context-free space (Control Center), and perhaps worst of all, made some really ugly icons that have never fully recovered.

The iOS 7 share arrow has the same basic design as the iOS 6 arrow, but Uluroo prefers it because it's just simpler. The point of Control Center is for it to be context-free: You can access it from anywhere and can easily change systemwide settings. Uluroo isn't quite sure what icons Joshua thinks were ugly, but they all represented a change from skeuomorphism to a new format, and Uluroo doesn't see how you can use that vision as a way to prove that Apple is bad at design.

In Uluroo's opinion, the only real reason skeuomorphism existed in the first few iterations of iOS was that users had to learn the ropes of a totally different operating system. If iOS 7 had been the first version of iOS, then the learning curve would have been even bigger. But now, the flatter, simpler design of iOS looks better and cleaner, at least to Uluroo. If all we're basing this stuff on is opinions, then there you go. You can disagree with a vision for a design, but that's different from having proved that said design is "really bad."

While this may seem like obsessive nit-picking, these are the kinds of details that Apple in its previous incarnation would never have gotten wrong.

Here, Joshua is referring to the inconsistencies in the look of icons, particularly the camera icon, across the system. Again, this is really a matter of opinion, because Uluroo thinks that's because the different icons have different levels of functionality and importance across iOS. Really, all Joshua is showing is how pointless it is to base an entire article on unsubstantiated opinions. Also, Joshua is saying that the previous Apple (remember, there were two Apples) would not have gotten something like this wrong.

Did you forget the buttonless iPod shuffle? Or Antennagate? Or pretty much the entire 1990s? Of course. That's why you think there are two Apples.

In reality, there's always been one Apple. The Apple of 2017, design choices and all, is the same Apple that released the Macintosh in 1984. Both Apples made good design choices and both Apples made bad design choices. But neither of them was "really bad at design."

It’s been a long time since Apple blew anyone away with its “innovation” (Tim Cook’s favorite buzzword).

If embedding an LTE antenna in the screen of a smartwatch this big [holds up fingers] doesn't blow you away, tech geek or not, Uluroo isn't sure what to say. Apple's innovation does not have to be limited to redefining markets like it did with the Mac, the iPhone, the iPad, and the Wa—

The Watch is perhaps the closest the company’s gotten to a truly new product since the introduction of the iPad in 2010, but if we’re keeping points, it’s a riff on several other watches that came before it...

Computers existed before the Macintosh! Phones existed before the iPhone! And smartwatches existed before the Apple Watch! Hey, none of these can be good! Get out of here! We're perfectly happy with our Galaxy Gears and Blackberrys and command-line computers.

Yeah, smartwatches have been around since before Apple's was around. But who cares? The Apple Watch fits what many consider a far better user experience into a device that's smaller than a house arrest bracelet. Oops, Uluroo meant to say Android Wear watch. But anyway, something doesn't have to come first in order to be good design. Joshua, you do realize that the second iteration of something is usually better-designed than the first... right?

Joshua goes on to list some valid complaints about iTunes, the Podcasts app, and other weird choices Apple has made in its ecosystem. You can make these complaints, that's fine, but don't then say, "Ha! Now I've proved that Apple is bad at design!" Because you haven't.

But now, we've moved on to the completely absurd complaints, like the charging position of the Apple Pencil in the iPad Pro. Yeah, the default position is annoying, but Apple offers a dongle that lets you charge it through a Lightning cable. And you don't need to charge the Pencil for long to get a lot of battery life out of it. As Apple's website says, 15 seconds of charging will give you half an hour of battery life. Some quick math says that you'll need to charge the Pencil for about six minutes for a full charge.

If that kind of battery life ain't good design, Uluroo doesn't know what is. But that's not the kind of design we're talking about. That's... different design. What's that you say? No, incorrect! The "new" Apple did not design the iPad Pro or the Apple Watch or Face ID or the iMac Pro or the HomePod or any other good thing that the "new" Apple did in fact design. Because those products do not fit our headline; ergo, they are nonexistent.

Wait, what?

It's one thing to have some real, valid complaints about Apple's design. Most of the design choices mentioned in the article were in fact bad design choices. But it's a totally different thing to act as though you've proved that a company that's maybe 70% good design and 30% bad design is suddenly "really bad at design." This was not an article looking for a headline; it was a headline looking for an article.

Facts are like a field of cherries. You can pick the ones that fit your headline and say you've proven something, but the rest of us are willing to see the entire field. And we can also see that you're standing in a field of cherries. What's with that, anyway?