Monday, January 7, 2008

5 Leopard GUI Gripes

The current beta build of Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard, released to developers at WWDC ‚’07, is not as polished as what people have come to expect of Apple’s design team - users are still left with at best several disagreeable changes, and at worst a hideous hodgepodge of HIG contradictions. I have broken down 5 onscreen blunders that detract from the user experience and make Leopard the ugliest and most uncharacteristically ‘Apple’ OS to date.

Giant Shadow

Giant Leopard Shadow

The drop shadow should be one of those subtle interface nuances that you never consciously notice, and it was, until now. Apple must think we have serious issues identifying the current window, because they took the liberty of giving us an enormous drop shadow to indicate it; it’s far too obtrusive, almost to the point of obstructing windows that it overlays.

Glowing Dock Dots

Dock Dots Leopard

The little black triangles show the currently running applications, and again, are an unobtrusive part of the UI that blends into the background, only noticeable when you need it. The new, neon-blue ‘magic’ dots are so out of place, they’re hard to describe, almost like a mystical throwback to Aqua.

Translucent Menu Bar

Menu Bar

There is absolutely nothing wrong with the current menu bar, so why introduce another confusing, superfluous effect? I can understand what they’re trying to do conceptually by trying to minimize the impact of the menu bar, but when another window is open, it actually ends up emphasizing the menu bar, which creates some sort of visual chasm between the top of the screen and the top of the window. Either way, it serves to make the bar harder to read, and might be confusing to the seasoned Mac user. Finally, it almost seems like it’s a half-hearted grasp at imitating Aero Glass, and it hardly needs to be said that that isn’t a good subject for imitation.

Spotlight Menu


I’m not sure what Apple was smoking when they thought that combining a translucent menu bar, black menu icons, and bright blue accents was a good design decision, but that’s what you get when you access Spotlight in Leopard. Admittedly it seems to work 3-5x faster in Leopard, but it still LOOKS atrocious.

New System Icons

Folder Icons

Now, these might still grow on me, I haven’t decided yet, but they do seem a bit goofy right now. As you can see in this QuickLook screenshot, there is now almost a ‘grain’ to the folders, reminiscent of recycled paper. A weird change, although I do like the fact that the folders are now watermarked with an icon that indicates their contents.

The reason for the inclusion of this slew of new GUI elements in the beta was to get feedback from users (developers, in this case) before they rolled it out. So, if you don’t like the new look, let Apple know by Digging this story and bringing it to their attention.