My Biggest Frustration With The iOS 9 Music App UI

5 May 2016

Mark Gurman:

new version of Apple Music, which Apple recently announced has 13 million users so far, focuses on a redesigned user-interface, a few new functions, and reorganization as well as simplification of existing features. The new user-interface ditches the current colorful and translucent look in favor of a simpler design that emphasizes black and white backgrounds and text. For instance, the user interface in the albums view will no longer change in appearance based on the color of a particular album’s art. While the new interface will eschew color in the user-interface, album artwork will become “huge” and a larger part of the interface in order to avoid a dull black and white look, according to people who have seen the updated Apple Music service.

The current Music app has a lot of faults and it’s not limited to Apple Music customers — as iTunes download users also must use the same app. I argued when Apple Music was new that Apple should have released it as a separate app, completely separate from the normal music experience, but there’s no indication of that happening.

With that idea put aside, I want to focus on one particular gripe I have with the current Music app: the selector widget that lets you switch between library views, to switch between Albums, Artists, etcetera. This is my primary method of navigation when looking at my music and choosing something to play.

And yet, with the iOS 8.4 / iOS 9 redesign, it was completely shafted to a secondary action. You have to press on it once to bring up a modal that lets you press another button to do an action. It doesn’t stay permanently on the screen, the dropdown button scrolls out of view so it’s inaccessible unless you are staring at the top of the list. This means you have to scroll all the way back to the top, thereby losing your contextual place in the list, to swap views.

All the previous iterations of iOS Music have put these context switches as tab buttons. The tab bar approach was far superior. Switching between Albums, Songs, Genres et all was one tap. Moreover, the tap targets were in the most accessible location — at the bottom of the screen — allowing smooth one-handed operation. Tabs are also common design language (you already know how to use it) in iOS whereas the modal-action-sheet dropdown-switcher-thingy is an alien concoction that is not intuitive.

The currently selected view is clearly represented by the currently-highlighted tab. When you scrolled the list, tabs don’t disappear either. Tabbing between views would remember the exact scroll position on each page independently. The tabs were even customisable and re-arrangeable, allowing some affordance to individual user’s unique needs.

To me, those are the primary actions. I switch between Album view and Artist view every single day. Yet, right now they are hidden away behind a modal menu behind a transient button (in the sense it disappears when you scroll). I have no good things to say about it, it’s an unequivocal regression compared to the previous tabbed design. I would love for this functionality to return to a permanent toolbar position. It would make the app so much better.