Aesthetics over Information = Confusion

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Last night a buddy texted an invite to dinner, but because I had been in the library earlier, I had silenced my iPhone, and didn’t notice for a while.

Just how long a while was remains a mystery to me, because I immediately sent a query back, and as soon as I hit Send, the Messages app deleted the timestamp from his text.

(It was a moot point, because I was already retired for the evening, getting my fix of Person of Interest, but it was still frustrating.)

I understand the desire to simplify the display of messages and make it look more pleasant, but the scope of the removal goes too far, because it removes critical context from the conversation.

This all-or-nothing approach satisfies Apple’s desire for elegance, and makes it easier to follow conversations without being distracted by ugly, repetitive timestamps, but the complete elimination of the data is inexcusable.

I can imagine a couple of solutions that fall short of complete removal that would still be visibly and operationally elegant.

  1. Show the timestamp for any individual SMS when you tap it with your finger.
  2. Show all timestamps for a while (a minute?) whenever you tap the screen and scroll back in the message history. (Their display could then fade out to nothing after a minute or so of no manual scrolling.)

This is the type of elegance I expect from Apple, and I’m just a little disappointed in them.

Author: Peter Sheerin

Peter Sheerin is best known for the decade he spent as the Technical Editor of CADENCE magazine, where he was the acknowledged expert in Computer-Aided Design hardware and software. He has a long-standing passion for improving usability of software, hardware, and everyday objects that is always interwoven in his articles. Peter is available for freelance technical writing and product reviews, and is exploring career opportunities in interaction design. His pet personal project is exploring the best ways to harmonize visual, tactile, and audible symbols for improving the effectiveness of alerting systems.

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