Don’t get me wrong, I love my iPhone like so many others out there do. I  waited in line to get both the first and second generation on the day they were released. As a consumer, I’m grateful for a device that is as simple as it is powerful. As an interaction designer, I appreciate how much work it can take to make something simple.

That said, there are about a dozen avoidable interaction inconsistencies that I find myself faced with on an almost daily basis with my iPhone.

The SMS and Email apps are the worst offenders. Compare the two sets of screens below from both apps and a few things stand out.

  • The edit and navigate back buttons are reversed – this for me at least means I end up editing my SMS messages by mistake when I navigate back once to far out of reflex.
  • The new message buttons (SMS, Email) are in different locations, and treated visually slightly differently making it easy to miss.
  • The edit modes are entered the same way but look and behave very differently.
iPhone Email
iPhone Email
iPhone SMS
iPhone SMS

These two apps otherwise are VERY similar and for good reason. If is often these small differences, more so than large ones, that cause the most user confusion and makes it difficult to leverage experience in one application on the next.

Most people will immediately notice these small differences somewhere in the back of their head. They will end up puzzling over and comparing what exactly is different and why. Is there an important functional difference here that they don’t understand? More often than not there isn’t but the price in the form of cognitive load has already been paid.

I understand how things like these slip through the cracks – even at a company like Apple that clearly places a high value on design. Its easy to spend time developing more features, and less time thinking about how they work together and the confusion that can be created when they don’t.

I can only hope that product development folks at Apple will prioritize addressing these inconstancies above new features that we probably don’t need (like cut-and-paste despite what some people say).

I’ll be mightily disappointed if I wait in line for the next iPhone (or download the 3.0 software) and these basic interaction inconsistencies are still there, or worse, have grown with the addition of new features.

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