Poor UI Design – iTunes

I hate iTunes.  It seems an odd thing to say about a piece of software.  But I do.  My iPhone cost me a fortune.  As far as I’m concerned, it should be an appliance.  It should be as simple to operate as a stereo.  On the whole, the phone is.  But using iTunes is a painful experience, every time.

Now, I’ll accept that some of this is a Windows-bias.  I object to having a Mac-styled app thrust upon me.  But here are two concrete, and indefensible, examples of the garbage that it iTunes.


For no reason that I am aware of, iTunes ‘lost’ its configuration.  There was no error message: one day, it was downloading podcasts and the next it wasn’t.  This has happened before.  I tried, in vain, to copy the podcast definitions from the iPhone to iTunes but I couldn’t see how.  So, I started to set them up again.  Now, I tend to listen to podcasts in batches.  Some of the ones on my phone weren’t still downloadable.  So, I had to listen to all of the old podcasts before I could re-sync because iTunes overwrites everything in this situation.  Grrrrr!

That week, I downloaded a couple more apps.  I’d downloaded a few and they’d just overflowed the existing layout and appeared on a new pane, as they do.  So I went to iTunes to organise them.  It had lost the layouts as well.  When I clicked the Sync button on the apps page the old layouts which had been visible in iTunes (but sort-of greyed-out) were replaced with apps spread over twelve panes and random folders, sometimes two or three to a pane.  It took me over an hour to copy the existing layouts from the phone to iTunes, just so i could re-sync them back and add the new apps to the old folders.  Grrrrr!

Example 1

Anyway, on to the first example.  I realised later that iTunes had also lost all of my music.  And books.  And films.  In fact, everything.  So I tried to work out how to get them back.  I knew the music would be in folders so I had a browse round, found a likely candidate and tried File > Add Folder to Library… etc.

It started asking me this:

iTunes dialog box which reads: The app "Books" already exists in your iTunes library.  Do you want to replace it with the one you are moving?

It asked me it a lot.  In fact, 238 times, one for each app.  Actually, I’m guessing: I didn’t count.  I just clicked.  For a long time.  Who thinks this is the right way to do this?

But this isn’t really the problem.  Read the dialog again.  ‘Replace’ or ‘Don’t Replace’.  Which should I pick?  What are the consequences of picking either?  Why doesn’t it tell me?  There is a similar dialog which warns be I’m about to replace a newer version which suggests that in this case the versions are the same or the replacement is newer.  But it doesn’t tell me which of those.  I picked Don’t Replace.   I still don’t know if I did the right thing.

I don’t really understand why the dialogs appeared at all.  But I don’t want to: it’s an appliance.  Except that it’s not.

Example 2

Here’s the second example.  At the end of the process described above, I clicked on TV Programmes in Library.  This appeared:

Again, what are the consequences of clicking either?  If I click Don’t Apply, will I lose everything I’ve just done or will there be an opportunity to apply it later?

I clicked Apply.  It’s still syncing.  [I actually typed sinking there, which is how I feel now!]

And a dialog box appeared mid-sentence; clearly, I typed a relevant letter and it’s closed so I have no idea what I’ve done there.  Mind you, I can’t blame iTunes for that: responsiblility for windows being able to take the keyboard focus sits with MS – they have a lot for which to answer with that design decision.


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