A Look at iTunes 11 What a pleasant and instructive surprise…
Apple has released the newest version of iTunes. Let's look at how the treatment of visual content and text makes for a much better experience.
A Pleasant Surprise
This new version was not on my radar at all. I happened upon it in the flow of my daily routine. I started up iTunes, and when asked if I’d like to download the latest version, I said sure. Why not? I soon discovered that this was no regular update.
I admit that I've felt some consternation with iTunes in the past. iTunes has always tried to be so many things to so many people and suffered because of it. iTunes never felt very intuitive to me. I always had to wrestle with their navigation to get where I wanted to go. The sidebar navigation was enormously long. Buttons for important functionality were placed in odd areas of the screen. Views were text-heavy, hard to decipher, and yet didn't always yield the information I needed. Much of that has changed.
As Apple puts it “Simplicity is beautiful,” and I couldn’t agree more. The new look brings the content to the forefront, making it more visually appealing while simplifying the experience. For example, text is treated with more thought and design, with a variety of font sizes that establish a visual hierarchy of information. It's easier to navigate, sort, and cross-reference information. I feel like I am more in control of my media assets and more connected to the potential within each. So, how did they do it? Let’s take a look at some of the new features.
A Library sans sidebar
The first thing you will notice right away is the absence of that confounding left sidebar from previous versions. All of that information has been rolled up into a drop-down and much more intuitive navigation system along the top of the page. This has saved a great deal of real estate for the good stuff – all of your music, podcasts, etc. and their details. The page seems simpler, and allows me to ask for more information if I want it. It is so much easier to use. It brings to mind the simpler, more task-oriented design used for mobile.
Sorting it out
There are a variety of views to sort your media assets in a way that works for you. No matter if it’s by song, album, artist, or genre, the interface displays the same data in different ways to help you find exactly what you want. Consuming all of that information became much easier. In the example below, after choosing the Artists view, the sidebar is now Artist-specific information rather than that pesky sidebar of old. You can scroll through every artist in your library or look at more details about the songs. Visually, everything is easy to digest with a lot of space for your eye to rest between each block of information.
Remember when it looked like the example below?
AHHH! Where to look? What to do?
The Coolest Thing of All
This new iTunes uses a lot of tools to give you helpful contextual information that doesn’t interrupt the flow of where you are and what you are doing at that moment. The greatest example of this is the Expanded View. This is how Apple describes it: “Select one of your albums and now it will expand in place. That means you can see all the songs on the album, click Play, and keep right on browsing without having to click back to your library.”
This is a really beautiful, visual solution that helps manage your media. Without navigating to another place, you see the album name, the artist, the year it was released, any songs you have from that album, playtimes, along with tools like a play button, shuffle and the Up Next button (another awesome new feature), all on a background that is customized to match the colors of the cover art. It feels custom made, with more connection to the personality of the artist and the album. When I was a kid, records had cover art that you could get in lost in while listening to music. While this doesn't completely mimic that experience, the new Expanded View keeps you feeling more connected to these things you love.
Learning from itunes
The new iTunes makes managing and experiencing media less of a chore and more of a pleasure. As all of us deal with including more video, photos, and other types of content on our websites, you can take away some inspiration and some practical ideas. Something as simple as using a larger text size to create visual hierarchy within a screen can make a big improvement.
Apple says of its new iTunes “Completely redesigned. For your viewing, listening, browsing, and shopping pleasure.” It is a pleasure. And, an instructive surprise.