So, since the announcement back in June at WWDC that Safari would be switching to a single bar layout and that said bar would be located at the bottom of the screen, there’s been a big pile on.
‘What are Apple thinking?!’, ‘This is a disaster’, ‘Wait until the general public sees this!’ paraphrased lots of people. And yes, it was fair to say that the new design was, while well intentioned, very poorly implemented. While having the address bar at the bottom was a victory for those with small thumbs, Apple’s insistence to put all the other buttons into that bar made for a bad experience. The next beta that tried to rectify this was even worse, with buttons that had been hidden on the first design appearing again, but crammed in next to the web address. It seemed all hope was lost. Apple seemed intent on pushing for this one bar layout.
Then came beta 6 this week.
design is an ongoing process
I work in a design studio and have done for over 20 years. Working with clients to produce exciting and bold work can sometimes be a chore. They don’t want change (despite hiring you for that very thing) and your amazing new design strategy can at first be met with unease. However, it’s always important to know that just because you did it, doesn’t mean it’s perfect right from the off. The client knows their business better than you and they’re the ones that will have to live with the new branding every day. So you go back and forth, conceding this, pushing harder to get that. Inevitably, those designs get better, the things you thought were amazing start to appear less so. You fight for the great stuff and some things fall by the wayside.
That’s basically what’s happening here with Apple. We’re the ‘client’ and we’re going to have to use this browser every day. The huge pushback from beta testers like myself has forced Apple to re-think things. They’ve come to realise some elements were not so important, like gaining a few pixels of screen real-estate, and fought hard to keep the things that really did benefit users, like the reachability of the address bar at the bottom and being able to swipe between tabs. Other elements they tried to hide have returned as they realised people really valued them - like one tap access to their bookmarks.
That’s what it’s all about and when the final version is released to public, they won’t know of all this palaver that went before. They’ll just have a more useable browser with some great new features. If they don’t like it, well, they can switch back to the original layout.
We can sometimes forget that downloading a beta means we are beta testers. It’s our job to feedback on these new features, not just enjoy them before others. If everything goes well we can help shape an iOS release as with this one.
So yes, while it’s easy to pile on Apple for the bad earlier versions, I’m a little tired of reading things like ‘Apple walks back redesign’ (they didn’t, it’s still got the fundamental changes) or ‘Apple redesigns Safari yet again’. This is just how it goes. And this time it went as it should. Thankfully.