Apple has always been known for one-upping it’s competitors on user experience rather than on hardware specs, and they’ve done it exceedingly well. I made the switch from Windows to Mac sometime in the last year and was impressed with how everything made so much sense.
I’ve also recently joined the movement and made the switch to iphone, a decision I made based on past experiences I’d had with other apple products.
Now overall I think the iphone has a great user interface and the overall experience is in most cases un-noticeable (a good sign – usually you would only notice a bad user experience). The exception though, is something that might surprise you (although I gave it away a bit in the title) – it’s the On/Off switch (just to be clear, I mean the On/Off switch in the settings, not the switch to turn your phone on).
Before I get into why I think the On/Off switch needs some work, I’ll just clear up what I think the characteristics of a good On/Off switch are.
As I mentioned earlier, a good user experience is usually an un-noticeable one. The more I have to think when using software, the more likely I am going to be to notice that my user experience has not been as easy and pleasing as it could have been. For something as simple as an On/Off switch then, I really should not need to think about it at all. This is where the iOS On/Off switch falls down.
Take a look at an apple iOS On/Off switch:
Can you see what I might be referring to about needing to think?
There are two possible ways of interpreting the current status of this On/Off switch, and unfortunately, they are opposite.
The first (and correct) way of interpreting the status of this switch, is that it says off, so it must be off. This might sound obvious and not open to mis-interpretation, but I beg to differ.
The other way that this could possibly be interpreted is that it’s a sliding switch, and ‘off’ is on the right hand side, therefore I need to slide it to the right to turn it off.
It may sound trivial and silly, but I actually struggled to figure out whether all my settings were on or off when I first got my iphone. Despite the fact that the ‘on’ setting lights up, I still couldn’t be sure. I probably don’t need to name an example of where a mis-interpreted On/Off switch could be troublesome, but here’s a worst-case.
Imagine a new user who mis-interprets whether airplane mode is on or off, leaving it off during a plane trip and causing the plane to crash! (I’m sure this is quite improbable and that flight mode is only an extra precaution, but you get my point).
So how could the On/Off switch be re-designed to provide more obvious feedback as to the current status? I spent a long time thinking about this and sketched quite a few alternatives. In the end though, the change I made was quite a small one.
This alternative avoids confusion by combining both ways of interpreting the old switch. It has well-labeled on and off sides, plus it shows the current status more obviously than the opposite option.
What do you think? Does this fix the problem, or could you design a better version?
P.S. I’d be interested to see any other alternatives, if you post a link to your design in the comments I’ll add it to the post with a link credit.