learning curve

iPhoto rounded out the iLife suite for iOS when it dropped earlier this month. Since debuting, it’s been met with a fair share of criticism concerning quirky interfaces and a higher than average level of complexity for an iOS app. As far as functionality is concerned, iPhoto is a capable app, but its usability seems under par among some of its iOS peers.

We’re left with the question, is it ok for iPhoto to have a learning curve? It does have great in-app help and tooltips, so it isn’t out of reach for someone to get well acquainted with its interfaces. Is that enough? Does the app really bring some new functionality that necessitates an interface that demands a little more investment from its users?

It’s possible that iPhoto is unnecessarily complicated. There are other photo editing apps for iOS that have had more positive critical reception. But at what point is it okay for developers to release somewhat more complex software for iOS?

There are many applications running on computers today that are beyond the usability scope for an average user. For example, I don’t have the first clue how to get up and running in Pro Tools or AutoCAD. Granted, we don’t all need to master a studio album or blueprint some schematics. Certainly a larger number of people want great photo retouching tools, but that doesn’t necessarily mean iPhoto has an infinitely varied target user.

It’s left to developers to strike a balance between maintaining high usability standards that delight our target audience, and realizing the full potential of the tasks we can address with newer computing platforms. iOS has made this huge leap in smoothing the rough edges of using a computer, and subsequently many people have drawn a conclusion about what is an acceptable level of complexity for its software. But lets not let this artificial constraint hold back the possibilities that the platform can help us realize.

March 26, 2012 at 4:00 pm

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