One of the things that currently annoys a lot of people about Apple is the way in which it constantly builds apps that resemble real-world items. iBooks has a background that resembles an open book, and Apple’s calendaring apps have leather stitching and torn paper at the top. In some cases, such design merely irks designers who like the minimalism Apple showcases in its hardware; occasionally, though, usability suffers. For example, the iBooks background never changes, and so while you can instinctively look at a real book and see how much is left to go, iBooks doesn’t help in this way; worse, Address Book for OS X apes a real book and ends up a total mess that’s far slower to work with than its predecessor.
Of late, a lot of people have been pointing to Microsoft as the superior company when it comes to interface design, citing the mostly very smart Windows 7 and Windows 8. The problem is, not all interface design scales, and when you go very minimal, interfaces can lose any sense of tactility and make it hard to focus. Peter Bright of Ars Technica’s shot of Office 2013 highlights that the opposite of Apple’s current design aesthetic isn’t necessarily any better. Acres of white space lead the eye to flick all over the design, making it hard to focus on the content (which is the smallish box on the right, with “This is an inline reply” in it). It’s unclear which components are buttons and which are content areas. Worse, there’s no sense of warmth at all. This feels like an email client designed to appeal to people bereft of emotion. In short, it’s every bit as horrible as Apple’s worst UI design, just in a very different way.