Product Design

How I learned to stop worrying and [tolerate] the notch

In the last few weeks, there has been plenty of engaging dialogue around the Apple iPhone X announcement. We’re talking about it on our blog, and are keeping up with the conversation elsewhere.

The Outline generated some serious buzz (and well executed clickbait, IMO) with the article Apple is Really Bad at Design. The Outline’s article, and many others, quote John Gruber, avid Apple product enthusiast, saying of the notch—“It offends me. It’s ungainly and unnatural. Clearly, the ideal of an ‘all-screen’ design—to use Apple’s own words—has no notch at all. This is not that.”

I hear you, internet. Don’t get me wrong—I believe that this dialogue around Apple’s design is good. All of this is good for the industry. Product design needs design critics and conversation. And, I agree that the notch is a concession.

But is the compromise of the notch—to allow for Face ID—really all that egregious? It’s certainly a risk, which is exactly what Apple needs to do. For the last couple of product announcements, there has been disappointment from the internet and twitter-sphere. From the ridiculing of the Apple Pencil at its launch to the disgust over the removal of the headphone jack, it’s about time something bigger, riskier, and (pause for effect) innovative ticked the internet off. And that thing, friends, is the notch. divider 600

The notch might not be a long play.

The notch is a compromise, a bridge step, a bet that Apple is making that industry tech will catch up soon enough so that at a future announcement, they’ll be able to reveal that they’re ditching the notch, and that their technology can both allow for a front facing camera and Face ID, and a truly seamless display.

The Outline’s article also boldly states “To wit: no one wanted or asked for Face ID.” Sure, maybe the masses aren’t screaming for Face ID. But this is why it’s a risk and why it’s cause for conversation. If Apple takes the right risks and succeeds, they stay right there at the top. Of course, they also have a long way to fall if this risk doesn’t pan out. According to CNN Money, “Apple’s market cap is $160 billion higher than the second most valuable company in the U.S.” divider 600

Build experiences for users, not devices.

As WillowTree Chief Experience Officer Blake Sirach said in his post on designing for the notch a few weeks ago, like it or not, the notch is a reality. It’s time to accept it and move on to designing digital products that not only tolerate the notch, but find a way to embrace and leverage it. Our job is to design experiences for users, and if projections and buzz are any indication, the iPhone X is poised to have a lot of users very, very soon.

And, lest we forget, what would Steve Jobs say? Pretty sure he already covered this topic of giving people what they ask for: “A lot of times, people don’t know what they want until you show it to them.”

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