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An iPhone, Magic Mouse, iPad, Apple Watch, and a wireless Mac keyboard sit neatly on a desk.

The Applesphere is the actual worst for experience designers

Thursday, February 22, 2018

At 919 words, this article should take about 4 minutes to read.

This article is more than a year old and the information in it may be out of date.

What is the Applesphere?

Most likely coined by Steven Milunovich (who also coined Appleites 😂), Applesphere describes the inter-connected ecosystem of Apple products.

Apple products interact with other Apple products and rarely with other products making interlinking between Apple and non-Apple devices is deliberately difficult.

Because of this, a user is more likely to own multiple Apple devices.

Why is it so bad for designers?

I'm going to preface what I say here by explaining that I'm talking about web design in this article. Print designers, artworkers - go ahead, use whatever you want. There are distinct advantages to using an enormous high-resolution screen in your line of work.

There are pros and cons of using such a huge screen for web design. It does allow you to use the most screen real estate to make you more productive at work.

The downside to consistently using such a large hi-res screen for web design is that you can go totally device-blind.

Device blindness

A mock-up of a website displayed on various Apple products
Always Macs. Always. It could be another brand but it never is.

If you do a quick search on Google for "site mockup", you'll find hundreds of designs presented on Macs (also iPhones and iPads) and relatively few other brands.

Designers get it into their heads that, because they're staring at a Mac all day every day, everyone else in the world uses Macs.

In reality, a small percentage of the world (less than 13% market share) actually do.

iOS vs Android geographic distribution
iOS is predominantly used in a handful of the largest developed countries.

Looking at statistics on global market shares of operating systems though shows a completely different picture. Almost half of users are still on Windows 7. OSX crawls in marginally ahead of nerd's favourite Linux and whatever the hell "Other" is made up of!

OSX Actual Market Share

Things take a turn for the worse when you factor in screen resolutions. StatCounter shows, in the graph below, that the most popular screen size (by far) is 1366 × 768px (incidentally, the resolution of the 13" Dell that I'm writing this article on right now).

Browser resolution Market Share

It's been said, and rightly too, that the only analytics that matter are the ones from the site you're working on but put all of this together and you've got a statistically high probability that the majority of your audience are on 13" non-retina laptops running Windows 7.

The Big Bang (Release) Theory

Oh, Apple! Releasing stuff twice a year in a huge mockery of continuous delivery of value!

I still see the following process floating around some digital marketing agencies;

  • design the whole product
  • build the whole product
  • test the whole product
  • deploy the whole product

Not only is this, in my opinion, a hang-over from the days they were print-based marketing agencies, it also mirrors Apple's Spring/Autumn release schedule.

The cast of The Big Bang Theory

Leaving aside any discussion of adorkable misogyny, while big bang releases are not exclusive to waterfall, they are all-too-often a consequence of it.

"Anything less than perfect is terrible"

"You can't just ask customers what they want and then try to give that to them. By the time you get it built, they'll want something new."

Steve Jobs, Inc. Magazine

I've heard some people talking about their new iPhones and being amazed that it now does things that my Android phone could do two years ago.

The post says iOS 20 features were announced last night but the link is for Android 12 features

The Android universe (as far as I know it has no catchy name, sorry!) is a paragon of agile software development - get it out there, let real people use it, fix what they don't like as soon as possible. As alluded to in the quote above, Apple aren't big fans of providing what consumers want. Rather they'll tell the user what they're going to get and market it so people love it.

Conclusion

I don't have all of the answers to these issues. I guess start by acknowledging that non-Apple exists, it's probably a bigger audience than you expect, and you should tailor your designs accordingly.

Cover image courtesy of Amanda Adams.

Comments

In almost all cases, the comments section is a cesspool of Reply Guys, racists, and bots.

I don't want to have to deal with that kind of hell so I don't have a comments section.

If you want to continue the conversation, you can always hit me up on Twitter (which is, in it's own way, a vile cesspool of Reply Guys, racists, and bots).

Thomas Banks

Thomas Banks

When I'm not building things for the internet, I take photos of stuff.
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