By John Gruber
If you press this button, these are the potential events that will transpire on your Watch’s screen:
- You’ll be taken to the “watch face” view.
- You’ll be taken to the “home screen” app view.
- You’ll stay in the “home screen” view, but it will re-center on the “watch face” app.
- You’ll move from a detailed view of a notification back to the notifications summary.
His proposed solution:
Fortunately there is an easy fix for this confusion, which is to streamline the Digital Crown so that it focuses exclusively on the Watch’s two homes. Pressing the Digital Crown should simply toggle you back and forth between the “watch face” and the “home screen.” (Its other functionality could all be achieved through other means; for instance, you can already re-orient the “home screen” simply by dragging your finger across the Watch’s screen.) That’s still more complicated than the iPhone home button, but it’s the kind of thing most users would pick up in a matter of minutes using the Watch. And it has a conceptual clarity that is sorely lacking in the current design.
His whole piece is worth reading, because it aptly describes, almost exactly, how I felt about Apple Watch after using it for just a few days. Several of his complaints, which I would have agreed with in my first few days of Apple Watch use, I no longer consider problems.1 And even now, with seven weeks of daily Apple Watch experience under my belt, when I first read his suggestion for simplifying the digital crown button, I was nodding my head in agreement. But when I sat down to write about it, I realized there’s really only one small thing I would suggest Apple change: the last of its four roles noted by Johnson — its function as a hardware “back” button while looking at the detail view for a notification.
Otherwise, I would keep the functionality of the crown button as-is:
That looks more complicated than it is. And I’m even leaving out at least one other scenario: when you’ve put your home screen into edit mode — where you can delete and rearrange the installed apps — pressing the crown takes you out of editing mode.
Here’s a better way to think about it — and without thinking about it, the reason why I think most people aren’t frustrated or confused by the crown button after a week or so. It’s best to think of Apple Watch as having two modes: watch mode, and app mode.
You do not need to understand this to use the watch. Most Apple Watch owners will never really think about this. But this idea of two modes is central to understanding the design of the overall interaction model.
Watch mode is where you take quick glances at information and notifications; app mode is where you go to “do something”. Watch mode is where most people will spend the majority — perhaps the overwhelming majority — of their time using Apple Watch. App mode is a simple one-level hierarchy for “everything else”.
If you think about Apple Watch as having these two modes, the role of the crown button is clear:
Consider: What happens when you press the digital crown button while in, say, the Weather app? The answer is: It depends how you got there. If you start from the home screen and tap the Weather app icon, the digital crown button returns you to the home screen. If you start from the watch face, though, and launch the full Weather app by tapping the Weather glance, then the digital crown button returns you to the watch face.
This sounds confusing. And if you’re expecting Apple Watch’s digital crown button to work like iOS’s home button, it is not the expected behavior. But in practice, I think it works very well. I suspect this arrangement wasn’t designed in advance but was instead the result of many months of play-testing by the designers on the Apple Watch team.
Again, I agree with Johnson that if you’re looking at a notification detail view, the crown should take you all the way back to the watch face. You have to tap on screen to get into a notification detail view, and they all have a large “Dismiss” button at the bottom if going “back” is what you want. “Back” just doesn’t feel right for the digital crown button. It should simply mean go home in the current mode, or, if you’re already home, switch to the other mode.
I don’t mind the “re-center and re-zoom on the clock app” extra action for the digital crown button. To me, it’s directly analogous to the way the home button takes you back to the first home screen in iOS. More importantly, you don’t have to go back to the watch face (or, as I’m referencing it here, watch “mode”). That just happens automatically when you lower your wrist and stay away from the watch for 30 seconds. You don’t have to “clean up” and go back to the watch face manually. It just happens automatically when you stop using the watch. A few special apps behave otherwise — Workout and Remote, so far — but in both of those cases that makes sense. And, yes, there is a setting (General → Activate on Wrist Raise → Resume To) that allows you to always return to the last-used app, but I don’t see why anyone would use that unless they stubbornly insist upon treating their Apple Watch like a miniature iPhone. Another way to think of this option is as a toggle between treating “watch mode” and “app mode” as the primary mode.
Another insight: the side button exists outside either mode. It behaves the same way no matter which mode you’re in, no matter what you’re doing. One press of the side button brings up your Friends circle. A double-press initiates Apple Pay. In either case — Friends circle or Apple Pay — pressing (or double-pressing) the digital crown button dismisses the side button mode you entered. ★
For example, the idea that you should be able to swipe up from anywhere — not just from the watch face — to see glances. A lot of people seem to have this complaint early on. The thought had occurred to me, too. But it clearly wouldn’t work. In other contexts, swiping your finger up on the display scrolls the content, including the home screen, where you need to pan around to see all your apps. Apple would only enable glances globally if they forced you to use the digital crown for scrolling, or, if they enabled glances only as a swipe up from the very bottom edge of the display. Notification Center and Control Center work that way on iOS, which allows them not to conflict with regular old scrolling and panning. But I’m nearly certain that the watch display is too small to make that distinction. You’d find yourself scrolling when you wanted to bring up Glances and bringing up Glances when you wanted to scroll. It’d be maddening. The Watch OS “back” shortcut — swiping from the left to go back in a view hierarchy — is an edge gesture, but that’s OK because if you miss the edge, nothing happens. ↩︎
As more people get their news on mobile devices, we want to make the experience faster and richer on Facebook. People share a lot of articles on Facebook, particularly on our mobile app. To date, however, these stories take an average of eight seconds to load, by far the slowest single content type on Facebook. Instant Articles makes the reading experience as much as ten times faster than standard mobile web articles.
A few thoughts:
This looks beautiful. Clearly it’s built by the team that did Facebook Paper, with things like the way you tilt the phone to pan around large photos. The knock against Paper is that it only “works” if your friends and family post beautiful, well-crafted content to their Facebook feeds, and, well, that’s not the case for most people. Instant Articles, on the other hand, is all about professionally-produced content.
I’m intrigued by the emphasis on speed. Not only is native mobile code winning for app development, but with things like Instant Articles, native is making the browser-based web look like a relic even just for publishing articles. If I’m right about that, it might pose a problem even for my overwhelmingly-text work at Daring Fireball. Daring Fireball pages load fast, but the pages I link to often don’t. I worry that the inherent slowness of the web and ill-considered trend toward over-produced web design is going to start hurting traffic to DF.
There’s also a convenience advantage over per-publication native apps. People are already checking Facebook many times a day on their phones. When they encounter these Instant Articles, they’re one tap and a moment away from reading them. People just don’t check many apps — check the New York Times, check National Geographic, check BBC News — that just isn’t how people use their phones. At best, standalone per-publication apps can get our attention through notifications, but notifications are bothersome in a way that something scrolling through your Facebook feed is not. And an aggregator of content from multiple sources — like, say, Flipboard, to name one obvious competitor — is asking users to check an extra app every day. There are only so many apps people will check for “new stuff” every day.
Like Paper, Facebook Instant Articles is iPhone-only, and from what I can tell, Facebook hasn’t said a word about Android support. (Paper is even
North America US-only — Instant Articles are supported worldwide.) Many are presuming it’s forthcoming, but Paper remains iOS-only. For the moment at least, Facebook isn’t really treating “mobile” as their first-class target platform — they’re treating the iPhone as their first-class target platform. (Instant Articles isn’t even available on iPad yet.)
I’ve been skeptical about this whole thing from the publishers’ angle. Seems dangerous to cede control over your content to a company like Facebook. But it sounds like the business aspects are very favorable. Publishers can use their own ads and keep 100 percent of the money; if Facebook sells the ads, they use a 70/30 App Store-style split of the money. And there’s no exclusivity. ★
Great piece by Jason Kottke, “Asking ‘Who’s the Customer?’”:
This might be off-topic (or else the best example of all), but “who’s the customer?” got me thinking about who the customers of large public corporations really are: shareholders and potential shareholders. The accepted wisdom of maximizing shareholder value has become an almost moral imperative for large corporations. The needs of their customers, employees, the environment, and the communities in which they’re located often take a backseat to keeping happy the big investment banks, mutual funds, and hedge funds who buy their stock. When providing good customer service and experience is viewed by companies as opposite to maximizing shareholder value, that’s a big problem for consumers.
This is my biggest long-term concern regarding Apple. They’ve gotten to this pinnacle by focusing on making great products for us, their customers. I believe Tim Cook and his executive team are consciously aware that they need to maintain that focus — that maniacal focus on great products and doing right by their customers is the foundation of the machine. And while the profits continue to grow, “the market” seems to agree that for Apple, this product-driven customer-first focus is aligned with shareholder value.
But eventually they’ll hit a dry spell. Slumps are inevitable. And I worry that eventually, during such a slump, “the market” will put irresistible pressure on Apple’s future leadership to start acting more like a typical company — one that only pays lip service to creating great products and putting customers first. For just a small taste, consider all the 2013 pieces, written at the time with straight faces, about Samsung “out-innovating” Apple.
Apple University exists to perpetuate Apple’s product- and customer-driven culture. I think it’s a wonderful idea, one of the smartest things that company has ever done — a signal of institutional self-awareness that Apple’s success, no matter how large, is fragile. But it’s only a way to strengthen the company’s focus internally. External pressure, from investors and “the market” — is outside the company’s control.
The best example I can think of is the airline industry. With few exceptions, airlines are set up to please investors ahead of passengers. Perhaps the most depressing business news in the last year was JetBlue succumbing to investor pressure to add baggage fees and reduce legroom in their cabins. It wasn’t because JetBlue was unprofitable, it was because they weren’t profitable enough to satisfy their investors.
No one but a fool would argue that Apple is not profitable enough today. But as soon as they stop growing, the chorus will start. And someday, inevitably, Apple will find itself in a slump such that the chorus will grow loud.
We can still laugh at reporter Bob Keefe asking Steve Jobs why Apple doesn’t booger up its computers with “Intel Inside” promotional stickers back in 2007, but silly though it seems, those stickers are sort of like airline baggage fees. As noted by John Siracusa at the time, Jobs’s final line in his answer to the question was telling:
“We put ourselves in the customer’s shoes and say, what do we want?”
Apple’s leadership still understands that this customer-driven focus is what drives their exceptional success. But it would be better for the company’s long-term prospects if everyone else — Wall Street in particular — understood this too. It’s not a luxury Apple can afford because it’s insanely profitable; rather, it’s the reason why the company is insanely profitable. ★