A dog’s breakfast: welcome to apple.com
Help. I feel queasy. I visited apple.com and did something I deeply regret—I opened my eyes.
It’s half disappointment and half disbelief. How does the company that wrote the book on website simplicity unleash a home page that’s so amateurishly busy?
For those who celebrate Apple’s illustrious history as a world leader in design, creativity and smart marketing—it’s a shocker.
That’s because it stands in stark contrast to the website principles enforced by Steve Jobs.
In Steve’s world, apple.com had to be in sync with the current ad campaign. Customers were driven to the website by advertising, and the home page continued that conversation. No distractions allowed.
Three small panels below the main image allowed for secondary messages, but in general product managers had to tell their stories on their landing pages.
This is how apple.com has functioned for the last 20 years.
The current home page doesn’t have a single focus. Or two. Or three, four, five or six. It literally promotes ten individual products. It’s the very definition of a dog’s breakfast.
Lighten up Ken, Apple has way more products to talk about today than it did a decade ago!
It sure does. But does it have way more products than it did last month? Or last year? When it became a trillion-dollar company?
Even with a growing portfolio of products, apple.com has remained a model of clarity—allowing visitors to dial into the product they want. It has never tried to sell every visitor on every product.
What’s changed now?
Either someone with dubious design and marketing skills is now responsible for the home page—which is outrageous, given its importance to the Apple experience. Or a high-ranking Apple marketing official (Phil, is that you?) has directed the web design group to execute this strategy—which is equally outrageous.
I’m searching for a less outrageous possibility, but coming up empty.
I don’t believe in trotting out the “What would Steve do?” line. But I know from experience how Steve reacted to creative ideas or executions he didn’t like.
One of his most insulting reactions was, “I guess you put the B-Team on this one.”
That’s pretty much how I feel when I look at the Apple home page today. Nice products—but I wish the A-Team hadn’t taken the day off.
Ken, they are probably doing A/B Web page design testing. They have plenty of data on the old design. Time to test other ideas. Not good to stick with dogma that has worked but they don’t know if something else will work better. It isn’t that they brought in the B-Team, they are testing idea B.
Web page design testing is sure cheaper and faster than hardware.
I think you’re missing one huge point about Apple—it is not a data-driven company. At least it as it was becoming the world’s most valuable company. If you gave Steve Jobs the choice between a fresh, memorable creative idea that enhanced the Apple brand, and a mundane idea that produced more clicks, he’d take the more creative route.
So it might make some sense to test two equally creative ideas, but no sense at all to test a creative idea vs. an idea that does not meet Apple standards. It’s just my opinion, but I think the current Apple home page does not meet those standards.
Jim, I’ve always thought Apple was culturally allergic to A/B testing. It’s Google that tests 40 shades of blue before tweaking a color. Apple is about designers and product people with taste making a decision. They are… Opinionated.
Ken, one scary thing about the bloat and clutter on Apple.com is how it sneaks up on you. I’ve been following the company for decades and never made the observation you did — that’s why you have the website, I guess. Now that it’s been pointed out, you can’t unsee it. It’s a mess.
This, and then still choose to copy Apple..
About two decades ago the founders said they copied Apples approach of simplicity bc of speed and clarity yielding the best results.
No need to reinvent the wheel
I love Apple for it’s simplicity and clarity in a sea of insecure companies, and I am pained to say it does seem to have lost some of that.
I understand as does everyone that the tide has changed and we can’t expect a large company like Apple to stay still, it must adapt. But it’s just bad and confusing when Apple releases 3 different pay options Apple Card, Apple Cash, and ITunes Gift Cards with no logical overlap. My Apple card generates Apple Cash from my daily spending but it can’t then be used in iTunes to buy music or videos. How could such a complicated tangled knot of payment options be created by such a smart company. The answer is bloat and narcissism, an unhealthy obsession with quarterly profit reports and shareholders enthusiasm for stocks that always rise.
Anyways A/B testing it is not.
A/B testing aint all that its made to be.
A – You would have to be insane, not insanely great to do A/B testing on your live corporate site.
B – Inspired people with great taste don’t need A/B testing anymore after a while.
C – A/B testing should be reserved for a very small percentage of traffic, if it’s static and not changing, it’s not A/B testing.
D – Complex is complex, why would you test that in the first place.
Ken I actually prefer with one slide over from top to bottom to have all products preview at once. I think that specially for mobile view it’s more ergonomic to choose the product you want to view after a quick overview glance.
I don’t have a terrible problem scrolling downward for more—after Apple delivers the main message of the day. Right now, it’s just a potpourri of products with no focus at all. You suggest that this works even better on the phone, but with the current home page, all you see is a text-only price promo, then half of the iPhone XR panel. It’s as if nobody ever stopped to think what it might look like on the phone!
It doesn’t make a lot of sense, either, as the tab bar across the top covers the very same products or product categories!
This has occurred in just the past few days. Even the product pages have been re-stylized — and in quite cool ways. Instead of the floating in of big panels when you scroll dow , which plagues far too many websites these days, there are subtle changes — a dab of color, a laptop screen lights up, text becomes lighter, etc.
Take a look at the MacBook Pro web page to see what I mean.
But a leaner, cleaner home page would be better, one that invited you onto those other pages… rather than a chunky, square panel, multi-panel, LONG scrolling page!
The top center placement on the page is also promoting a loan, not a product.
Uh … not exactly. It’s a price ad for iPhone XR—pay $19.99/mo. or buy it for $479 with a trade-in.
Understood. Prioritizing low monthly payments as the very first thing on the page over message/product just seems like another step back in priorities/taste.
And this is rot from the inside out.
Remember kenobi thought luke was the last hope.. and yoda tells him “there is another”?
Keep your eye on Scott Forstall.
Ken, I agree. But maybe Apple is changing the homepage design according to big announcements or ad campaigns: When there is a big announcement or campaign, the homepage focuses on that very product (or the big three news from the keynote). If there isn’t, it changes back to feature more products, just as you saw it.
Maybe I’m wrong on this. But your are definitely right that the design of the past, where one single gorgeous photograph took the center stage, was somehow magic. More so at a time where other websites would only have tiny pictures and a lot of distracting garbage.
Anyway, as a web programmer myself, I can only admire the skills and the effort that are necessary to build the specific product pages. The homepage may not be the greatest part anymore, that’s true, but the product sections are stunning. The web team, technically, is beyond awesome. I’m a pretty good programmer myself, but when I look at those pages, I feel like… this is from another planet. It’s often small details where I think: How is this even possible? And I look at the code, and it’s just… wow.
Apple does have an amazing and talented group running the website. Great effort goes into making each product page fun and interesting. But some of the decisions are made at a higher level—like the content of the home page. I hear what you’re saying, but for the last couple of decades, Apple has always been incredibly good at creating a single focus for the home page, with secondary panels linking to 2nd tier messages. One focus would remain until the company moved onto a new one, so there’s never a “lull” between one focus and the next. This is really just a basic principle of simplicity: the more you say, the less people will remember.
One word. Contrast. Communicate one message well or 10 messages 1/10th as well.
Nothing wrong or cliche with asking what Steve would have done.
Look at religion or other great cultural works – or certain laws named after famous ppl.
Its stupid not to think what Steve would have done.
I’m afraid Steve’s DNA seed did fall far from the tree.
Everywhere do I see it being copied very succesfully
The website has been going downhill for a while now.
Tim said the Apples greatest contribution would be in health.
Neuralink, SpaceX and Tesla
Are doing this and more already.
Tim is an excellent process operator making profits soar over the backs of loyal Apple buyrs.
But his virtue signaling is slowing down Apple and making it loosing its focus.
Agreed Ken. Apple’s fiefdoms, perhaps, are now seeping through to the public
Now they simply have dropped the simplicity which was one of the core values of steve jobs.
It’s no longer only about computers and phones though. Now there’re ear buds, head phones, a payment card, wrist watches and services.