The Apple Watch “Today’s Date” complication is the stupidest bit of skeuomorphism in years

Although I hadn’t worn a watch in about 15 years, I quickly embraced the Apple Watch when it first became available, and I have now owned 4 or 5 of them (seriously, I’ve lost count), culminating in my current Apple Watch Series 8 with cellular. It is a brilliant piece of technology. But there is one thing I think is absolutely stupid.


No, not the whole watch face, which I rather like. I mean this:

Watches are an at-a-glance device. Even though the micro-apps on its face are called “complications,” there should not be anything complicated about using them. But the corner “Today’s Date” complication is JUST SO FREAKING STUPID.

If I want to know today’s date, I want to know today’s date. And I want to be able to discern it from an instantaneous flit of my eyes down to my wrist. Unfortunately, the design of this complication utterly fails at that simple task for two reasons.

First, the current date number itself is too small, and it’s in reversed type, which reduces its legibility significantly. With my aging eyes, I need to do various contortions to just register what it reads.

But it’s worse than that, because the reason it’s so small (and, arguably, why it has the weird reversed design), is because the complication is apparently intended to look like one of those old mechanical watches that had an inner dial numbered 1 to 31 that would rotate daily. It also shows the numbers for yesterday and tomorrow. I do not need this information. I know how to count. If today is the 11th, I can quickly glean from that information that yesterday was the 10th and tomorrow is the 12th. In fact, I could do those feeble mental gymnastics much faster than I can confidently read, on this design, that today is the 11th.

If Apple weren’t wasting, effectively, over half of this complication’s screen space with superfluous adjacent numbers, it could have made today’s date considerably larger and easier to read. And, it wouldn’t need to be in reversed type that reduces its legibility.

I just wish someone could explain to me what possible rationale they had for designing it this way… so I could respond with vitriol.

Quick, what day is it?

It could be like this!

Apple’s skeuomorphism reconsidered

I was just looking at the much maligned skeuomorphic interface on iCal in Lion, and trying to decide why it doesn’t really bother me that much. I think I figured it out.

It’s inconsistent with other windows, but the objects on a real desk don’t all look alike. I’ve observed novice computer users, even today, struggle to differentiate windows on a standard computer desktop. They can’t tell which window is active; they can’t tell windows apart; they don’t know the difference between different applications or whether a given app is still running without any windows open or not.

In short: a lot of people still don’t understand the GUI, and never will. And, kind of like I wrote yesterday about Kevin and Robert California, whose fault is that? The user’s, or the interface designer’s?

iCal may look out of place, but there’s no mistaking it in the jumble of overlapping windows, just like there’s no mistaking a particular physical book in a big pile on a cluttered desk.

The arguments for or against skeuomorphism are completely different on iOS, of course, where there’s only ever one app on the screen at a time. But I think the HIG zealots and Magritte maybe need to get over themselves a bit, even if iCal makes all of us want to tear those little bits of paper off.