The Usability Post
Thoughts on design and user experience by Dmitry Fadeyev

No Title Bar?

Apple just gave us a sneak peek at their next operating system update, called OS X Lion, and there’s one interesting design element I’ve noticed in the user interface. The title bar, that little area at the top of each app window that holds the title of the application and the close, zoom and minimize buttons, is missing on their App Store application.

Here’s what that it looks like:

app store header

Well…the “title” is what’s missing, the controls are still there, but technically this is no longer a “title bar”. We’ve actually seen the same thing already with the recent iTunes update, where not only the title bar is missing, but the close, zoom and minimize buttons are arranged vertically, presumably because placing them horizontally will look awkward with all that space around them. Here’s a snapshot:

itunes header

This may be a design direction that Apple will take for more of their apps. For example, I think it makes sense to drop the title bar in Safari (as Google have done with Chrome, although they’ve still left a little space to grab onto) because the title of the page is already displayed in the tab (though long titles do get cut off when you have many tabs).

The title bar functions not only to inform the user about what the application is–or the name of a document if you’re editing something–but also as a little handle you can use to move the window around. But if there’s other controls besides the title in that area then there will still be that space for dragging left if you remove the title.

If the title remains the same all the time, does it make sense to show it? For example, if an app doesn’t show the names of documents, or any other assets that it opens, and there is plenty of space at the top around other controls to grab onto if you want to move the window around, does the title serve much purpose?

I’m guessing you already know what each application is by the looks of its interface rather than by checking the title every time. When starting the app you already know what you’re going to load, so you don’t need that reminder either.

I think it’s an interesting design direction. When I first used the new iTunes interface I wasn’t too impressed. They made some strange decisions, like taking out color cues by making everything monochrome. They also did things like rearranging the close/zoom/minimize buttons and removing the title. I’m still not convinced on color, but I now think that cutting the title bar makes sense. The one thing they have to figure out now is how to arrange those window controls.

“For even falsehood, uttered by the tongue of man, seemed like truth and light before this hopelessly-deaf and unresponsive silence.”

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Further Reading

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