Are user interfaces getting worse? I think so.

When Steve Jobs died, Apple had a need for someone to take over the responsibility for managing the design of their many software products. They decided to promote Jonathan Ive, who had done such a terrific job with the hardware to be the software czar. Unfortunately, Mr. Ive has no particular talent for software, and he has damaged the Apple user interface repeatedly. His über-bauhaus approach to simplification works great in hardware, where the fewer buttons the better in most cases, but is often counter-productive in software. 

Here are 5 different on-off switch icon sets. If you were an airplane pilot and had to look at a display for a split second and acquire critical information, you would likely rank these 5 switch designs in more or less the following order of legibility/ergonomics. 

#1 - most legible at a distance:

#2 - This one uses blue for ON, but it is pretty obvious that the switch is ON.

#3 is pretty good:

#4 is getting faint, but at least it has a 0 for off and 1 for on. that is a pretty common non-language specific form of on/off very common in Asia:

#4 is getting faint, but at least it has a 0 for off and 1 for on. that is a pretty common non-language specific form of on/off very common in Asia:

#5, the least legible:

#5, the least legible:

A special no-prize if you guessed that the absolute worst on/off control ever devised is the one Apple has standardized on in their latest iOS release. The off control looks disabled it is so faint.  I dare you to focus group these controls and get any participant to rank #5 as the most legible one.  It is purely for graphic snobs, experts who live and breathe mobile software, but for the next billion users of the internet - which are slated to be mobile users - this is a big mistake that i hope Apple eventually fixes.  Do they want to pretend that the computer screen has no contrast ratio by drawing everything faintly? I know the average age of an Apple employee is in the 20's, but don't they realize that purchasing power is inversely proportional to age? And that visual acuity takes a big drop in your 50's?  Designing products for people of all ages and capabilities means accommodating visually impaired people, and here Apple is bucking the historical trend of gradually being friendlier. They keep steering towards low contrast, spindly fonts, and iconification instead of using words. A lamentable trend.