Ditch the tabs!

by Giles Turnbull

Ladies and gentlemen, I have a proposal for your consideration.

I'm not a designer. I don't profess to have much of an eye for 'good' or 'bad' design, in print, on the web, or anywhere else.

But in my opinion (that's just my opinion, folks), the Aqua-style tabs on the top of every single page at apple.com have to go.

Old look

Why? Because they look so outdated, so out-of-place, when placed above some of the latest Apple page designs. Look at all the swish, animated, Quicktime-heavy content produced for the new Intel machines or iLife 06. Notice the strong emphasis on black and white contrast, on a two-dimensional effect, on graphical simplicity.

New look

The navigation tabs at the top look garish by comparison.

The motion is: "Apple should redesign the navigation tabs on its web site."

All those in favor, say aye.


2006-01-11 04:54:04
As the subject says :)
2006-01-11 05:10:57
I thought the same thing as I was on the site looking for the MacBook Pro yesterday. They definitly have to go!
2006-01-11 05:11:03
I agree. I've thought that for a long time now.
2006-01-11 05:32:37
At least a different style
Tabs as a concept may still work but the look of them, I agree with you, is outdated, and not in line with what Apple's been doing lately.
2006-01-11 06:27:10
I strongly disagree
I will have to (respectfully) strongly disagree with Giles and the others who have posted comments so far. I like the tabs, I like the look of the tabs, and most importantly, they allow me to get to where I need to go on Apple's site very quickly. Keep the tabs! ;-)
2006-01-11 06:40:28
Design breaks anyway
With the new wide front page (and wider pages for Aperture, the MacBook, iLife and many other products within the site), the top bar doesn't even hold together as an element any more. It's a fixed width of about 800px, but you need to stretch your window to see all the content; when you do, on Safari on 10.3 anyway, the tabs stay stuck to the left hand side and an ugly gap opens up to their right. Ew.

Maybe we'll see it vanish at WWDC, when I suspect the 10.5 preview pages will show up.

2006-01-11 07:03:38
retro look
I like the 1998 retro look. It takes a lot of work to get those tabs looking 3D and glassy at the same time. As for 'tabs' themselves - if it's good enought for O'REilly Network it shoudl be good enought for Apple. or me. Maybe amazon shoudl use tabs. Ohh- they do. Damn [expletive] tabs. Where can I get machine readable tabs? so my computer can look at them for me. At least a tab aggregator? Help. I'm going tab mad. It's too late. Really.

2006-01-11 07:07:39
retro look
Oh sure - tabs in themselves aren't the problem. I'd be happy with tabs, as long as they looked like the rest of the design elements on the site.
2006-01-11 08:34:07
At least a different style
Tabs as a concept may still work but the look of them, I agree with you, is outdated, and not in line with what Apple's been doing lately.

The problem is, "what Appe's been doing lately" is to decrease the readability/legibility of some of their web pages. Take a look at the gray text on black background on the MacBook Pro page . The legibility is horrendous. A definite step backwords, IMHO.

Jim M.
Milwaukee, WI
Macintosh Help and Support

2006-01-11 10:28:16
At least a different style
I have to agree about the poor legibility. The iLife page has light grey text on a white background. Its seems trendy on web sites, but it makes it impossible to read. I don't have any problems with the tabs, which I think continue to work well. I was having more problems with the "swish, animated, Quicktime-heavy content."
2006-01-11 12:11:00
Remember the yellow plague
The preponderance of tabs on the internet now reminds me of the yellow plague of the mid 90s when every web site on the planet was seemingly copying C-Net's godawful left navbar. Instead of aping other peoples' design, Apple really should be moving forward toward something better, not just something more attractive (though that wouldn't be difficult since the current design is so ugly), but also more functional. The breadth-wise navigation of apple.com really needs some help and I'm surprised that they haven't noticed yet.
2006-01-11 13:58:33
grey text ickiness
I hope whoever's responsible for these typographical color choices gets a clue how horrible they can be.

MacUpdate recently started using more grey text on white and, even worse, grey backgrounds. It's barely readable when I turn down display brightness on my iBook to conserve battery.

2006-01-11 14:42:08
At least a different style
Yep - when I logged onto the Apple Store following the update, the fan on my Mini started up - I thought they were using Flash. . .

You'd think that having a site than ran easily on 12 month old Apple hardware were be a good idea. We're not all running MacBook Pro's!

2006-01-11 17:18:13
Definitely redesign time. Evolve more, in honour of the Intel switch.
2006-01-12 10:13:34
Change for changes sake is never good enough with UI
It's never a good reason to change the basic user interface just because you can, or because you perceive it as being "not stylish any longer".

If you can come up with an alternative to tabs that is demonstrably better - not just different, but a serious improvement - then it's worth considering.

Otherwise you end up looking like Microsoft - unable to settle on a good design, unable to recognise when things work, constantly shift the ground underneath everyone's feet.

2006-01-16 19:53:48
A redesign on the way... ? someday ?
Last year, or maybe it was 2004, Apple & somebody did a press release on signing someone on to redesign the whole web site (at least I think there was a press release). I would think something like this would be a one to two-year project for Apple, given their focus on aesthetics. Plus, imagine redesigning a web site for Jobs:

Dec 2004 "That sucks."
March 2005 "That's a little better. But it still sucks."
June 2005 "Ok I like that page. But the rest sucks."
August 2005 "No No No."
November 2005 "Look, here's the way it should look..."

They will have the whole design industry critiquing them on this whenever it happens, because most of them are Apple customers and Apple has set a few standards itself. So it's not gonna be easy.

I still like the tabs, but the whole look is getting stale. The first glaring example of this came when they screwed up the tab design with that two-word itunes+iPod tab thing. From then on, things started looking kind of like their OSX UI consistency.

Plus a ton of Apple third party developers, hardware vendors, and accessory vendors--not to mention who knows how many blogs--have copied the design down to the pixel. So it's not only time for a complete redesign, it's time for something radically different and radically fast!