Big Sur – the latest in an OS timeline

MC - Midweight Designer

30/11/20

macos_big_sur

Having spent the better part of a couple of weeks exploring MacOS Big Sur, I’ve come to the conclusion that I like it – a lot. Therefore, in this article, I’ll be looking at less of the technical and more of an analysis of some of Big Sur’s features within its user interface.

Let’s get started

Apple’s penchant for naming their operating systems after terrestrial locations, do for the most part knock this out of the park. Big Sur, named after a mountainous region in the Central Coast of California, is frequently applauded for its beautiful coastline and dramatic scenery. It stands to reason then that this description has been applied to the newest system. At first glance, the interface is a lot more colourful, with an emphasis on cleaner layouts and a flatter visual.

One of the areas that has seen significant changes is Finder. Everything seems a lot cleaner than previous iterations, with icons looking more rounded and colours being utilised more effectively. While this is visually appealing, from a UX perspective, it does suffer. An example of this is the search icon in the top right of the Finder window. Now reduced down to a singular icon, it runs the risk of being lost, especially if the user utilises a heavily customised toolbar. It does seem to be another instance of Apple focusing too much on form over function, seen before in the removal of ports from newer product models.

What else?

One instance that I do like is the sidebar that now features in System Preferences under ‘Dock and Menu Bar’. It allows extra customisability of specific features in the Control Centre and other modules. This personalisation in future Apple products is something I would very much like to see within their existing framework. Speaking of the Control Centre, this has had one of the biggest UI updates as it now provides a dedicated area that the user can utilise to control everything from sound to WiFi. The icon used is perhaps a bit ambiguous, but nothing to crucify them over.

Notifications!

I am also enjoying the newly improved Notification Centre. It’s a lot more digestible for the user, allowing you to edit the size of each widget depending on your preferences. However, the white gradient behind it does feel forced and makes background elements seem washed out. Especially with the majority of the interface being flat, it’s odd why they went with this approach rather than a solid background.

Most of Apple’s long supportive users will notice a new dialog pop up to confirm changes or notify users of important information. In past iterations, this has dropped down from the top of the panel. While it may stray from a system that people have long gotten used to, it feels more integrated and in keeping with iOS’ style.

Conclusions

While I’m a fan of the new interface, it is clear that there are some teething problems to sort out during the next series of updates. The majority of the updates, some of which haven’t been touched upon in this article, seem to have been made in order to bring it into line with MacOS’ existing product range. A necessity if they want a clearer, well-defined style. This update won’t make everyone happy, but ultimately that’s the challenge when overhauling UI’s.