The Mac OS App Store is a Usability Nightmare

Given the problems caused by Windows users downloading programs from the internet, the inclusion of an app store on Mac computers was a great move on Apple’s part. Reusing most of the same setup as their iOS version, this app store let users download various programs for the system in a fairly safe and controlled way, without running into the risk of encountering adware or clicking on dodgy download links instead of the real article.

What’s more, given the apps seem to go through the same moderation process as their iOS counterparts, it’s clear that Apple is taking the process a bit more seriously than their Windows counterparts are. It’s not quite as open or friendly as Linux’s various package managers are, but it’s a decent step up in the security department none the less.

Unfortunately, the same cannot be said about the UX. Why? Because for whatever reason, Apple seems to have made their Mac OS app store about as human unfriendly as possible.

For starters, even downloading updates requires an account with this system. Why? Who knows, but it’s annoying none the less, and adds another silly barrier to entry that shouldn’t need to be crossed to get things updated again.

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Why do I need an account to update programs installed on my computer by default?

And it doesn’t step there either. Oh no, the actual sign up process for this store is a nightmare itself.

That’s because while a decent registration system puts as few barriers in the user’s path as possible, Apple’s does the complete opposite.

Instead, you’re presented with a ten page form that asks for everything and the kitchen sink. Basic account info? Check. Address? Check. Full credit card details? Yeah, I guess so…

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Usability tip 1: never ask the user for information until you actually need it.

Wait, credit card details? Really?

Remember that by this point in the process, the user hasn’t even shown any intention of actually buying anything yet. They’ve merely registered for an account, likely to get access to either free updates to apps they already own or to download free stuff that doesn’t need the credit card info.

Yet they’re already being asked to put in credit card details for a feature they may not even use.

And it makes no sense in the slightest. What Apple should do is wait for a user to actually try and buy an app (or make an in-app payment), and then request that. That way, they actually know who has an interest in spending money, and won’t stop free users signing up by scaring them away with a credit card wall.

But still, you continue on, and then the verification stage starts.

This is where two factor authentication and good security just gets annoying.

Cause you see, while with most systems the former is usually treated as an optional feature (outside of banks and payment processors), Apple outright requires it to use the app store.

As a result, anyone who signs up now has to both verify their email address and their phone number, which puts even more barriers in their way (for what could be a mere app update).

Which in turn means even more wasted time. Again, most people don’t need this security right now. They’ve not even shown an interest in paying for things, and in many cases wouldn’t have even entered a credit card number if they hadn’t been forced to. One method of verification would be fine right now, and the security implications basically wouldn’t be an issue if the rest of the process was revised too.

What’s more, the whole setup for verifying your phone number is crazy in itself. For one thing, it’s split in three fields; one for country code, one for area code and one for the actual number. Why? We get that you want to contact people via the number, but come on. It’s yet more unneeded complexity, and feels redundant compared to a single ‘tel’ field the user can fill in as they please.

And it’s made worse by how confusing said UI can be too. For instance, if I’ve selected my area code and added my number, what is the other field for? Oh, it turns out it’s the number before my mobile number, which isn’t the area code. So if the number is say ‘7984 567’, then the code would be ‘44’ for the UK and ‘0’ for the area.

It’s a very strange setup, and one I’ve never seen on any other form online. Why did Apple use it? Who knows. Regardless, it’s not a good system, especially not for a mandatory field like this one.

Get past that, and you’re finally done with the sign up process. It’s a terrible start, and a horribly designed registration form for something the company is now forcing on all its customers.

So fix it Apple. Get some of your expert designers to come up with an easier user flow for the system, and make the Mac OS app store something people can use without all this hassle.

Because at the moment, it just doesn’t work at all. It’s clunky, it’s annoying, and it’s a waste of time that makes me outright refuse to upgrade many of my Mac OS apps.

Thanks for reading!

Gamer, writer and journalist working on Gaming Reinvented.

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A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store