Saturday, June 6, 2009

iPain relief

It turns out that most of the authorization trouble was with the iTunes store being down. Just after my previous post I went over to my PC to see if I could login to the iTunes store there. I couldn't. To eliminate the possibility that I had somehow screwed up my apple id or password, I asked Jill to login to the iTunes store on her Mac. She couldn't login either. Same red message. The one I posted with the red icon. So I went to bed.

This morning, I tried again to login to the iTunes store. It worked straightaway. So the iTunes store was down last night. I authorized this computer and am syncing again. And this time it's busy busy busy. So maybe everything will get sorted....
chasing a full syncAnd voilĂ ! All of my apps are now showing up on my iPhone, and ring tones are working.

If anyone at apple in the iTunes development department is listening, you might want to consider how iTunes behaves here. Your users (probably new and old) expect that if there is an issue with authorization for some of their media (ringtones, music, apps...) that the rest of the sync will still continue, leaving the device and the iTunes library in a predictable state. I dare say no one likes to get into this random world where each sync returns different warnings that seem to be growing worse and worse on their way to imminent failure.

Also, and this is an observation from a long time computer user and software developer (me), that is not directed at apple or iTunes only, and it is this: give users immediate information they need to do the circus tricks you've devised for them instead of lazily sending them over to google.

What I mean is this. There is a menu option for backup in iTunes. There is a menu option for restore. But there is no menu option for "Move my entire setup to another computer" with a suboption for PC or Mac. It could still prompt me for a plethora of DVD's to do the transfer because of your rule that all library transfers have to be on CD/DVD. It would still require me to authorize the new computer and perhaps deauthorize the old computer because or your rule about 5 authorized computers. And I would still have to sync any devices on the new computer, erasing them and reloading them because of your rule of devices serving computers. And it could consider the ramifications of the iTunes store being down and offer the advice of "get something to drink and go to bed--maybe the store will be online tomorrow and you can finish up because there's nothing else you're gonna do about it except for the swearing". But in all this, if the user was empowered by a punch list and series of suggestions, with a place to check off things that were done, and with links to explanations and help and other resources right there, then your users wouldn't have to come to all these conclusions post mortem, complete with the newly acquired gray hairs.

(By the way, I am NOT a fan of wizards that MUST be completed IN ORDER or else the ENTIRE PROCESS fails, where you finally hit CANCEL and throw your computer out the window.)

And think about it, all you program managers out there. At some point you are thinking through this process. You better be. At some point somebody either in your development team or your beta testing group or your boss asks you the question, "so when a user gets a new computer and they want to transfer all their stuff over to it, how do they move their whole iTunes library and get everything working?" Because you and your team think in terms of functional requirements, you run through all of the tasks in your head and make sure they can all be done in some order to satisfy all the rules. You verbally respond, and then your boss or super-tester says, "Ok. That will work. Just wanted to make sure you thought of that." So you go on. And then when you create the help file you have someone type up that process on a one page article, maybe even throw in a few links to more info, giving basically what amounts to be the overview. Some people can probably read that and infer where and how to click and what not because they're familiar with the operating system, computers, your way of doing things, etc. But for most of us, we just get started, stressed out, and googled on our way to the third ring of the circus where all of our iTunes dreams come true.

And for the rest of you still reading, the moral of the story is:
Don't transfer your iTunes library and iPhone to a new computer when the iTunes store is down.

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