Design Critique: iMovie


iMovie is a program that is designed by Apple, a company known for their design aesthetic, but less so the usability of their products. iMovie attempts to make creating films from movie clips easy, but several problems with the interface make executing these tasks difficult. The most pressing design problems I have found involve saving work and navigating the left menu.


Design Problem #1: Saving Work

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 3.22.08 PM

Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 3.22.08 PM

To save a project created in iMovie, the user would, using knowledge acquired through repeated use of computer programs, go to File in the menu bar, then Save or Save As. It has become an accepted norm in computer culture to find Save under File. iMovie, with its poor visibility and logical constraints, does not have a Save option in the File menu. Don Norman’s principle of visibility, “making what needs to be done obvious,” fails here. It is not apparent what needs to be done to save the project, because no Save option is available. The correct action to save a project in iMovie is Share. This is an issue in Norman’s Gulf of Execution: the answer to the question “Does the system provide actions that correspond to the intentions of the person?” is no, and the user cannot execute their intention to save the project.


Design Solution #1: Provide a Save option.

Adding a Save option to the File menu would best solve the design problem.

Other Apple programs (Keynote and Pages, for example) autosave changes and provide a Save option in the File menu.



Screen Shot 2015-09-07 at 2.23.39 PMDesign Problem #2: Left Menu

In iMovie, an Event is a group of clips imported or recorded on the same day at the same time. A new Event is automatically created each day, or can be created by the user. In order to view all Events in the main pane, a user can either choose All Events or iMovie Library. In Norman’s words, this does not “provide a good conceptual model for the user” because it does not present the options with consistency. The other options in the menu display different groups of clips, but here two differently named options display the same group of clips.

The iMovie Library option, which also reveals a drop down list of all Events, is redundant and does not properly constrain the user. There is more than one way to access all of the Events; there is no natural or logical constraint. Without constraints, a user can be confused when clicking either iMovie Library and All Events yields the same results, while each of the other menu options yields a unique result.

“The difficulty of dealing with novel situations is directly related to the number of possibilities,” Norman says.


Design Solution #2: Remove iMovie Library option from left menu.

Removing the iMovie Library option and adding its drop down functionality to the All Events option would solve the design problem because it would constrain the user to only one choice in displaying all of the Events. It would make clear that each option on the menu yields a unique result.


All quotes drawn from Norman, D. (2002). The Design of Everyday Things. New York: Basic Books.