Apple Website 2007
(Internet Archive)

There’s no denying that Apple are masters of style. Everything, from their hardware designs and software interfaces, to the boxes their computers come in, and even down to the twisty ties that they use on their cables — all of it screams that the company is obsessed, perhaps even to an anal degree, with style and presentation. And obviously, that fanatical approach to design and its importance, has paid off quite handsomely for the company.

Not surprisingly, this focus on design and presentation is also evident on Apple’s website. Go to any other similar company’s website — Dell, HP, or of course, Microsoft — and the difference is quite clear.

The other websites always feel cold and cluttered, and virtually devoid of any personality whatsoever. Everything is bullet points and ​“Buy Now” links. Compare a sample computer details page on the Dell website with a comparable page on Apple’s website, and the difference is striking.

The former is trying to impress me, and yet, with its reliance on meager bullet points, doesn’t tell me anything even as I’m confronted with several purchase links. While the latter certainly contains numerous bullet points, technical specs, and purchase links, it does much more. It tells me a story, a story about the computer and what it can do for me, the end user.

I’m sure that some might find this approach a little on the fluffy, ​“touchy feely” side, but I find it relaxing and comfortable. Sure, Apple wants to sell me something. But they do so, not by overwhelming me with information, but by telling me a story and getting me to see myself in it, which gets me that much more excited about their products (and more liable to whip out the ol’ credit card).

After Steve Jobs’ recent keynote address at this year’s WWDC, the Apple website — as cool as it was — got its first major makeover in 5 or 6 years. And me likey. Me likey very much.

Gone are the tabs across the top, replaced by a super-sleek navigation bar reminiscent of the iTunes interface. Which makes sense. The tabs, even in a streamlined state, were reminiscent of earlier versions of OS X. With each release of OS X, the operating system has been streamlined and refined, and so it makes sense that the navigation of the website follows suit.

One interesting feature of the new website is the horizontal menus that are employed on several pages of the site, such as the main page for the ​“Mac” section. Normally, horizontal scrolling is anathema in web design, but since Apple is introducing horizontal scrolling as part of its ​“Cover Flow” technology, it’s not surprising to find it here.

I’m not quite sure how I feel about Apple’s use of it, but it doesn’t feel quite so odious here (and not just because it’s Apple that’s doing it). Perhaps its because that top area feels less like ​“real” content and more like a slideshow, or because of the handy ​“bookmarks” that allow you to jump instantly to any section of the area. (37signals has some more thoughts on this).

In keeping with the idea that a website’s footer should be, in some way, rewarding — see what I’m talking about — the redesigned Apple features a content and navigation-rich footer.

Again, I’m sure some of you are rolling your eyes at me right now, and simply chalking it up to Apple fanboy-ism. And I won’t deny there’s a little bit of that in there. But seriously, that’s one gorgeous footer.

And finally, there’s a ultra-sexy AJAX-ified live search, which looks an awful lot like your typical Spotlight search. Am I surprised that Apple would make the search engine on their website look and feel like the search engine that their operating system uses, thus enforcing a consistent user/​customer experience? Not at all.

A few more thoughts on the new design can be found here, here, and here.