You know, I’ve just about had it with the poor design of all the address books out there. I use Apple’s built in Address Book at the moment, mostly because of iPhone integration and all that whatnot, but over the years I’ve used a LOT of different address management applications and they all operate with a very basic assumption that is just wrong. They assume that address books are basically holders of business cards. One card per business contact. That contact may have lots of associated information (for instance, the name of a spouse, so that in business correspondences I can always inquire about “the wife”), or birthday so I can remember to send a card.
While early address books had a very business bent, today they’re used to manage all our personal contacts, too, and I gotta say: they really fall far down on the job. Here are a bunch of things I want my address book to be able to do that it just can’t:
- The husband and wife have different last names, I want to keep them both.
- Someone has a nickname or other name that I might want to search on.
- I want to keep track of my friend’s maiden names – sometimes I know them by an older name, even though they have a new name – heck people change names all the time, but Address Books don’t seem to like that very much.
- I want to track not only my friend’s children, but the children’s birthdays.
- Come to think of it, as those children age, I also want their email addresses captured…
- … and their messaging address, Facebook page, Twitter handle, etc.
- I want to look at a kid’s information and see who his parents are. And his grandparents.
- Why isn’t it easier to just find my family in my address book? Why do I have to create an explicit group? My Address Book should know about my relationships: this is my uncle, those are his kids – that makes us relatives. Done.
- When I go to automagically print out address labels, they should be to everyone under the same roof, not just the husband or wife (or girlfriend, boyfriend, domestic partner, whatever).
- For that matter, the whole system should know who the members of a household are. When the family moves, all their addresses should be correctly updated. There’s no notion at all in any of these address books that people share a physical address.
- There’s also no notion that people might share an email address, and no good way to keep my emails up to date with the mail that actually comes in.
- In fact, it’s really annoying that I have to manually enter all this information that is constantly streaming past me: email addresses of people I correspond with, Twitter accounts of people I follow, Facebook names for my friends. This stuff should just get captured for me. I constantly find that people I’ve been corresponding with for months are really only known from within my Mail application on my desktop. I can’t write them from my mobile device because I haven’t manually entered their information into my Address Book. How broken is that?
There’s a bunch more. I think the entire basic premise of Address Book design (the card) is probably wrong… The entire design just looks like a barebones front end of a database, with no real finesse or understanding of actual use. It’s up to the user to massage her data into it’s narrow view of the world. It’s ripe for a major redesign. I hope I get some cycles this year to twiddle on this, but if not maybe I’ve inspired you!