Bring Back the iTunes Shopping Cart!

Before iTunes 9, if you wanted to defer a purchase in the iTunes Store, you could save an item to your Shopping Cart. Not willing to let well enough alone, Apple dumped the entire Shopping Cart concept in iTunes 9, replacing it with a vastly inferior Wish List. How exactly is it inferior? In every possible way.

In Search of Wish List

With the extinct iTunes 8 Shopping Cart, to set things up so that to-be-purchased items went directly to your Cart by default, you enabled an option in iTunes Preferences > Store. Alternatively, via the 1-click option, you could choose to purchase items immediately. Essentially, it is the same model used by; and it worked just as well in iTunes.

With the iTunes 9 Wish List, there is no way to send items to the List by default. Instead, you need to specifically and separately select Add to Wish List for each item.

Finding the Add to Wish List option can bit a bit of a challenge, as the command is not visible anywhere on the screen. To access it, you have to click the disclosure triangle to the right of the Buy button. From the menu that appears, Add to Wish List is one of the commands. Not especially convenient, but manageable.

When it comes time to buy items from your Wish List, you need to access the List itself. This can prove to be an even greater challenge…

In iTunes 8, the Shopping Cart was an item in the Store listings, located in the main column on the left side of the iTunes Window. The Cart was always just one click away, easily accessible even if you weren’t in the iTunes Store at the time.

With iTunes 9, easy accessibility is just a fond memory. To get to the Wish List, you first have to go to the iTunes Store window. Next, you need to locate the My Wish List link in the Quick Links section in the upper right. Clicking this takes you to the Wish List screen.

The bigger problem is that the My Wish List link is not always there. Inexplicably, Apple decided to make the link available only if you are at the Home screen (as confirmed in this Apple article). If you’re at Movies or Music or anywhere but Home, you won’t find the link. That’s already bad enough. The bigger problem is that, on numerous occasions, the entire mini-section that contains the My Wish List link fails to show up at all, even when at the Home screen. When this happens to me, I have to reload the page a couple of times before My Wish List graces me with its presence. [Update: As noted in reader comments below, there are other Wish List links available: (a) In the Manage section at the bottom of the screen and (b) in the pull-down menu from your email address in the upper right.]

The section of links containing My Wish List is missing

Figure 1: The section of links containing My Wish List is missing from the Home screen.

The Hidden Buy Button

Assuming you make it to the Wish List display, your problems are hardly over. In the iTunes 8 Shopping Cart, you could select multiple items and purchase them together. In other words, you could say: “I want to purchase 6 of the 15 items in my cart” and do so in one step. With the iTunes 9 Wish List, this is no longer possible. Instead, you have to separately purchase each item. Clicking on the name of an item, rather than selecting the item, whisks you away to another page entirely.

Even the basic layout of the Wish List can get confusing. Some purchase categories (such as Songs and TV Episodes) display items as a text list, in a manner similar to the Finder’s List view, — while other categories (such as Music Videos and Movies) display multiple items to a row, more like the Finder’s Icon view. I find this makes it more difficult to get a quick overview of the contents of the List.

Oh…one more thing.

In what must certainly be a leading candidate for “worst user interface design element of the year,” it can be almost impossible to make a purchase from the Wish List. Why? Because you can’t get to the Buy button.

This happened to me for several TV episodes. The problem is that the Description section of an episode is so lengthy that the Buy button (which appears after the Description) does not fit within the width of the display. To get to the button, I figured out that I needed to click-hold in the Description text and slide the cursor to the right, so as to get the text to start scrolling (similar to how you scroll through a list of items in a Finder window without using the scroll bars). If this works, the Buy button eventually comes into view. But not necessarily for long.

The next step is to release the mouse button, so that you can click it again while the cursor is over the Buy button, allowing you to make the purchase. But when you try this, the Buy button may vanish before you can click it, sliding back to the right and out of sight. In one instance, it took me several minutes of carefully maneuvering my cursor until I could keep the Buy button in view long enough to click it. The whole process felt similar to trying to add a precariously placed block to a Jenga tower.

The Buy button is missing

Figure 2: Looking for the Buy button? It’s beyond the right edge of the display, not in view and hard to access.

If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it!

What exactly was Apple thinking here? Are they actually trying to prevent people from making purchases via the Wish List? How is any of this an improvement from the way things worked before? I don’t know the answers to these questions. What I do know is that my personal wish for the Wish List is that Apple trash it and bring back the Shopping Cart!