iOS7 Apologists

Johan Ronsse has some interesting points on the iOS 7 redesign.

The iOS 7 defenders are arguing that mobile users have grown up. That they will know that UI is tappable or not, regardless of clear buttons. That massive gesture usage is a thing (no, it’s not).

I’m not a big fan of taking the “the training wheels can now come off” thing too far either. The best example of this I can think of is the new lock screen. While often the subject of mockery, the slide to unlock groove on the past six versions of iOS was absolutely brilliant design for unlocking the phone. It requires a gesture to perform, but it was easily discoverable —even to a 2 year old. Compare that to the new lock screen in iOS 7 —or some of the implementations on Android or WP for that matter— and it almost feels like you’re unlocking it by accident, instead of the feeling of achievement you get from sliding that button to its target.

On the other hand, it would be unfair to state that everything tappable inside iOS6 looks like a button. Apps are full of examples where we’re expected to tap a piece of text (a list of emails) or an unfamiliar icon (hamburger, I’m looking at you). There’s still so many things we just had to figure out and learn to use. There is no such thing as an intuitive interface.

Although there definitely is such a thing as a badly designed interface. I’m just not sure if it’s as easy as calling iOS7 bad design, going home, and pretending it never existed.

How different is iOS 7 from 6 anyway? Just open the new Mail app. It only takes a squint to rediscover a familiar face, one with a lot less chrome at the top and bottom. Yes, it might be that the removal of the button stroke and fill in the navigation bar makes it less discoverable that these are for tapping. Yet, it’s still a verb or a noun perched in a sea of white background—everything still is labelled. What’s more, every tappable piece of text has the same identifying color, if your eyes permit you to see it[1].

Since when are blurring effects or 1 pixel lines a staple of good design? Having pixel perfect lines or great animation is cool – but it remains an extra. If we would define Maslow’s hierarchy of needs but make it about design, animation would be in the upper part of the pyramid. The base would be covered by legibility, clarity, contrast etc.

Interesting analogy. Getting the basics right should be the absolute priority. However, once the basics are right (e.g. app launching), adding animation allows you to create this additional sense of direction (zooming in and out of the app icon) and depth.

Finally, I’ve re-read the posts by Allen Pike and Marco ‘sold’ Arment, and my take on them is not that they’re defending the current state of iOS 7 per se. But that it’s a reflection on the reasons for Apple to redesign the interface like they have with iOS 7. The outset of both pieces being that it wasn’t solely because they want to create something better, but that they need to differentiate with respect to competitors. The subtext here is that if iOS 7 was unanimously hailed as the next best thing, these posts would tell the story differently.

I do agree with Johan’s points, it just seems I’m less pessimistic about how it might turn out. And, as he points out himself, it is better in action than on screenshots.

  1. With Apple’s level of commitment to people with disabilities, It wouldn’t surprise me if they added a feature to make tap targets stand out more, for instance with a high-contrast back/foreground color for the button.  ↩

WWDC 2013—hopes and fears

WWDC 2013 is today. These are my hopes and fears. I’ll be brief[1].

  1. iOS7 design overhaul. If there is a redesign, I’m hoping it’ll go a lot further than skin-deep changes. Replacing faux leather backgrounds and reducing gradients and glossy overlays just won’t do it.

    “Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. People think it’s this veneer – that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.” — Steve Jobs

    Ive needs to rethink how it works, not only how it looks—if a redesign is truly in the works.

    Show us how it’s done Jony.

  2. iOS7 inter-application communication a.k.a. “more sharing options”. This is about the only place where Team Android truly has a point: inflexible interaction between applications is limiting developers and leaving users with a 2007 smartphone experience. If iOS is to remain the number one app-platform of choice for the foreseeable future, Apple needs to get this one right, and preferably sooner rather than later.

    I’m afraid this won’t make it into iOS7.

  3. Maps and Siri. Apple just can’t match Google on this front, and they won’t be able to design their way out of this either. Apple will have to get its hands dirty to get this right. Faster. Better. Stronger.

    That being said, I really believe that Google Now and Siri will each evolve in entirely different directions. Siri will become an alternative way of interacting with your Apple mobile device, Google Now will become the freaky know-it-all assistant that will get to know you better than your spouse.

    Apple will announce this WWDC that it’s constantly improving both services. Maybe it will learn Siri some more tricks, but nothing major.

  4. iCloud — “The cornerstone of everything Apple does for the next decade.” iCloud is an umbrella term that covers many different services. Apple will keep improving many of these services, but the one leg of iCloud that Apple still needs to start getting right is File Management in iOS. While this is indeed related to my second point (inter-app communication), managing files goes a lot further than transferring files between apps. Right now, each file or document is locked up inside its application silo. This makes it very hard to work on a single file from within multiple applications.

    I’ve put this into the iCloud category because, whatever solution Apple comes up with, I believe iCloud will be the cornerstone.

    I don’t expect anything in terms of a solution this year.

  5. iRadio. No idea what Apple will do to innovate in this market. However, given that it took Apple a while to get the record labels to sign off, I’m betting it isn’t just some Spotify/Google Play Music All Access/Pandora rip-off.

  6. Hardware — not my final point by accident[2]. I don’t expect any new hardware products at this WWDC. Not even a Mac Pro. My guess would be: a new Mac Pro this fall, and Apple’s TV platform (think: channel apps, games) in spring next year.

    I do expect most of Apple’s laptops to make the leap to Intel’s Haswell architecture. Improved battery life and CPU / GPU performance across the board. I don’t think Apple will fade out the non-retina MacBook Pros just yet, but I fear they also won’t get updated to Haswell either.

    Sorry, no Retina MacBook Airs this year.

    iWatch, is that still a thing?

  7. We won’t see Sir Ive on stage.

    I so hope I’m wrong on this one.

  1. Sorry about that.  ↩

  2. Sorry, I snuck in one extra point after all.  ↩