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.  ↩