We recently got the opportunity to catch up with Rob Sammons, developer of Memory Box Stories, and asked a few questions about the amazing design that went into that app. Check out our conversation, learn from his expertise, and build better apps as a result.
UI Palette: Memory Box is an incredibly well executed app that gives users an immersive experience with pictures and audio. Did the new iOS 7 help you achieve that? Would you say iOS7 even helps encourage a more immersive design?
Rob Sammons: The content is key, that is why users open the app. They really want to just see beautiful imagery and not have any UI elements get in the way. This has happened so many times in the past within apps like Find my Friends where the UI is more important than the content. iOS 7 really helped drill in that concept into every developer to help them avoid the common mistakes. When the user interface isn’t the most important aspect of an app then the content can really shine through. That’s why throughout the design I tried to make as many elements transparent as possible so the users know their content still exists and can be seen, even when its scrolled underneath a navigation bar. iOS 7 also really improved the stock elements such as the slider and time bar in the app, these previously used ugly glossy elements and hadn’t been updated since iPhone OS 2.0! It was a relief to be able to use those elements instead of resorting to third party solutions as many have had to over the past few years.
UIP: What is your overall impression of iOS 7 so far?
RS: I’ve been lucky enough to have iOS 7 since the first announcement at WWDC thanks to the developer account. I always install betas on my primary devices and although that can be buggy I find it’s the best way to understand how the OS works in real world contexts. On first install it was quite surprising to me but after watching a few WWDC videos on how to design engaging UI I began to fall in love with it. It doesn’t surprise me that people were shocked by the changes when the public first installed in late September. I really love the concept of layers such as with control centre and notification centre. iOS was long overdue an update and although not everything is perfect I’m sure it’ll be refined over the next few months and when iOS 8 is released. I think that this year iOS plays catch up but by next year there will be some true innovation again.
UIP: We really love the design of your icon. What were some of the concepts you went through and how did you decide on a final one?
RS: Our icon wasn’t just the app icon. We wanted to re-brand Memory Box from previous work and start from scratch. iOS 7 provided the opportunity to do just that. We went went through dozens and dozens of concepts and designs. We wanted to avoid the obvious which is to just slap an M on an icon and call it a day. The final idea for the Memory Box logo came from the idea of a box with a folds. The icon was designed around fitting within the circular icon grid that Apple provides and a square logo fits best around this.
UIP: What are some of the challenges faced when designing for iOS 7 icons?
RS: iOS 7 icons such as tab bars come with two states, unfilled and filled. This really created a challenge as the icon needs to look good in the unfilled state which is just the lines and filled where elements are fully filled. The design of icons such as on our categories page took several days to create as both states had to be thought of. Some categories such as places were much easier than others such as families but we were really happy with the end result that fits with Apple’s style.
UIP: How much user feedback do you rely on for design?
RS: We really had to live within the iOS 7 bubble until launch day and hope that people loved the designs we had come up with. The actual app couldn’t be taken outside of our office. We have since made some minor adjustments to increase legibility of text but have been complemented by a number of designers on the apps interface. It has been extremely interesting to see what other developers have done with the iOS such as Facebook and Twitter and hopefully in the future as more developers jump on board we can borrow some of the popular ideas for Memory Box.
UIP: What’s one thing you wish you knew before making this app?
RS: It was extremely difficult to implement the blurring effect as documentation for aspects of iOS 7 was difficult to find on the internet due to the NDA. Apple appears to have not provided developers with a way to do this so a number of developers have resorted to third party views. I really wanted to avoid this and found no way to implement blurring and instead used transparent elements. It is something I really want to look into doing though as transparency is not the same as translucency.