Since the wide release of iOS 7, we’ve noticed quite a bit of, shall we say, opinionated articles being published on its design principles and colorful flavor. Those first few days after you upgraded to iOS 7, how did you feel? Change is a constant in the universe, and mobile UI is no exception. iOS 7 has taken the familiar and dressed it up in different colors and an entirely new attitude.
We’ve been busy speaking with designers and reading everything we can on Apple’s controversial new style, exploring its improvements as well as its more questionable design decisions. In doing so, we’ve rounded up a selection of the best critiques on iOS 7’s design, and we’re here to share their insights with you.
Definitely one of the most fascinating and thoughtful pieces written about iOS 7, this informative article brings up a very convincing theory about why Apple has decided to go flatter this time around. As John Brownlee so articulately points out, newer gadgets that are being released – such as iOS In The Car – will require larger icons, with less skeuomorphic details, for surprisingly practical reasons.
“Look at the icons of iOS 6 side-by-side with iOS 7. Almost across the board, every iOS 7 icon can be expanded both vertically and horizontally, just by filling the blank space with the colors on the edges. For example, the Photos or Safari icons can be expanded to a length rectangle just by placing the existing icon in the middle and filling the rest of the rectangle with white space. Likewise, the new Messages, Facetime, Music, Mail or Phone icons can all be extended into any shape, just by taking the colors at their edges and repeating them to fill the remaining space.”
iOS developer and designer Jared Sinclair asks, “What is up with those buttons?” and then proceeds to answer his own question quite clearly. In short, they just don’t look like buttons, which throws a wrench in that whole intuitive user interface thing. His convincing argument is incredibly well-supported and cites examples that we can all relate to as we find our way through Apple’s bright and colorful new orchard. In order to carry out an instinctual gesture as tapping on a button, we first need to be sure that it has a set area – or boundary – around it to distinguish it from the rest of the screen.
“Color alone simply cannot be the way to identify a button. You don’t touch a color. You touch an area. To activate a button, you must touch a spot inside of its boundary. Text floating in the middle of vast whitespace doesn’t define a boundary. Only borders define.”
Back in July, freelance designer Sam Jones made the decision to save us all and investigated the secret files deep within Apple’s iOS 7 Design Resources to enlighten the rest of the world on what Apple’s expectations for its apps are, stylistic or otherwise. He dished out the quick and dirty details about what every app must and should do, making a great guide to follow along with if you’re developing a new project. Also, he mentions that:
“Apple’s new approach may do it’s best to shun drop shadows, gradients, and bezels, but it doesn’t mean that you have to follow suit, and whether you should or not is purely a matter of opinion.”
Visual designer Tim Green also decides to further break things down for us dazed developers, highlighting specific key elements that are being completely altered, such as the way info is being presented in a card like pattern instead of the familiar stacked cut-ins we all know and (maybe) love. He also takes a stab at redesigning the “messages” icon, and does a pretty spiffy job at it, too!
This is it: the motherload of iOS 7 design commentary. The Nielsen Norman Group fearlessly tackle and articulate common experience issues that are arising from iOS 7’s UI. One of the biggest is the unwanted effect that its swipe ambiguity causes during certain navigational gestures users make.
For instance, if you swipe close to the bottom of the screen (intentionally or not), the Control Center can pop up if you don’t have this function turned off in settings. Swiping on a webpage in Safari to view carousel images can even summon the previous website you visited to pop back up.
The NNG crew even go far enough to say that iOS 7’s new icon designs have “demolished millions of hours of user learning” because they’ve so drastically changed the familiar appearance of the established iconic icons.
They’re even bold enough to answer the question on a many an Apple user’s mind: is iOS 7 a fatally flawed design?
“The short answer is no. Simply because there is no such thing as fatally flawed designs: we can always learn from mistakes.”
Wise words indeed. What’s your take on iOS 7? Is it a step towards the future, or just another nod to the past?