Responding to iOS 7

June 26th, 2013 Jeremy Jeremy

iOS 7…

Some of it looked incredible. The parallax effects, zooming user interfaces, and advanced physics got me excited about the possibilities for new, unexplored user interface ideas.

But man, those icons…

Borderless buttons!?

I understood the move away from leather stitching but wow, now realistic ornaments are suddenly of no value whatsoever?

Like many designers, my reaction to iOS 7 went something like this:

iOS 7 Reaction
Via Hossam Hassan

But we’ve all had an earful from whining designers so I won’t go down that path. I promised myself that I wouldn’t judge the UI until I’ve spent at least a week or so using it regularly.

Despite my initial fears, I actually really enjoy using iOS 7 on a daily basis. I still have some complaints about several visual design choices but you have to remember, Apple has only been working on this for a matter of months. That’s pretty insane. I mean, it takes us at least a year to put out a single app, let alone an entire operating system!

So give them a break. I talked to a number of folks at Apple. They understand that this thing isn’t finished yet and they want our feedback (feel free to email me and I’ll pass it along). It’s only going to get better.

Now, to the pressing question…

How do we respond to iOS 7?

Answering this question may very well play a large role in the future success or failure of indies around the world over the next few years, so it’s important to talk about. Based on my conversations with folks at Apple and leaders in the app community, I’ll lay out a few thoughts.

We have work to do
  • Apps built on top of the iOS 6 skeleton, with lots of gradients, bevels, and realistic details — apps like Tweetbot and Grades — look heavy and out of place in iOS 7. That’s just a fact.
  • No doubt, apps that embrace Apple’s paradigm shift will have an edge over apps that don’t. Apple will more likely feature them and users will more likely download apps that fit in. Evolve or die.
  • I think Marco Arment’s attitude is a good one: this is the single biggest opportunity iOS developers have had since the App Store launched. Every category is up for grabs once again.
But… as always, innovation is what matters

Just for kicks, an early mockup that completely mimics iOS7′s default design language.

  • Winning apps won’t merely take Apple’s default look and mimic it. Think about how boring it would be if all of our apps looked like iOS 7 Calendar or Settings. It would get old really fast. But that’s nothing new. Think about if all the apps on iOS 6 looked like iOS 6 Calendar and settings… Yep, it would be really boring.
  • Apple realizes that the diversity of styles on the App Store is one of their strong points and hopefully that won’t change on iOS 7.
  • The best iOS 7 apps will take Apple’s new governing principles of clarity, depth, and deference, and interpret those principles in a unique way. They will innovate on top of the platform just like the best iOS 6 apps did.
  • Designing for iOS 7 will mean much more than merely adjusting your visual style. Although I think we should try to give our apps a unique look through subtle twists on the iOS 7 design language, I’m excited to focus more on making our apps unique by experimenting with novel interaction models, transitions, and physicality, making our apps a lot more visceral. Since iOS 7 is more focused on these kinds of interactions, I think the best designs will innovate in those areas. That might mean us designer types might need to start learning a thing or two about Xcode.
  • Don’t throw away all thought of metaphor and realism. Both minimal and realistic interfaces are tools in our toolbox and we need to focus on making the best experiences for our users. Fitting into the iOS 7 environment is part of that. Realistic-leaning apps on iOS 7 will be different than realistic-leaning apps on iOS 6. I don’t know how exactly but that’s something we’ll be figuring out as the platform continues to mature and users seek more unique and delightful experiences. Some people really like realistic interfaces and I don’t think they are going away forever, despite being somewhat out of style.

Redesigning Hours

Redesigning Hours has been a ton of fun. We have only just gotten started but removing visual noise has allowed us to focus on some interesting interaction issues that we hadn’t thought of before. Simplifying buttons allows us to also do some really interesting animations and transitions, making for a more visceral and fun experience.

I still like the old design and can’t say that the iOS 7 version is necessarily a huge improvement in the visual department, but thinking about the principles of iOS 7 design has sparked breakthroughs that will definitely make Hours a better app over all.

That’s exciting.

We would love to get your feedback so feel free to comment here or on Dribbble.

If you are interested in seeing what we come up with, feel free to sign up for our mailing list:

UPDATE: I’ve started a Branch discussion to try to generate some more discussion among app makers.

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19 Responses to “Responding to iOS 7”

  1. [...] found a really nice comparison of an iOS 6 vs. iOS 7 app project. Yeah someone really was THAT fast porting his own app. See what has done with the Hours [...]

  2. Ahmed says:

    It really reminds me of windows mobile.. so much! for me it feels so inspired by Windows 8 minimalism and its block-like layered interface.

  3. Brandon says:

    I’ve noticed that apps that have dark navbars with the new style look great to me. But the stock apple apps with white bars at the top are just ugly… Any thoughts on this?

  4. marcelftw says:

    Question : is your app responsive enough that on ios6 and prior, the “old” design will appear, and on ios7, the “new” design will appear ?
    Good job anyway ^^

  5. Ken says:

    “Apps built on top of the iOS 6 skeleton, with lots of gradients, bevels, and realistic details — apps like Tweetbot and Grades — look heavy and out of place in iOS 7. That’s just a fact.”

    I don’t agree with that. The apps I use on iOS 6 have all kinds of different appearances. One app (and only one) has a wood veneer, for example. It doesn’t look out of place, for the very reason that iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad hardware designs are so visually simple. When you enter an app, the iPhone/whatever *becomes* that app. iOS was never about a consistent appearance across apps. It’s a device that becomes any device. It’s a chameleon by nature. As long as your design is good, it doesn’t matter if it’s “realistic” or “light”.

    “iOS 6 style apps look out of place on iOS 7″ sounds just as crazy to me as saying that “iOS 7 apps look out of place on black iPhones (and iOS 6 apps on white iPhones)”.

  6. Great post. I also think it’s better to embrace it, hoping for improvements and bringing our owns.

    It’s here whether we want it or not, so we might as well look for the opportunities.

  7. [...] basically hit a wall. IOS 7 introduces a new design aesthetic that many developers will have to get comfortable with if they want their apps to feel included in the new, drop-shadowless and borderless-button [...]

  8. Glenn says:

    One problem I have with this new rush to minimalism is that there are fewer visual queues about what elements are active, and which are passive. This has been talked about a lot in relation to Windows 8, but I think it is worth repeating. How is the user supposed to know if a square box with some text in it is a button or a label?
    Ars Nauseum :

  9. [...] Redesigning an App for iOS 7 [...]

  10. [...] Responding to iOS 7 [...]

  11. [...] firestorm of opinion that first surrounded the debut of iOS 7, Jeremy Olson of Tapity decided to use iOS 7 as his main OS for at least a week before jumping to any [...]

  12. Mike says:

    I really liked the new functionality demonstrated during the keynote, I think a lot of what was shown was sorely needed on the platform. That’s the interesting aspect of this, the way you navigate and use the OS has remained consistent – with a few enhancements – and that’s great. I’m still undecided on the overall design, its a little bright, garish even. I also don’t like the gradient on the icon, the rest of the design is fine.

    The overall brightness also seems more suited to the white iPhone, rather than the black – it would also work very well with a rainbow of other colours.

    I don’t think it bears any resemblance to other mobile operating systems. My work phone is windows mobile, and honestly, there is no comparison in either look ar feel between iOS 7 and Windows.

  13. Benjamin Huygir says:

    A few good points, but mostly (and I’m trying hard to curb my tongue lately because I’ve been railing against the L&F of iOS7 since I – regrettably – put the beta on my iPhone)… BS. If Apple had focused on features and functions in iOS7, no one would have complained – I don’t think there was an outcry to “be more like Microsoft”.

    Apple screwed-up, and they are now trying to “fix” it with marketing. Have you seen the new TV ads? Before the mass market gets a look at this ugly UI, they are trying to brainwash them into believing that everything Apple does is excellent and we normal humans should not question it – after all, you wouldn’t question Einstein in a physics discussion, right? Unfortuntely, Apple has proven they are not Einstein.

    We live in a 3D world and our brains think in 3D. Even artificial 3D, depth, shadow, parallax, etc. help us assimilate and comprehend visual layouts more quickly and more accurately. Taking away that information purely for the sake of change or trend is ludicrous and limiting. Less information is not a good thing.

    As for how apps utilize any UI “standard” – Ken’s comment is exactly right – the look and feel of apps is personality – simple conformance to any standard brings very little value. So the issue is more about the usability of the flat approach, and as has also been mentioned that falls short in many ways. I hate the look of Microsoft’s tiled UIs. There is a place for it somewhere, but they have put it everywhere and it doesn’t seem the best solution anywhere. Frankly, if Apple moves the Mac OS in this direction (I have been afraid to play with the beta release of the next OS X) I am first going to cry and then seriously look for something new. I’ve been impressed with the latest generation of Linux desktops.

    I’ve given iOS7 this much time (from announcement to now) to “change my mind”, and it’s still ugly. The dynamic color theming based on the background image has been tried before and fails 50% of the time. If you like the gray stone background, the rest of the UI looks awful – unpolished, unfinished and in many cases unusable. When the only difference between the active microphone and the muted microphone icon on a phone call is a subtle gray area around the word “mute” – that’s flat out poor UI design. I want to break something.

  14. [...] pesar de mis temores iniciales, en realidad he disfrutado usando iOS 7 a diario”, dijo Olson en su [...]

  15. [...] my last article was quite a wild ride. It went something like [...]

  16. bp says:

    One problem I have with this new rush to minimalism is that there are fewer visual queues about what elements are active, and which are passive. This has been talked about a lot in relation to Windows 8, but I think it is worth repeating. How is the user supposed to know if a square box with some text in it is a button or a label?

    I couldn’t agree more with this post above. I take my 2 year old daughter who can navigate and iphone like an adult because the visual cues are there. I gave her beta and she has a tougher time with it. This translates into the operating system not being as effective as it once was. It’s a big step back if you ask me. Those visual cues were very important. It’s one of the first times I have been disappointed in the direction Apple decided to take and it falls on Jonathan Ives. He didn’t do a very good job and took out the ease of using the device and made it more confusing and not as appealing.

  17. Sophia says:

    they “borrowed” so much from Android…not stoked on iOS7, Apple really screwed up on this one.

  18. Jaochoui says:

    Benjamin Huygir:

    I’m sure those ads were already done before iOS7 was even shown to anyone, so I don’t think there’s anything about knowing that they had “screwed up”. I have a feeling they were confident in their design.

    Secondly, iOS7 has more sense of depth and layers compared to iOS6, and even has that parallax effect you mentioned. It’s *not* a flat design as most think.

    Give them more time; I’m sure the developers are working around the clock to make this release the best they can, and know what they are doing. There is still a lot more needed to be done with iOS7 than just attending to just UI issues, which, while important, might not see significant improvements until later. For me, I’ll reserve judgement until the gold master is released.