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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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