iOS 7 is here, and it’s been a lot of fun watching all the app redesigns. I’ve noticed a few trouble spots in 3rd party iOS 7 development that warrant paying closer attention to as we continue our redesign of Dark Sky.
Firstly, developers seem to be focusing most of their attention on the look of iOS 7, rather than its feel.
Apple is educating developers on proper iOS 7 design primarily through example; we use their redesigned apps as inspiration for our own. A natural side-effect of this is that we are emulating the most obvious changes: those that we can see, i.e. the visual aesthetic comprised of flattened colors, thinner fonts, and the minimization of UI “material” constructs.
But the magic of iOS 7 lies not in the look of the thing, but in the overhauled interactions. The new iOS is fluid and dynamic; transitions are more lively and exist in a 3D space that is more consistent than old iterations of iOS (even after using the beta for months, I still find myself on the home screen zooming into a folder, zooming into an app, and then back out again. Just because it’s fun). This change, more than the “flat design”, defines the new direction of the OS.
It’s really a phase change: iOS 6 was a solid, iOS 7 is a fluid. And right now, redesigned apps are still “solid” apps with the old interactions: iOS 6 apps with an iOS 7 veneer.
I expect this won’t last long. Soon the visual changes will seem familiar and it’ll be easier to explore the rich new interaction model. In 18 months we’ll look back to apps today and hardly recognize them.
Point #2: The brightly-colored-flat-header-with-integrated-status-bar-and-resulting-mismatched-alignment-and-fonts is kind of a disaster. It does not look good.
Thirdly, redesigned apps in iOS 7 feel colder than their iOS 6 counterparts — and, in fact, colder than Apple’s own iOS 7 apps. It’s a difficult thing to articulate, and it’s not necessarily a bad thing, but here’s one example: the new Twitter.
[Update: I previously had an erroneous Instagram screenshot in here]
Both are well-implemented designs. But the subtle gradients of the original provide a softness and nuance that’s lacking from the new design. Gradients and shadows, while often abused, aren’t necessarily bad. Wielded properly they can be very effective tools. But many great developers have seemingly removed them from their toolbox altogether, resulting in designs that are sterile and less friendly.
Final thing: My favorite designs are the ones that go all-in with a particular aesthetic, but then pull back 10% in an unexpected direction. Right now, there’s a definite lack of nuance and exploration with the 3rd Party iOS 7 apps out there. I was discussing this with my brother, and he hit the nail on the head:
I think what you’re describing is kind of like a caricature. When you do a caricature, you take every part of the person to 100% – you don’t pull back. It’s like “Oh, you have big ears, so I’m gonna give you the biggest damn ears you ever saw.” Or with design – “Oh you want flat, then I’m gonna give you the flattest damn thing you ever saw”. And because of that, you get the essence of the person – or the design – but it’s distorted and far more unpleasant than the real thing. And then you compare that to a real sketch of someone – you don’t take it 100%. You keep things in their proper proportion and the result is an improved likeness to the person (or the design), and a much more pleasant appearance.
It would be like if Apple was designing Hugh Laurie pictures instead of apps and gave guidance “Ok, he’s got a long face and big eyes”. Then all the designers went and did this:
Instead of trying to capture the real thing, which is far better:
By Adam Grossman