Apple released their new operating system with much fanfare and media buzz. There are some who wonder what the hoopla is about; it looks different, there are some new features, but hey, its still an iPhone.
The fact of the matter is that there are some significant changes to the interaction design that must be understood. The changes to the user experience are subtle, but pervasive and incredibly important to end users and content providers alike. Failing to understand and include these changes, will result in a delivery of apps that feel dated and fail to engage customers.
This posting helps readers understand why brand managers have to adapt to the new OS, the nature of the changes, and how to begin working with the new platform.
Users are adopting rapidly, and are demanding
It is evident that adoption of iOS7 will be unparalleled. Chitika reported "In the first two days of availability (Wed-Fri), nearly 32 percent of North American iOS web-based traffic has come from the new operating system. iOS 6, released last September, took three days to reach the 30 percent mark." The eyes are upon iOS7 and it is time to take action.
The update to iOS7 is a big change that demands rapid assimilation. Minor updates in the past have occurred, and those who did not align in a timely manner fell short of delivering a solid experience. For example, the release of the iPhone 5 came with new dimensions to the screen size. Apps that were not updated to fit new screen size were letterboxed in the center of the screen, meaning the apps were sandwiched between two black bars to fill the excess space.
This led to negative reviews from customers used to the latest and greatest. One user mentioned “We’re used to going to the bottom of the screen for the [tab bar], but because the older apps are centered on the screen, the menus aren’t there. I tap a few times before I realize I have to move my thumb up a little bit.” It was a small difference, but it was enough to throw off the experience. People are using their devices every day to a point where their actions become muscle memory. Small changes can amplify quickly. Imagine the potential for disruption that the iOS7 changes will have. This article is going to explain a selection of the major changes:
- Flat Design
- Transparent Design
- Touch Interactions
- Dynamic Text
Flat Design demands for focus on a purpose
Flat Design is one big change that has come with iOS7. Gone are the days of texture and gloss. Beginning with the app icons, there has been a serious amount of visual “fluff” subtracted from the designs. Strive for visual simplicity by honing in on purpose. Understanding purpose will help in developing a flatter design, which will align with the modernity of iOS7. Best practices for mobile design have already pressed for removing the excess from design, and focusing on the purpose. Thinking flat is not the only solution but it is one that can help to achieve this simplicity.
Transparent Design adds nuance and dimension
Transparent Design provides a sense of cohesiveness that will help give the user context of where they are in their system. David Cole, a designer at Quora explains “It’s less about resolving inconsistent linen textures and more about underscoring the fact that your app is right there waiting for you behind whatever it is you’re doing”. Dimension is added to the experience through layers. For example, the notifications drawer is now a translucent layer that allows users to see through to the app they were using or to their home screen. It tells the user where they are, where they came from and where they can go, all at the same time. Consider how transparency can help to act as a guide to the user throughout the experience.
Animation conveys depth and context
Animation is a key element in providing context. “The new design language of iOS revolves around animations as primary storytelling elements, not pixel art.” Matthew Panzarino, managing editor of The Next Web presents a strong point about how animation will have an impact on the user experience. Like transparency, new animations have been employed to give the user context; to tell a story as Matthew puts it. Animation contributes the added sense of dimension as the users interact with the system. It is time to put more thought into the transitions between the screens. For example, looking to Google Earth, upon opening, the user is given a high level view of earth from outer space. Then there is a zoom transition guiding the user to their desired location. Subtle hints and movements can add a lot in terms of orienting the user.
Touch Interactions are becoming more intricate
Touch Interactions are an integral part of the iOS experience. With iOS7, Apple has added to the vocabulary of gestures. One new interaction that apple has added is a “swipe to go back” gesture. For all apps that now use a left-drawer navigation, this is important to take note of. If brands want to align with the “swipe to go back” gesture, it will be key to think about how to marry the drawer navigation with the new back-swiping functionality, or to abandon the drawer all together. Facebook has gone ahead with using the bottom-bar menu structure in their iPhone app. This could be in anticipation of the issue that the swiping drawer may cause. Interfering with the system interactions will lead to a frustrating experience. The end goal is to be in harmony with the system, not to compete with it. Apple has released a UI Transition Guide for developers. Getting acquainted with the guide will be a good first step in aligning with the new update and becoming a part of iOS7.
(screenshots from the app store)
Dynamic Text calls for a more personalized experience
Dynamic text, put simply, is the ability to change the text size throughout the system. The more interesting aspect of the story is that Apple has painstakingly considered how to design for optimal legibility at every possible text size. Apple is releasing a tool kit that gives developers the ability to utilize this experience. Jürgen Siebert, CMO of FontShop remarked “Apple’s mobile products will be the first electronic devices that will by default consider a quality of type that hasn’t been given so much attention since the age of letterpress”. Legibility is an imperative in communication, and type quality can seriously improve this. Brands that do not take advantage of the tool kit will risk delivering a dated experience – picture something analogous to going from a high resolution display to an older, lower one. The use text kit is very likely to become a requirement in the future; it will be smart to begin implementation now. Looking to the web, text is moving away from being styled in points and pixels and moving towards “ems” which is a measure of relativity. As window zoom changes, text size will change as well. It is a consideration for accessibility that has been thought through. It is now time to put it into action.
First Steps to Start:
This is a great time to get involved with what is changing in iOS7. Put the operating system on your device, and explore it. Check out industry leaders who have released iOS7 apps, and see if there are aspects worth elaborating on. Based on research of the apps that have already updated for iOS7, it appears a common solution is to “dress like iOS7” first and take advantage of animations and interactions second. An example would be “AnyList”. The visual design reflects iOS7, but they have yet to take advantage of animations and transitions, the little things that delight a user.
In a situation where so much has changed, developers and designers have a lot on their plate and prioritization is going to be key. Individually, all project a visual effect, but together they join to project an effect that can be felt. To really nail iOS7, it will be important to put more weight and thought into the interaction design rather than put too much focus on the visual design. Huffington Post, for example, has updated their app and put thought into how they can embody the soul of iOS7. They took after the new multi-tasking ability and implemented it in a way that allows the user to switch article sections.
By taking from what is successful and understanding why something does not work, it’s possible to start designing for the new look and feel.
Any one of these changes, properly applied, makes a big difference to user experience and brand perception. In aggregate, it is a significant change to how applications feel, and customers will quickly come to expect it. It is important to have a plan of action moving forward. Take the changes that were discussed and consider how they may fit in the mobile strategy. Understand how flat design can act as a tool to help simplify the user experience. Consider transparency and its ability to act as a guide. Put serious thought into transitions of the app and try to push the envelope in how animation can help tell the story. Get acquainted with the Human Interface Guidelines of the new iOS and aim for an experience that works in harmony with it. Keep in mind that users are all different and may prefer to see text larger or smaller. Take advantage of the dynamic text tool kit to deliver an experience that responds to the user. Brands who don’t act now risk becoming old news, just as iOS6 will be, in a short time. Taking a step back to understand a brand’s purpose, and harnessing these features of the new iOS will give brand managers, designers, and strategists the edge needed to stay on top in mobile space.