iOS7 got it’s UI design all wrong!

If you know me you’ll already know my opinions about the new iOS7 and at the risk of alienating myself from family and friends on certain social media platforms I thought it might be better to blog about this to the world, as apposed to putting them to sleep with my rants!

Having downloaded iOS7 recently I was shocked at how bad it was! I hear users having mixed opinions about it. Personally I really dislike if for many reasons and I hear a higher proportion of dislikers than likers to be honest. Some of the comments I’ve already heard are “I hate it!”, “It looks like a Tonker toy design”, “it reminds me of a VTech product”. Personally I think it looks like a rejected iteration of a Google app but, Google got it right in the end! There has always been a status symbol behind most Apple products due to their expense and seriously iPhone users need to get over that “Apple Status Syndrome” and be honest about this user interface – I’m sorry iOS7 got it’s UI design all wrong this time!

Now, due to the industry I’m in, I’ve kind of grown up with Apple products since the early 90’s and over all I have to say I’ve been a pretty loyal fan. What makes Apple so unique is the ease of use and intuitive nature of it’s software and products. Once you get over the expense the experience of using one of their products soon makes you feel like a technical god, dipping in and out of system setups, controlling preferences, fine tuning an application to your own personal workflow, yes even a child could use it without screwing it up!

So whats wrong with iOS7? Well, I’m a designer and a developer so I like to see things that look nice as well as function well and because I’m not Mashable or in bed with Apple I’m going to be honest about the UI from here on in.

Gestures

Ok so the gestures, before iOS7 it was obvious what was a doing element and what was an information element. For some reason the designers seem to have done away with simple subliminal call to actions that suggest to the user “touch this it’s a doing thing” now it’s just a text element which can look very confusing in my opinion to the user.

gestures

Icons

The icons look like they’re unfinished cad elements, thinly drawn and almost decorative rather than actionable! In some cases they appear as a very light colours on a white background making them even harder to subliminally register that they are ‘doing elements’.

icons

Alignment

Simply spacing elements and lining them up to make an object look like a whole thing is text book design theory. Simple geometric alignment works and really bugs the hell out of me if I see something that isn’t quite right. In this example the number pad is way out there breaking all kinds of spacing and alignment rules – this looks like an example of a ‘how not to do it’ exercise! I can’t believe this got approved?!

spacing-elements

Calendar

The calendar has been really screwed up in my opinion. Before you simply had the current day and a convenient list of items for that day under a grid of dates, now its a mass of months and tiny tiny dates where somewhere there’s an indication of what day it is, if you put your glasses on! Once you find the month you need to touch to get a larger view of it, there’s one gesture that isn’t obvious! Touch for a second time to get the details – now I guess that gesture is obvious but two touches to get what before was zero touches? What’s that all about!

calendar

The other things I think are wrong are that the font is too thin in places and white out on a colour  is going to have accessibility issues. Now this might not have been on the priority list granted but it’s still important in my opinion, it’s too light and airy in places but that’s just a personal thing, I prefer bold and confident – eg: look at me I’m a functional thing for doing things, I’m not a girly floral light hearted magazine to browse through with a cup of coffee!

Ok so, I’m no Steve Jobs but without a doubt there is no way he would have approved this weak and thin design. What I am though is a designer and there are some things known as disciplines that designers adhere to to help them make things look nice and work well. For me the new iOS7 doesn’t conform to any of these disciplines, it’s inconsistent and weak in places! Users are saying we’ll get used to it and that might be true but I’m sure as hell going to rant about it if it makes me feel better!

16 thoughts on “iOS7 got it’s UI design all wrong!

  1. Hear hear! The calendar is awful, I was using it last night and got very frustrated when I couldn’t see what I was doing on a daily basis without clicking on each individual day and then back and then click and then back. And then Mail, I ended up archiving something by accident. Also, with videos, took me a while to work out you have to click the faded out almost black ‘Done’ button to go back. Just silly…

  2. Within 30mins of using ios7 with its dreadful colours and contrasts I developed a migraine. According to Apple Customer Care it was my choice to download the update and Apple are not responsible for my health whilst using their product!!! I havent found a single redeeming thing about it, apps have been moved around with some not appearing at all, it drops calls, texts & emails disappear out into the ether! Apple stores are running out of replacement products as the IOS7 application is turning many products into shiny bricks. Check your iTunes too, my partner has lost over 40gigs of music. I could go on and on but for most of the day I ignore my iphone now.

  3. Hated it at first, just reminded me of what I can only assume some other phones OS looks like. Getting used to it, but still not liking it compared to the skeuomorphic design of before. Steve Jobs would be turning in his grave!

  4. Something that I think your analysis ignores is the impact of history on this redesign. iOS was groundbreaking because it was a touch interface that intuitively taught a new user how to work it, without needing any training or expert knowledge (my son at 20 months could work iOS 6 like a pro). However, thanks to iOS, pretty much everyone now knows how a touch interface works. Therefore, do we still need the more obvious (and some may say clumsy) visual cues to do what we already know how to use? Remember, there are hundreds of millions of devices running iOS, and a very high number of them will be users who had their device whilst still running iOS 5 or 6. So, if I know that I need to go, to a particular place in the screen to send a message, do I still need a big, blocky visual cue? I accept that this might be confusing for new users to iOS, but they will be very much in the minority. Besides, even if the learning curve is a bit steeper, it is hardly advanced science.

    Secondly, regarding the calendar – don’t forget that iDevices have accelerometers. Tilt the screen to landscape, and you immediately go to the current week with a timeline layout of events. No touching needed.

    Lastly, I’d say that you are approaching this as a professional designer. No offence, but that means you aren’t an average user! Talking to non-techies, the only complaint I’ve really heard is about the colour palette (I agree that it’s not to everyone’s taste, but whatever). I’ve not heard any complaints about the functionality. That suggests to me, that Apple has actually got a lot of it right. They weren’t designing for you, they were designing for the average user who isn’t going to notice the niggles that you are 🙂

  5. My thoughts on IOS7

    I’ve spent the past week or so griping and constantly talking about IOS7 and questioning why I upgraded. I Lecture visual communication at a university and before this I was a designer & developer and occasionally still am. I love visual communication and I’m also a long-time Apple fan.

    After reading this post it filled with me pride to find that other designer / developers (who clearly cares about our industry) share almost the exact same points of view as me.

    First off I completely agree with all the points that you have made in this blog. I also agree that the whole design formula is wrong with this product. Taking the strategy from the top where the brand should dilute it’s way down through user experience feels as though it’s full of holes. So I’m talking about the functionality, how this feels to use and more importantly to my particular interest – how visual communication has been used strategically to help users navigate their way through the device.

    My first initial gripe comes with the hierarchy and how this fails through what feels an absence of visual assets that should be part of the operating systems common navigational signage (library). As displayed by the screen grab provided in this blog post, we are now substituted with type. Now I’m all for type and minimalism in design but we simply have no direct visual anchors for our eye’s to latch onto on the screen. It’s not even as though apple have used a typeface that famously identifies itself as being ‘Apple’ or identifiable to the device. I’m more inclined to say ‘Orange – the mobile phone company’ than Apple.

    So I battled past this painful disturbance in what I consider to be an ill-considered use of screen real estate, eye flow and hierarchy, resulting in poor contrasting cheap blandness.

    The next big issue that struck me was the independence of visual languages and structures that appear in what I call the local apps (apps provided by apple that are defaults of the device). The email app formula feels like a mish mash of using block square methods (when swiping to delete or move), free-floating type at the top and then icons at the bottom. I’m sorry I just don’t buy into this. As much you have mentioned this in your post about action based divisions of the screen, I’m confused how to identify what is actually making up these action-based visuals anymore. Are we now using icons? Coloured panels? Type? Or all three?

    Let’s move sideways for a moment and look at the pitiful excuse that is the browser. Again substandard visual hierarchy or contrast at the top of the app that greets us with a boring blend of grey, black and white icons. When we press the web address bar we are given the option to cancel just to the right, which feels aesthetically correct. This is once again achieved with the use of text as a button. So to the top right of the screen is the option to cancel – got it. I call up my web page and start to scroll and look at that, the app beautifully detracts my supporting functions giving me full exposure to the page I’m viewing. I now want to go back and after much bumbling around (and multiples times of scrolling back to the top) I discover that if I place my finger tip in the very bottom corner I get my lower menu set back. Ok so this time it’s represented by some rather boring linear designed icons that look like some blueprint artist had his wicked way with a biro. I press the share icon and find that the cancel button is at the bottom of the screen in a completely different type size. OK grrr! Lets bookmark – hmmm a menu in every corner of an insanely bland screen yet again. Let’s switch tabs and wow! A completely different set of rules, layout and environment yet again, fab!. Where oh where is familiarity and constants – interactive 101.

    So lets jump over to Music and play something. Great!, we know have red type, slightly smaller that pulls up an awful lower menu when we press the repeat command. We have an easily recognized menu icon at the top right that again gives us two boring type options. This should have worked like the shortcut menu I mention later in this post.

    So clearly you can see where I’m going with all of this. I’m not going through each app and ranting to high hell about them, which I can easily do. My huge gripe here are two things: Brand Ownership through family relashships and design consistency (familiarities in apps). Yes this is now one of the most boring looking apple products ever but not so much as it is an insulting product to the designers who have followed them for years. This is just wrong, it just breaks to many rules and it’s insufficient, immature and cheap. This feels as though it could in many ways become the Papyrus to the typographer. These core apple apps should feel as though they are siblings of the OS rather than a series of castaways that have no inter-relationships whatsoever.

    I utterly detest the Music, browser and calendar apps to the point where I could throw the phone. These three apps are high usage apps that should have evolved into so much more established on-board favorites and not this poor-hierarchical un-exciting tosh. It really is a big let down.

    I’m not a big fan of the new gradient colour system. It conflicts with the boring white unstructured screens that follow. It’s a bit like opening a colouring book. Big mental splashy coloured clown on the cover, VAG rounded screaming ‘Colouring Book’ and blobs of expressive paint only to find that when you open it it you’ve lost the glossy coated cover and been hit with cheap, thoroughly absorbent paper with black and white pictures on it. However, I can live with it. Let’s all be honest here though, it’s probably more feminine as a product now with respect to the home screen.

    When you run your finger from the bottom of the phone upwards to pull up the shortcut menus (the one with the torch) you get the best and only considered designed screen on the device. I love this screen! It’s a touch visually cluttered around the music section but that’s come from the app so say no more. This ability to look at a square, then a rounded box and on to a circle has a real prospected intelligence. It screams out “give us ranks and roles”. Squares could be top-level actions; round buttons could be sub and so on. This screen is a breath of fresh air. Ok, so it feels like it’s the work of a product designer and not a graphic designer but hey, it’s nice. I say this because I feel as though its technical drawing paper stock or a layout pad.

    Lets double tap the menu – another inconsistency! Why doesn’t this section behave the same way as the browser multi-tab view does? I mean c’mon, seriously why? Is it a case of throwing everything at this device? Surely apple has designer’s there that know this stuff. That by stripping back and creating shared elements you build consistency, you build a family, a familiarity for the user experience.

    Open your calculator – perfect.

    This is a great use of screen space, great grid, great colors, great contrast, great usability and simplicity. Now open notes, you instantly get a feeling for what is ‘considered design’ and what’s not on this OS.

    I’ll leave with the icons. I live and design in a world where visual communications puts more emphasis on communication as it does over the visual. Everybody needs to be able to get it, to understand it. What the hell do these icons mean? What do they say to us?

    I get this whole simplicity that’s taking place in the design industry right now. eBay simplifying they’re brand, Google simplifying recently. Windows 8. I get how and why Apple want a musical note for the music section. This ownership of such a globally recognized icon that’s almost primal in this generation’s culture is a fantastically powerful thing to own. It would be like local back swapping their icon to £ sign (wouldn’t work globally I know). However this formula simply isn’t working with it’s current icon set. Phone, Mail and Music are great icons, but the Weather, Clock and Calendar icons are more complex in build rules and appear unregulated to any design formula. Please don’t tell me that this is deliberate because the safari icon is overcomplicated too and that resides docked amongst the other ‘simple 3’.

    So its clear that what we’re experiencing on the whole here is too many visual languages at play and no master set controlling them. Sometimes this OS is about blocks of colour and grids, other times it’s about poor hierarchy and minimalism and finally it clings onto icon association. This feels like a step backwards and a step into the future of potentially bad design all at once. There are so many glimmers of fantastic design on this OS that are smothered by the adequate. I even feel at times that this feels like a product designer trying performing as a Graphic Designer – there is a fantastic difference in these two disciplines.

    The 5C is unexpected from Apple but I assume it’s a case of: make a cheaper product and create a wider captive audience to make more money where it really counts – the App Store and surrounding Marketplace. OK I buy that with the recession but I don’t see Ferrari making 1.0 green cars. I loved Apple’s elitism.

    My closing comment, Designing for the screen is a fantastically enjoyable process that steps out of the bounds of print. There are so many more enjoyable factors to consider that at times that can help you escape difficult situations through the quirky use of a gesture over a button. I love blocking up a screen space, zoning out sections, granting roles and permissions to these sections, assigning furniture within design. It’s identity, it’s signage, it’s navigation, and it’s instruction and the dissections and delivery of information. It’s what I know as visual communication. I just hope that Apple remember that this was something that they did and made it look exceptionally easy. That they were the company to follow and that they showed us what to do, what typefaces to use and so on. This addition to the apple family has left me feeling deflated and for the first time I see apple as followers.

    I hope this has been a misdirection that they learn from and continue to take Apple forward as a company that makes beautiful things and ‘Think Different’.

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