Apple’s most significant announcements have traditionally taken place at their annual WWDC, and this year proved to be no exception. Of the many developments, the updated iOS 7 is arguably the most exciting and controversial; its design overhaul has set the world abuzz. Here is what Xtreme Labs’ design team thinks of the changes.
The clean and modern UI, with its sharper, brighter and whiter style, is a refreshing and eagerly awaited departure from earlier iOS versions. Some will be shocked at the marked change, but overall attention to white space, more refined typography, and a sense of depth through translucency are just some of the positive attributes of the new design. Though it does seem to reference other operating systems and apps, this is inevitable since interface design in general has been trending towards a much flatter approach.
We definitely won’t miss the green felt or leather metaphors which were a part of earlier app designs. Skeuomorphism, though not always a bad thing, had been making earlier versions of the OS feel a little stale, so it’s nice to see Apple making the leap forward in this regard. All of the stock apps have been redesigned, with the calendar, weather and Safari browser being some of the most impressive. They not only look better but seem to function better as well, since information is more easily digestible, not hidden in gradients and textures.
A few inconsistencies in iconography and buttons were noticed, but we expect these details to be fine-tuned before final release.
Some exciting new functionality has been incorporated in iOS 7, such as sliding, gesture-based navigation and the easily accessible Control Center, which allows quick access to key functions previously buried in Settings. We’re also very pleased with the automatic updating of apps through the App Store in the background, thereby eliminating the need to manually update.
Use of the accelerometer to produce the parallax effect establishes a sense of depth and hierarchy. For example, home screen icons appear to float on top of the background wallpaper, producing an interesting visual effect.
Many new additions and improvements have been made to the music player, camera and photos, as well as Safari, Siri and in-car functionality. We were quite impressed by the scope of these changes and eagerly look forward to exploring them when iOS 7 is released this fall.
Though iOS 7 feels more dynamic and modern, we are somewhat concerned that less tech-savvy users could feel lost in the new environment since it’s such a departure from earlier versions. A few of us worried about how our moms would adapt to the new style, as some familiar details have been removed. Now that a “button” no longer resembles a physical button, the flat design may lead to reduced discoverability.
Some of the most beautiful apps in the app store today exist because the OS environment allowed the use of variable visual elements and styles. It may prove difficult for brands to implement their logos and colours in the same manner as before, resulting in apps that are stripped of many of their visual differentiators. We hope the guidelines will outline ways in which designers and developers are able to customize their apps in this new UI paradigm.
Though the flatter, cleaner approach is celebrated for being devoid of superfluous ornamentation; homogenization of visual styles across platforms could reduce how recognizable Apple’s products are from others.
The new design is a superbly bold move that Apple has made. It’s refreshing to see iOS moving towards a modern and minimal approach stripped down to the most useful elements, although it remains to be seen how effective this new design paradigm will be. iOS has built an outstanding relationship with its users and developers over a number of years and we are curious to see how such a drastic change will be embraced by that community.
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