First off, I love Mike Rundle. We met a few years ago at a design conference in San Diego, and I’ve followed his work for even longer. Mike just posted an article listing his disappointments in the iOS7 design, and it’s definitely making me think—so much so that I’m writing a sort of “blog reply.” Keep in mind, this is just an off-the-cuff experiment to show how different designers look at solutions and it’s completely done in good nature.
If there is a gamut of interface design execution and symbolism where rich, detailed, skeuomorphic design is on the left and flat, robotic, sparse design is on the right, iOS 7 is solidly planted on the right. It’s the anti-iOS 6 and everything before it. Hell, it’s anti-Apple and everything before it.
Apple didn’t get famous by using existing trends to define the look of their products.
Pure text-based buttons with no visual indication of buttonness, that is, no shape around them, really don’t look right to me. They look unfinished, naked, unclear and raw. And what makes a text label look different from a tappable label? Just color? Well I hope no one is using color in their interfaces unless everything that’s not black-and-white is tappable.
I agree, for sure, that adding minimalism means adding constraints, but it’s not impossible. Look at Medium, the web app that your post is written on. No underlines for links, no buttons—and it works. Granted, one could say the discoverability on the web is improved my Mr. White Glove, but still, what’s the cognitive overhead in trying to push a bit of text once with your finger? Not much, especially compared with moving a mouse to position a cursor over some text.
The proportions of symbols within their boundaries (either in a tab bar or in an icon) look wrong, and big things look smushed into small visual containers.
I disagree, but I believe this may be a matter of taste, and also perhaps a bit of it just feeling “new.” Definitely want hands-on time with it to get a sense of the proportions.
Gradients are no longer used to suggest the type of realism that a 90° light source would indicate, rather they’re used in icons haphazardly, sometimes shifting between two wholly different hues.
This may be indicative of a larger conceptual shift. These gradients aren’t here to provide depth as they may have in the past, they’re here for decoration—potentially to bring life to what would be lifeless glyphs in most flat design. The fact that the gradients are still at 90° is potentially more of an attempt to look consistent with existing apps and iOS of yesteryear (though their angle now is far less important on its own).
There are no text shadows or box shadows that I could see. There are no subtle indications of curvature in user interface elements. Everything is black, white, or some vibrant, eye-popping hue.
I think you might just be wrong on this one. I saw subtle shadows in a ton of places. Color is actually much more sparse—typically trying to merge with underlying content. Only place the coloring seems overt to me is the home screen icons (which are the content of those screens).
I really wonder what the Apple designers who worked tirelessly on iOS 6 think. Did they think that everything they were designing looked awful before starting to work on iOS 7? Or were they nudged in the “flat design” direction by Jony Ive and then drank the Kool-Aid only after being prodded for awhile? Are they tremendously proud of their work, which is essentially completely different from all their previous work? Do they think that it’s fundamentally better, or just fundamentally different?
I think they shot for fundamentally different and better. They definitely hit the first, the second remains to be seen.
I really like some of the interactions and transitions which appear to be more physics-based. Blurring out the previous screen when displaying an overlay looks awesome and has been very difficult to do in the past in iOS without diving close to the bare metal of graphics processing frameworks.
To stay true to the title of this post, I will say this: If anything, it looks like Apple may have leaned too heavily on blurring as a means to provide depth within the UI. Looks great in some places, I’m not so sure in others.
I expected iOS 7 to be much flatter than iOS 6, but still with subtle curvatures, inset highlights and shadows to indicate subtlety and realism and that the interface was emulating some physical materials. I was very wrong. iOS 7 is as flat as a board.
Here is possibly where I disagree the most: I think iOS 7 is entrenched with depth and flare. So much so that I actually think it was a bit too rich for my personal taste—But it makes a statement. It looks in the rigid, cold face of Windows 8 and says, “No no, these things are built to feel good.”
But I Digress
By no means am I completely in love with everything that came out today. For one, Control Center gives me anxiety. That’s a lot of buttons and layouts and text, all atop a massive blur. Also, Game Center's switch to glowing orbs doesn't really resonate for me. At least the green felt metaphor applied and connected. It feels to me like they decided not to do skeuomorphic, needed it to feel “fun,” and just threw something together.
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that this is a preview and things may change. And neither Mike, nor I, have had a chance to try it on a device—which I’m sure we both agree will provide the real measure of its success (or failings). And now both of us, I’m sure, should probably get back to our actual work…