Its finally here. The new iOs design.
Or be it not that new, its design principles are almost over-the-hill-old-fashioned being “flat design”.
For all the ones before us lets pick one to bully. Windows 8. Very flat, very colorful and positively fresh and tasteful in my opinion.
That being said it’s not the best operating system design-language one can think of for app developers. The language proves to be hard to adapt even for Microsoft’s own team in feature heavy apps like Word, Powerpoint and Excel (e.g.).
But wait! We have best practices, a design guide, and a whole app-submit-process and a ton of consultants helping developers and designers alike to get true Metro (or Modern UI) apps.
And yet, often app designs fail
Apps generally look the same, haven’t got a tailored look and feel and hardly support brand awareness at all. Even worse, apps are often hard to use because the UI let’s little room for nuancing and pronouncing certain features. Thus making it hard to create the needed visual hierarchy for users. Let alone make ‘progressive disclosure’ easy to implement since all interactions and features are stuck on fixed places and patterns.
But patterns are a good thing… jus imagine what would happen if we just let everyone go about putting chrome on everything.
Very true. But a well balanced, flexible yet poised visual ecosystem is needed to ensure this. Make it too rigid, or too minimal and apps will be forced to be too similar. That in turn will force designers to come up with workarounds, loopholes and tricks to still get the result needed for their app. Needless to say that we now have all the ingredients in place for a colossal user experience issue.
iOs 6 was a very prime example of such a well crafted and balanced design ecosystem. Flexible enough for developers to do what’s needed, rigid enough to ensure a uniform Apple-premium experience and very, very user friendly. And then Apple launched iOs 7… Canceling almost all that’s great about the iOs design system. The result…. Windows 8 like apps on iOs.
Just look at the “new” Facebook app. and you’ll see my point. Shadows are gone, gradients killed and translucent menubars are added. The result? A crappy user experience where even I (said the guy) lost my way the moment I opened the app.
It’s hard to get flat design exactly right, really. It’s more then just removing shadows and gradients. And if you are a bit careless you’ll remove all design patterns in the process. Hereto Apple’s own designers are mishitting a lot of design basics: opposing gradients, tactile and flat don’t mix, tiny icons, poor type and translucent whites that create unwanted pastels and even blurs (and boy did we complain about it). But my point here is to be better than that as the app design community.
So. Dev and desses, please take notice when preparing your app for the new iOs. It’s not just a simple re-skin. It’s a full redesign where the rules have changed completely.