Tagged: ux

iOS 7 gets flatter, more transparent

iOS 7 logoUnless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve probably heard that Apple was overhauling iOS. The rumors had been swirling for months saying that Jonny Ive had led the design team in a new, flatter, minimalistic and all around, exact opposite of the current iOS. Gone would be the leather stitching, cloth textures and strange skeuomorphic experiences.

Well, the rumors were pretty dead on. iOS 7 will be a completely new beast (visually at least). During the big keynote at the World Wide Developers Conference yesterday, Apple took the wraps off the new iOS. It’s definitely flat, definitely not skeuomorphic and the textures are kept to a minimum. Transparency and sense of depth are design themes. The standard Apple apps have all been rethought. The interface seems to do a much better job of getting out of the way and let you see the content. Safari, for example, has its navigation “chrome” disappear so the Web page you’re viewing can take over your screen.

Screen Shot 2013-06-11 at 10.26.26 AM

Overall, I’m impressed. They’ve gone into a bold new direction. Sure a lot of the ideas are borrowed from jailbreak hacks or other operating systems, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t great. Many of the cries for a sleeker interface and easier to use quick functions have been answered. Swiping up from the bottom gives you access to switch on and off wifi, bluetooth, do not disturb, screen brightness, etc. It’s simple, not ground breaking, but it’s what they needed. Notifications, multi-tasking, app switching and much more have all been overhauled. The type alone is worth upgrading. It’s big, beautiful and used to communicate effectively. This truly is a big update for iOS and I cannot wait to install it.

iOS-screenshots

At this point, it’s probably important to note I haven’t used this hands on yet. That said, my biggest criticism right now has to be the icons. I’m all for flatter, less glossy icons. That really works in some cases. In others, I just don’t get it (in the case of Game Center, what are those bubbles for?) or I just feel uneasy about them (I’m looking at you Safari, perhaps it’s the stark white square you sit in?). Maybe in my hand they’ll look better, or at the very least I’ll get used to them.

The second thing that worries me is the transparency. It’s cool in the screnshots they provide but how will it actually react with your own photos as backgrounds? How will it work in the sunlight? I hesitate to critique it too much without using it, so my final judgement on transparency will have to wait.

I won’t ramble on too much more, but I will add you should definitely check out the iOS 7 teaser page at Apple’s site. There is a lot of change coming to an iDevice near you this fall. I, for one, am chomping at the bit to start playing with this new design direction. It might not be perfect, but it’s a step in a new direction and that was much needed. What do you think?

The User is Drunk

User experiences and interfaces are some of my greatest interests. My love of design and technology fuels this, but even in everyday life I am constantly thinking of user experiences. Whether it’s using a self-checkout at a supermarket or driving through a round-about, my mind is always thinking of how it could be better or how clever it is. That’s why I really enjoyed this little video called “The User is Drunk.” It’s a humorous take on user interfaces, but it makes very valid points.

When I’m designing websites and other interfaces, I’m always trying to keep things simple, elegant and most importantly easy to use. The video points out imagining the user as drunk is one way to ensure your end user’s experience is a good one. My personal rule of thumb has always been, “Can my mom use this?” but “the user is drunk” works too. Either way, the point is the same. Interfaces shouldn’t be complicated. A user shouldn’t have to have a computer science degree to fill out your form. In the video, he brings up the point that a good user interface disappears  I couldn’t agree more. The less you notice an interface and just get done whatever you were trying to do, the better.

Enjoy this little video, and pay attention. There are some great points in there, even if the title is a bit funny.

Design Find: iOS 7 Concepts

I’m always intrigued by exciting new interface designs, and these iOS 7 concepts by Mohamed Kerroudj are no exception. Kerroudj shows what a dramatic overhaul of the iOS interface could look like. It’s beautifully minmal, but also adds a lot of new functionality. I’m sure Apple will never implement quite this much change (at least all in one OS update), but there are still some great concepts.

I particularly like being able to perform simple functions and manage notifications right on the lock screen. The overall feel is much cleaner and more fresh. It still feels very Apple-like (maybe even more so), while giving iOS that update we’ve all been clamoring for. I hope Apple takes note and incorporates something similar.

Take a look at the videos below, and let me know what your favorite parts are in the comments. Have you seen some great concept videos or images? Share a link, I’d love to see them.


Opinion: How to improve iOS

I know, I know, just what the world needs, another article on how to make the iPhone (and other iOS devices) better. Well, it’s true there’s no shortage of user dreams for iOS, but that doesn’t mean I can’t throw my two cents in. Here are a few ways how Apple could improve iOS to keep it current and improve the overall user experience.

Screenshot of iOS notification with delete button mocked up.Swipe to clear notifications: Have you ever not paid attention to your phone for a while? On occasion, I’ll leave it sit in my pocket on a long drive or while I’m in a meeting. Afterwards, I’m overwhelmed with the number of notifications on screen. Usually I’ll try to delete them, but Apple tiny little “x” doesn’t like my man-sized fingers. Furthermore, I don’t always want to delete all of the notifications from an app. Wouldn’t it be nice if Apple added support to “swipe” across a particular notification and a delete button popped up (think of the experience in Mail; see mock up at right)? I’d like to see this functionality in both the notification center and the lock screen.

Set your own default apps: A few years ago Apple apps were top notch. Now they’ve seemingly remained stagnant, and there is a wealth of better designed, easier to use and all around more enjoyable third party apps. It’s time Apple opens up a little and lets users set their own default apps. I’m in love with Mailbox and already use it as my main mail app. Wouldn’t it be great if iOS knew and respected that? I hate being in another app and trying to share something via email only to get Apple Mail app. Same goes for browsers, maps, etc. You can still ship your stuff, Apple, but let me choose what to use.

Siri API: Oh, Siri… I had such hope for you. Siri in theory is a really useful assistant. But in practice, she leaves a lot to be desired. Turn by turn directions are finally there, and you can look up movie showtimes, but I want more. Obviously setting your own default apps would take use a step closer to usefulness but I want a full-fledged API. I want developers to have access to Siri so she can do wonderful things. “Siri, check me into Starbucks”

iWatch: So this isn’t so much an iOS request as it is a new product, but I see them closely related. I want a watch that will make Siri useful (talking to my wrist is better than talking to my phone, which if in my hand, I can easily type on). I want the ability to easily glance at my watch to see who’s calling or texting or emailing, maybe even let me use canned responses right on the device. The Pebble is a start, but I think only Apple can make it a truly seamless experience.

Better app management: I literally have a dozen pages of apps on my phone. Needless to say, I’m not even sure what’s on there beyond the first couple pages. I’ve tried to organize, but it’s a daunting task, and it should be so much easier. For starters, don’t make my apps slide to the upper left corner. I want to place apps in specific spots and have them stay there. Sometimes I might want a gap between apps, it’s no big deal, just let me do it! I’d also like to see the ability to move more than one app at a time. I think there are jailbreak tweaks to do these things, but I shouldn’t have to do that. It should be easy and standard.

Alert sounds: The thing I miss most about Android is being able to customize every single little sound my phone makes. I customized apps to have alerts that let me know what was happening and whether or not it was worth pulling my phone out of my pocket. To some extent you can customize sounds on your iPhone, but it’s very limited. I hear the same ding for most apps, and it’d be nice to know if a game wants my attention or if it’s something more important. It seems this is left up to individual developers to add their own sounds right now, but I want to take it further, let me set the sound. I want to do custom sounds, so I know exactly what I’m being pinged for, and it’s not the same default sound that everyone else in the room has.

Web app notifications: Sometimes a native app isn’t the answer. One of the downsides to a Web app, however, is the inability to send users notifications. With modern browsers like Chrome and Safari allowing Web apps to take advantage of desktop notifications, why shouldn’t your phone or tablet? Hopefully this would cut down on some of those “native” apps that just wrap up a website. I saw a good mock up of this recently but I cannot seem to re-find it.

There are plenty of other ideas I didn’t add, but the above are some of my biggest desires. What would you like to see added in iOS 7? I’d love to hear your thoughts, please comment below.

Opinion: Reset Buttons Suck

Have you ever filled out an online form only to lose it all by a poorly placed reset button? Why do these buttons even exist? I can’t think of a time I’ve ever filled in a whole form only to say, “hey, I didn’t really want any of that information, let me erase it all at once.” Luckily in recent years it seems less and less forms have these annoying buttons but they still exist. I’m calling for everyone to check their forms right now. Go ahead, I’ll wait… If you’ve got a reset button on your form, it’s time to reconsider that choice.

A reset button is just a bad user experience. A user can easily change the information they’ve entered without having to delete it all in one click. I’d say almost no one intentionally hits that reset button. It’s probably an accidental click while thinking it was the submit button. Having that button in place is doing more harm than good. Do your users a favor and leave off that reset button. That way you don’t have to needlessly frustrate your users and you have the added benefit of a cleaner, less cluttered form.