iOS 7 has just hit developers’ phones and a discussion has already begun about what this new direction means. Redesigning iOS from the ground up is a bold move for Apple. They want to create a new future for iOS while helping existing users feel familiar with the new system. A platform shift like this doesn’t come around often, and while people harp on things like neon colors and icon design, I left Moscone most excited about the shift in interaction design.
There’s no doubt Apple has always stood for great design. Apple is known as a leader in this for both hardware and software. But Apple hasn’t just focused on how a product looks — they also care about how a product makes a user feel. iOS 7 is a recommitment to that principle.
My favorite Steve Jobs quote, which received a mention at the keynote address, is, “Design is how it works.” What Apple has done with iOS 7 is a true testament to that. iOS design is no longer about the appearance of rich controls or detailed artwork and buttons. Instead of a focus on textured interfaces with intricate lighting and shadows, the layers in an application show through to provide depth and context, keeping the emphasis where it should be: the user’s content.
Shedding excess ornamentation and embracing user-centric design is a major theme in iOS 7. But more than just adding depth and translucency, Apple’s also given strong consideration to motion — even in something as simple as shrinking (but not hiding) the URL bar as you scroll up in Safari. Interaction is at the forefront of iOS 7, with home screen images and browser tabs shifting based on how you hold the device.
It’s important to note that for the first time since the launch of the original iPhone, there’s a consistent design language amongst all of the iOS system apps (Mail, Stocks, Weather, etc.). This change is similar to how Google has developed a clean, uniform design language across all of their iOS apps.
Developers have drawn inspiration from Apple’s iOS designs since the launch of the platform in 2007. We’ve taken direction from the very first apps, looking at the system apps for solutions to tricky interaction challenges. But we’ve also taken an opportunity to diverge and add our own ideas for building experiences on iOS.
One of the core principles of iOS 7’s new design language is deference. Part of that means deferring attention to a user’s content, but it’s also about the operating system deferring to our apps. Because of how consistent the iOS system user interface is, it’s easier for our apps to stand out and become the focus of a user’s experience.
The most important question developers should be asking is what can be learned from iOS 7 to help build better user experiences? Apple has once again set the high bar with its superb uses of motion and dynamics. Apps like Paper won’t be ditching their skeuomorphism any time soon, but part of the beauty of iOS 7 is that they don’t need to. The best thing about Paper is that it employs engaging interaction to create a delightful and immersive experience, something all apps should now try to do on iOS 7.
iOS 7 isn’t just about the lack of specular highlights or linen backgrounds. It’s about a delightful user experience and engaging motion design. Much like the initial iOS introduction, Apple has challenged developers to do more with iOS 7, and is providing great tools to build our experiences. I’m happy to see Apple pushing us forward and I’m excited about the possibilities this new platform presents.
Editor’s note: Want to see these interactions up close? Check out the video gallery here.