October 7, 2013

iOS 7. Meh.

For the record, I am an iPhone fan -- since day 1 (and I can prove it :)).

But I'm not loving iOS 7.

Don't get me wrong: there's a lot to like. Its modern looking, less 'cutesy' (and way less cheesy), uses motion effectively, and generally improves the user interface affordances for a lot of use cases (contacts link in messages, actions in mail, etc.).  And that doesn't even get into the tons of (overdue) under the hood improvements.

But I think, overall, its a cacophony of form over function that hasn't been executed or even thought through very well .  It took me a little while to put my finger on it, but the things I don't like are almost exactly the things people seem excited about:

  • The User Interface blends with the content.  I agree content should be the focus, and the UI should not be noticeable, but that is not what I (generally) see with iOS 7 - instead its a hot mess.  The UI was the star in previous iterations of iOS, and while it was obnoxious, it at least delineated interaction boundaries.  In iOS 7, the "edges" between the 2 are kinda blurry -- too often marking neither as the hero, to the detriment of both. 
  • iOS7 looks more modern.  In places, it looks incomplete.  In places, it looks ugly.  In lots of places, it looks great -- but it's hard to argue that it Thinks Different.  The aesthetic is nice - but iOS now looks like a generic (albeit polished) smartphone.
  • The UI Metaphors are gone - but not really.  Skeumorphism is dead (for now), and "authentically digital" is the new king.  While I fully and completely agree and appreciate how much more modern iOS looks, it still uses motion metaphors that are incongruent with the look and feel -- parallax, inertia, etc.  It embraces many skeumorphic action patterns that are discordant without the visual cues to anchor it (iOS Timer, I'm looking at you).
  • There is no visual language.  Circles used to imply pages/screens.  No skeumorphism -- purely digital.  Now circles are everything:  scrolling, signal strength, progress indicator, etc. Blue is something clickable -- except when you can't, or sometimes its clickable anyway.  Selection visibility is all over the place.  Meh.
  • Its been streamlined (and now too much is hidden).  Click, double-click, press-and-hold, flick-in-the-middle, swipe from edge, wat - Apple, stahp.  Its kinda OK when these are global and/or accelators, but in combination with the increasing context sensitivity of these guestures (*cough* search)... not great.
I'm not predicting the end of Apple, or saying it's going to impact anything about their business.

I'm just a little... disappointed.  A few hero screens look great -- but the effectiveness is only skin deep.  

Look and feel?  
Look and fail.

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