Our thoughts on iOS 7: An Intro

0B_introLike all the other tech-enamored early-adopters out there, the Sequence team downloaded and installed the iOS 7 beta the day it was released. But rather than add to the cacophony of reactionary opinions, we used iOS 7 on a daily basis over the course of the beta program to really get a complete sense of the new experience and are now joining the discussion after the public release.

Over the next few posts, we’ll present our POV on the radically redesigned Apple mobile experience, iOS 7.

An acknowledgement and disclosure

Acknowledgement: As UX designers, we can be the worst types of customers when it comes to change. The. Worst. Designers are more subject to the misplaced “Why wasn’t I consulted?!” entitlement than any other group. We set out to review iOS 7 with that self-awareness, and got past it (we hope).

Full Disclosure: Apple is a client of Sequence. We can’t talk about the projects we work on, but we are proud to be among the company’s few external creative partners. Our opinion is meant to be fair and balanced, based on our own honest point of view as designers and consumers, and not influenced in any way by our relationship with Apple.

Evaluation Criteria

First off, this is a comparative review between iOS 7 and its predecessor, iOS 6 for the iPhone. While it would be incredibly valuable to include comparisons with Android, Windows Phone, and/or the much-loved but ill-fated WebOS, it’s much too large a scope for our current discussion.

We also will not be discussing iOS 7 as it relates to iPad. Although there are iPad-specific revisions to iOS 7, we wanted to keep the scope of this series to a modest level and the iPhone OS includes the vast majority of the points for both form factors.

And even though Apple is a client, we don’t have any more insight about the design objectives Apple was trying to achieve than the general public. So, we’ll be using the iOS Introduction Video at WWDC ’13 as our design brief:

“I think there is a profound and enduring beauty in simplicity, in clarity, in efficiency. True simplicity is derived from so much more than just the absence of clutter and ornamentation. It’s about bringing order to complexity.” –  Jony Ive, “Introducing iOS 7”

Let’s parse this:

“The absence of clutter and ornamentation” This one was a given. We already knew that Mr. Ive was going to do away with skeuomorphic design based on his very public stance on the practice.

Simplicity, in clarity, in efficiency” This can equate to maximizing understandability and function while minimizing cognitive overhead. It’s clear that the intention is to strip away everything unneeded and to rework what remains to perform better.

Bring order to complexity Historically, iOS has always leaned toward simplicity. Where the iPhone experience can get complex is in making sense of all the content and artifacts the user fills it with. It’s a tough design challenge to make a container that can bring order to any and all content that’s poured into it.

Out of this, our evaluation criteria emerges: Clarity, Efficiency, and Organization

And I’ll add another one, the thing people seem to most viscerally react to: personality. Clarity, efficiency, and organization certainly feed into the experience’s overall personality, but there are many other elements that add to the emotional impression, including the voice and tone of copy, transition animations and visual style.

Expect four posts to address each of these subjects individually.

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