iOS 7: leading UX designers give their verdict

What does the new iOS actually mean for the millions of iPhone and iPad users worldwide? We discuss the real impact of the new iOS with four leading UX experts from Clearleft, Fjord, Specialmoves and ustwo.

NB: Overall, what do you make of iOS7's UX?

"My immediate feeling was that it has made the device – in this case an iPad 2 – seem physically lighter. The use of narrow fonts, grey on white has made a big difference. There are going to be some interesting discussions over the evolution, or devolution as some may feel around icons.

"I haven't explored all the Apple apps yet, but I am surprised by certain interaction changes such as the switching camera modes using a drag action and not allowing tap on the word." [he's not the only one, Ed]
Andy Parker, user experience designer at Clearleft

"I'm not an enormous fan of the visual styling, but that's only my personal preference. I've been finding it amusing the huge amount of time that people have spent talking about and redesigning the look of the icons, rather than discussing whether the new OS actually functions better for the user."
Jon Biggs, creative director at Specialmoves

"The functionality at the core of iOS7 hasn’t changed much it has just been extended in a number of ways. The main deviations are from a visual perspective.

"The biggest change is the introduction of a brighter colour palette, which allows Apple’s LCD screens to compete with vivid OLED smartphones (suc as the Samsung Galaxy). This allows Apple to increase its appeal to the Asian market who demonstrate a preference for bright colours throughout their consumption of visual culture.

"This suggests a shift in focus from user experience to customer experience."
Kostja Paschalidis, service designer at Fjord, Design & Innovation by Accenture Interactive

"iOS 7 is primarily a visual refresh without too much change to the UX which helps make it feel instantly familiar. One super handy feature introduced in iOS 7 though is Control Center. I already use it throughout the day to do tasks such as controlling the screen brightness, switching on or off WiFi and even using the flashlight."
Shaun Tollerton, Visual Designer at ustwo

Kostja says that the brighter, more saturated colours of iOS 7 – and the new iPhone 5c's shell – are targeted at Asian markets such as China and Japan.

NB: Is there anything you particularly love?

"I like the move away from buttons to text links for actions. It's showing a final acceptance of digital not being a replication of analog controls." AP

"It’s probably just a trick of the lighter style, but it feels faster than iOS6."
Jonic Linley, UX designer at Specialmoves

"I love how content is ruling over chrome. The whole aesthetic is a lot simpler and therefore the UI just gets out of the way. Coloured title bars also look real nice and make third-party apps feel instantly recognisable." ST

"I like how it feels fresh and new and evokes an emotional response that I can’t fully articulate." KP

NB: Is there anything you particularly hate?

"iBooks still looks like the shelf in my back room. It certainly shows where the priorities are in application development.

"The single-line iconography and the pop-out menu within Safari is frankly shocking.

"The music app on the iPhone feels like a step back. The 'Artist' view now contains thumbnails of the artists – not even album artwork that you might recognise while scanning down. The entries are much bigger, which means there aren’t as many on screen at any one time. And the text labels are much more difficult to scan because of the whitespace that has been introduced between them."

"I'm still not a fan of Apple's app icons, particularly for Camera, Contacts and Settings. There's also a bunch of visual inconsistencies across them that frustrate me as a designer. I also think some of the transitions could be snappier, such as when launching and closing apps." ST

"There are small things about the iOS7 that make it slightly frustrating to use, such as the empty icons, which are no longer filled will colour but now outlined with a faint grey line, which makes them harder to read. The system also feels very text heavy, which looks better but at the same time is harder to use. KP

Andy feels that the outlined icons in iOS7's Safari (above left and right) are a poor design choice
The music app on iOS 6 (left) and iOS 7 (right). Jonic is not a fan

NB: Will iOS7 become the new normal for interface design, and will users' familiarity with it change the way they expect to interact with other interactive products?

"Not really no. If anything it's playing catchup. A lot of the button pushing, slide out panels and alert boxes from the previous skin were reminiscent of stale formats we are accustomed to from the 'Web 2.0' era and the lack of innovation within Windows.

"Designers at Apple have been constrained to a visual language created for their operating system for some time and now they are as close to a blank canvas as you can get. I think this will enable application developers and those inside Apple to make interfaces that are not so constrained to format and challenge how we interact with glass a lot more than has been attempted in the past." AP

"I don't really see the way that you actually interact with it being any different to before. There are new features and a different visual style but the basic methods of user interaction are still the same." JB

"Apple is incredibly influential and whatever changes are made to their systems will always have a huge impact on the industry. There has been already been an influx of new app designs, to echo the iOS7 look. I envisage more mobile companies moving towards brighter colours and a decrease in skeuomorphic design, which is sad because everything has a place." KP

"This time next year we'll look back at how apps were before iOS 7 and we'll laugh.

"Remember all of those glossy app icons, 3D styled title bars and the shadows and highlights that appeared across everything from buttons to typography? None of it really matters anymore.

"We know when a button's a button. It doesn't need real-world lighting to trick us into tapping it. We're living in a digitally savvy world now compared to 2007 when the iPhone first launched. Therefore UI in general going forward will feel authentically digital and that's regardless of the mobile platform it's being designed for." ST

Apps such as Twitter have already redesigned for the iOS 7 look-and-feel

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