Skeuomorphism, Layers, Flat v. 3D and Polished Design … 2 steps forward, 1 step back

Discussion in 'iOS 7' started by uhaas, Sep 1, 2013.


Are you satisified with the UI improvements in iOS7?

  1. Yes, it rocks!

    74 vote(s)
  2. It could still use a little help.

    55 vote(s)
  1. uhaas macrumors 6502


    Aug 31, 2012
    Twin Cities, MN
    Sorry for the long post….

    I’ve been a developer for years: I’m used to object-oriented design and MVC architecture. I’ve also designed quite a few UIs. I’m running iOS 6 still, but have watched most of the WWDC videos, other iOS 7 videos, read hundreds of threads and thousands of posts on iOS 7.

    My first PDA was a Newton, then a PocketPC, a WinMo phone and finally an iPhone. One of the reasons I switched to the iPhone was the break in carrier distribution of the OS. When a phone has a bug, Apple will fix it and distribute it fairly quickly (often within a few months). Other OSes wait for a carrier to release an OS update, often lagging months for a particular model of phone and usually only one or two updates before abandoning updates entirely for newer model phones. In this area, Apple has the superior distribution model. Apple will drop support for older devices, but usually years beyond competitors. I read an article the other day stating of mobile OSes out there, Android has 79% of security threats and malware, mostly because holes are not plugged because people are running older OSes (like Gingerbread). This alone will keep me on iOS forever.

    IOS was getting tired: the skeuomorphism was out of control, the blue/grey themed background was old. Apple has many new leaps forward with iOS 7: UIKit dynamics, multitasking and foundation networking. All applications can now run in the background and refresh their snapshots, perform networking with a better set of library/class objects/methods and finally download – one of my chief complaints of newsstand is trying to download a magazine while on layover on a long international flight and having to keep newsstand awake through the slow 400 MB download because if it times out and the iPad goes to sleep, the download pauses. Layers are a huge step forward: something I always enjoyed in top rated apps that started pushing this envelope.

    I use several core Apple apps: Phone, Messages, Mail, Calendar, Safari, App Store, Stocks, Podcasts and Newsstand. Many needed updating. Some look like they’ve advanced, others look like a step back.

    While skeuomorphism was over the top on game center and find my friends, other areas it fit nicely – I want Maps to look like a Map or GPS unit, I can’t imagine it nor would I want it without skeuomorphism. Now with iOS 7, instead of skeuomorphism being too much, I feel it’s too little. There’s no balance. Notepad is too simplified. UI Buttons lack focus and visibility. Icons have become ugly and unrecognizable, not the application’s garish icon which have been beaten to death in these forums, but the icons within an application (where they still exist) – was it really necessary to redesign the sharing icon from being universally recognized in applications, browsers and OSes to Apples unique and hard to recognize wireframe one?

    I think Jonny Ive had great ideas in the keynote in his design principles. I think the execution is lacking and things have gone too far. The content is getting lost and confused, not just coming front and center. There’s no balance with skeuomorphism, no polish to the UI. The gloss/glass is missing, the flat and white overwhelming. It looks less professional.

    Yes the animations and layers are amazing and the old look was tired, but did flat have to ruin everything (the 2D look reminds me of WinMo), it looks like layered 2D. The iPhone had a look that was all polish and professional, now it looks common and … well cheap. Maybe that will look good with the rumored 5C. Maybe we’ll all just get used to it. Maybe will just have to wait until iOS 8 or the next major redesign.

    I think the design philosophy is sound: more content. However, I can’t see enough content through the distractions. I still want more information, more functionality, not less. The typography looks beautiful, but thin option would be nice.

    Calendar could use drastic usability improvements. I use MobileDay because it understands web conference and teleconferences, something Apple’s calendar app doesn’t. I’ve seen in these forums (and blogs several other areas of improvement. Why doesn’t the today screen show all-day events? Kind of eliminates functionality (and information), making me have to open up calendar to see them.

    Email works much better with the transparency.

    What about folders? We don’t need a classic confusing folder structure: Tasks does folders well with a nice UI for it (Completed, Personal Tasks, Taksk, Reminders, etc.), why not extend that simple UI idea for other apps like notes? This would make a nice simple folder-like structure.

    A night mode with a less-white theme would make night time viewing more pleasant. As has been stated, a black theme might help. Contrast is lacking in too many places.

    I feel iOS 7 is superior under the hood, in the OS and APIs under the UI. It will make me upgrade and not regret doing so. I feel UIKit has what it takes, the design philosophies are sound but the execution is lacking. It’s mostly the apps themselves (and their icons). Hopefully the 3rd party developers will take Ive's design philosophy and do better, show us how it's done.

    So we have two steps forward – huge improvement in multitasking, foundation networking and UIKit. A nice refresh of overall theme, but then one step back in usability when it comes to core apps, UI buttons and poor choices on Apple’s part in terms of color. It boggles the mind how a brilliant decision like the new typography can be ruined by the use of poor color with little contrast.

    I know this is a long post. People will scream “It’s a beta”, but we’re close to the GM and I’m more than a little disappointed. I expected better of Apple. I’m a business person and expect a professional looking device. I don’t own a plastic phone, I own a solid piece of technology. You feel it in the weight of your hand. Hopefully, it will just work. I’m having doubts. I'm also more than a little scared for the future of such a great product, that I've taken a little time to care to write this.
  2. Mortalias macrumors 6502


    Aug 24, 2011
    Los Angeles, CA
    I would have to agree that Apple seems to have taken more steps backwards than forwards with this version of iOS. However, that is to be expected with a redesign of this caliber.

    I also think the vibrant colors diminish the professionalism of the device. A flat design was needed, but are pastel pink/purple/blue colors necessary to achieve that? Don't think so. I personally think they chose that route to appeal to Asian markets.

    I am hopeful Apple will learn from some of its mistakes this time around and make improvements as necessary. UI design is a tricky task when creating a platform that will be used by such a variety of people.
  3. Carlanga macrumors 604


    Nov 5, 2009
    IMO they went just too close to win phones style and then tried to break from it. I like skeus when done right and some were good some were bad, the prob I have w/ apple is that they can't seem to get a middle of the road design between skeus and flat style which is what I think most people that are not 'hipsters' really want on a phone and would make the OS look different enough from android and win.

  4. freddiecable macrumors 6502a


    May 16, 2003
    I could not agree more.

    I've been working with Interaction design, UX and graphical design the last 15 years. And it's obvious that Apple makes a stunt here that goes way too much in the Windows Phone direction, albeit Apple is executing the design much more nicely than MS does. Further more - we will be suffering when it comes to fundamentals of usability - like affordance and predictability.

    What makes me sad and irritated is that this will affect our own designs for our products. Customers are already saying our interfaces looks old. But - we can not remove this much graphical characteristics without suffering a lot with poor monitor quality and contrast. It's one thing to put this design on a retina display. But our customers mostly use 100 dollar monitors that sucks when it comes to contrast etc. Thus we need to work the interface differently.

    And, honestly - that icon design. What's up with those gradients!?

    Last but not least. Apple has the strongest hardware designers in the world. They launched a nice portfolio of iPods for different needs. But - for iPhone. What do they do? Leave the market totally open for other players to fill the holes with mediocre phones. Apple - get a grip.

    agree with Carlanga
  5. Joaolx macrumors member


    Aug 31, 2013
    In my eyes iOS 7 is beautiful. It felt weird the first day I used it and specially the icons but afterwards the design started to grow on me.
    The way colors make the UI alive in some places is awesome. All it needs in terms of design, in my opinion, is a black theme or more black themed apps and some new icons.
    But besides that, everything else, the new features are very cool and I couldn't go back to iOS 6 knowing I would lose them.
    I hate when someone says it looks like windows phone. WP is a cluttered mess of text. It's text, text, text and oversimplified icons.
    iOS 7 has more text than iOS 6, in some apps, but it's not a problem and it isn't cluttered like WP. iOS 7 has oversimplified icons and different from every other OS but they're familiar after less than a day of use and they work well.
    I'm happy with most of the choices done with the new design but not everything is perfect. And i still think it's better than every other OS. The layers make the design feel alive and colorful, and it stands out. After more than a month of using it I still love to see the new effects.
    Too bad I can't say the same thing about Android or WP which now look boring to me.
  6. benji888 macrumors 68000


    Sep 27, 2006
    United States
    I agree with Joalox

    So your whole premise/understanding of iOS 7 is only from pictures/videos what others have said? It would be really helpful for you to use it before having such a long opinion about it. ...I have noticed in this forum (iOS 7 section) a lot of people have made negative comments about iOS 7 that aren't using it, see pics/vids, read negative comments, form opinions from there and it goes on and on, but it's all speculation.

    Since you aren't using iOS 7, how can you make the conclusions you have? I disagree about your reasoning that it's 2 steps forward, 1 back. Too many people don't like change, just improvements to what they already like, yet, what did you do before smart phones even existed? You learned something new.

    If I look at just a picture, iOS 6 home screen, each individual icon is screaming for attention, but, iOS 7 my eye goes to the background. But, when I use it, overall, iOS 7 UI is more fluid & functional. It's a brand new design, of course it will be improved, and iOS 6 was the result of years of improvements, but, along a different design idea.

    I will mention just one aspect of the new that I like. The number pad for entering your password (same as phone) is round buttons now that are spaced apart, in the center of the screen instead of rectangular buttons that are touching each other and pushed to the bottom. At first I didn't like it because I had to reposition my hand a bit...but, then, after using it for some time and getting used to it, I found I could do 2 things I couldn't with the old way...I could enter the number with my left hand as well as my right, and I could enter it without looking with my right (writing) hand. This is just one example of well thought out changes Apple has made to the function, while updating the look as well.

    There are many more little things such as this that are improved, and I happen to like the look of it, it's a professional design, it has a frosted glass, layered look utilizing parallax in a subtle, but better way of adding depth instead of glossy airbrushed skewmorphism, but, you can't see it well in a picture or a video.

    So what is the real reason for writing such a long speculative piece on a beta iOS that is just about to be GM?
  7. stevemiller macrumors 68000

    Oct 27, 2008
    Been running since beta4. Legit copy as I work in game development.

    I realize there's no winning an argument about personal taste. And I guess I'm happy if there are people who genuinely love the new look. The overall feel of the OS is certainly something I can live with, and there are definite bits that are an improvement, but on the whole it just feels less appealing.

    I just hope people are honest in forming their opinions and are not clouded by brand loyalty / tribal mentality. We're all on the same side here of wanting these devices to be as awesome as they can be.
  8. uhaas thread starter macrumors 6502


    Aug 31, 2012
    Twin Cities, MN
    Core apps and UI usability

    I somewhat expected this and was honest and forthright before posting. What I was hoping for was a discussion, something I think has been missing on MacRumors in the last year. Instead I see cheap shot. I'm not saying you did that benji888, but there's a lot less discussion and a lot more shooting down people's opinion.

    If you read what I said, I like most of what I HAVE seen of iOS 7. I think it does do a lot to bring your lock/home screen photos forward and there are many, many improvements I can't wait to get my hands on.

    My post was specifically aimed at the fact this is almost GM. There's still a lot to be desired. My number one app on my phone, is of course Phone. After that, my number 2 app is Calendar. I use it to schedule - everything. I have been a software developer since 1996 and still dabble. I have been a CEO and run 3 businesses. I spend all day on conference calls, WebEx and phone calls. I schedule very tightly with 30 minute meetings throughout the day. If you looked at my calendar, you'd seem many overlapping meetings with many tentative -- I tentatively accept based on priority and if I receive a cancellation, the next most important one gets accepted.

    This is why I'd like to see some functionality improved in core apps. I'd love to see better functionality in seeing other people's calendars when scheduling a meeting (and if ActiveSync doesn't allow it, push to have that API changed), I'd like better integration between Webex, long-digit long-code conference auto-dialing. Better handling of viewing a contact's card from a phone log or meeting invite (often the wrong contact group's card is brought up like a LinkedIn card - an artifact of Outlook social integration creating additional contact groups in Exchange). I've filed bugs on this.

    The UI, UIKit, Foundation Networking and Multitasking are huge improvements to the OS. I like the look of lock, springboard and today. I'll miss Twitter and FB posting from notification center, but would welcome LinkedIn posting from Siri, if it's there.

    My main focus is poor execution based on the keynote's goals. I believe based on everything I've seen -- in Betas, from third parties such as MacRumors -- that the core apps I mentioned are lacking execution based on those goals. What I was hoping for as I viewed the WWDC keynote was as the betas developed, there would be better access to information, all contained within the phone. My Phone is my secretary, it keeps me from missing things. If alarms are missed, my wife will miss medication times and I may wake up late in a hotel room. If calendar can't call conference numbers, I'm using a 3rd party program to get around an Apple deficiency. If the phone/iPad isn't easy enough to use without a manual, then my family and friends will come to me with questions.

    There are some UI paradigms that were useful to the general public. One design philosophy is form follows function. It seems iOS 7 puts form before function in many areas. In many ways, such as UI Buttons, obscuring user interaction along the way.

    I love the core ideas brought forward. I want easier access to information, but replacing a UI Button with text makes the phone less usable, less speedy, not more. It may actually LOOK better, or scale better to non-retina/retina iPhones/iPads/AppleTV/iWatch and in-car screens, but that doesn't mean it's easier to use.

    I own an iPhone 4S and an iPhone 5 -- soon to be 5S, 3 iPads 2s/3, 2 MacBook Pros and have talked many family, friends and business colleagues into the platform because the thing usually just works. I've never jail-broken, I want it to just work -- the first time. I think there could be a useful discussion here on beta 6, the last released beta (likely) before GM. Things are pretty well baked at this point.

    Let's have a meaningful discussion on the UI and the core apps and how 3rd party apps could push the platform forward.


    I'm also curious, since there are a lot of game designers on this thread, will you be taking advantage of UIKit dynamics or SpriteKit, moving forward. There does seem to be some real innovation going on in the core UI functionality and object libraries.
  9. Masquerade macrumors 6502a


    May 16, 2007
    Its a trend. Next year it will be common to touchscreens to havr texture. Then flatty designs wil lose to textured ones because the touch sensation will sell more.
  10. JetBlack7 macrumors 68020


    May 14, 2011
    Personally, I hate Windows Phone's UI. It's ugly and not appealing at all.
  11. benji888 macrumors 68000


    Sep 27, 2006
    United States
    Alright, I agree with this, I will try to answer some of your questions, but, I don't use outlook, exchange or linked in at this point. Also, I have not been able to try out AirDrop, even though I was hoping this would be enabled in the last beta to work between iOS & OS X, as I already have AirDrop in my Mac for using with other Macs, and also, I don't know anyone else that is using iOS 7 beta.

    I have to preface this to say that Apple has been known to add some finishing touches between last beta & GM, and even some surprise features. (Plus, each beta has had various changes). One thing you may not care so much about that I am expecting is new sounds...the last beta (5/6) there is no "unlock" sound, and they did not add any new tones or sounds with iOS 6. Also, I am using the latest iOS 7 beta on iPhone 5, so I can only say what it's like on that device at the moment.

    Generally speaking, I think the overall design is based upon retina or larger displays, it seems it wouldn't work so well on iPhones/iPod touches without retina. And, I'm not sure if Apple TV is going to match iOS's a 5.4 update. With all of the new products Apple has already stated to be released this fall or this year, I'd be surprised if we see iWatch before 2014, and also iOS in the car is pushed out to 2014 (probably iOS 7.1).

    Seeing your list of devices here, the 4S and iPad 2s & 3s will not be able to use AirDrop, will not have all of the new features, especially with the camera, and, from reading what others say, may not have the parallax effect, and some of the transparency.

    I have not had issues with alarms and calendar reminders. Snooze time now shows on lock screen, as well as the timer. The calendar app is improved, list view is quick to get to, scrollable, all-day events show in daily and weekly view (weekly is only landscape), however, I'm not a heavy user at this time, some people are asking if "Fantastical" app is still better. Notifications are greatly improved, the "today" tab has today's events and at the bottom tomorrow's as well. In the list of today's events (in notifications), when you tap on an event it takes you directly to it in calendar app, tapping on the weather blurb and stocks take you to the respective apps also. Also, when you get a notification, you can either swipe it up and away (finally!:D), or pull down the notifications list, or, like before, just tap it and it'll take you right to that thing (this was something that came in a later beta).

    One tip, when you update your devices, you may need to sign in to icloud again, especially if you set up icloud keychain (if you set up icloud keychain, be sure to go through the entire process.). Also sign in to Find My iPhone and (if you use) Find My Friends apps on each device. Be sure to try imessage and on your macs you may get messages that such email or phone number is using iCloud etc. Once you do all this, whatever you have synced with icloud should sync fine.

    Siri is much, much faster, new voices sound great, but, not sure how much of this you'll see in 4S/iPad 2/3. Safari tabs, scroll down and I can see the last tabs open on my mac also, click on that text and it'll open that webpage. Shared links now, three tabs Bookmarks, Reading list, updated through iCloud, both shared w/your other devices on that icloud/apple ID, and a twitter feed also, not sure how that works yet.

    A favorite change: If you use a passcode (number) to sign-in, the keypad is changed, same as phone, round buttons with even space between them, centered in the phone instead of rectangular keys that are touching at the bottom...I didn't like this at first, had to reposition my hand a bit, but, after a couple weeks or so, then, once I got used to it, I found I could put the code in/dial without looking (with writing hand), and, I can also enter it with both hands. The previous layout for passcode I couldn't do this, probably because of no space between smaller keys. It's a well-thought out change, not just for looks.

    Even without AirDrop, sharing is much more functional also, more options based on what you're sharing/app you're using.

    I don't know if you use youtube or not, but the new youtube app (just updated within past week or two) is a big improvement, if I sign in, I can do everything I can do on my computer with it now, access my playlist, subscriptions, history, watch later, do uploads, etc. I have all of the sharing functions for current video, and add to playlist, etc. I can push the video down to a thumbnail view and do searches and such while that thumbnail is playing. Fullscreen play has a cleaner look. So, future for apps looking good.

    I hope that was more helpful (and not too long). Maybe someone else could have more on things I don't use that you said you use.
  12. Joaolx macrumors member


    Aug 31, 2013
    I'm interested to see if Apple will indeed announce more things about iOS 7 at the 10th even if they're small things.

    When it comes to the iPad 2/3 and iPhone 4S, they'll have most features. iPad Mini has the same features as iPad 3 and the only things missing is live filters in the camera and keyboard transparency(it was available before Beta 5). I think the iPhone 4S has all the features. The iPhone 4s was the first smartphone with Bluetooth 4 so it supports Airdrop like iPad Mini/4 and iPhone 5. I just which it worked with OS X, even if the file isn't supported I could open it on other apps, just like Safari downloads or dropbox.

    Btw, related to Youtube app, the only thing new is access to playlists and new design. It already could access subscriptions, history, watch later and do uploads. It still lacks a lot of things that could be very useful for youtubers, like private messages and better comment support. The way comments work sucks, you can't see thumbs up/down, can't reply( only by writing @name) and you can't see comments from people who replied to you. So basically answering comments from someone who replied to you before is impossible. You could try to go to the desktop website in safari but every time you click a video link it redirects to the app.
  13. benji888 macrumors 68000


    Sep 27, 2006
    United States
    sorry but iphone 4S, ipad 2 & 3 will not have AirDrop. I'm not sure if it has to do with bluetooth, as my Mac uses wifi for AirDrop...I believe it works over either. :confused:

    I do hope eventually Apple allows AirDrop between iOS & OS X...I mean, if they weren't going to, wouldn't they have called it something else in iOS 7?

    also see:
    "...and only specific iOS on my iPhone 5 but not on my iPad 3.",
    "OS X does have it's own AirDrop but it doesn't work quite the same as it does in iOS 7. Currently it's Mac-Mac or iOS-iOS only."
  14. Joaolx macrumors member


    Aug 31, 2013
    I knew that the iPad 2/3 wouldn't get but I guess I was wrong about the 4S.
    It sucks that it doesn't support. I've been waiting for that to the be added to a Beta probably since I installed but doubt that will happen.

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