Thoughts on iOS 7 buttons and UX

Steven Aquino writes about iOS 7.1 beta 2’s new accessibility option:

The biggest addition, feature-wise, is the inclusion of a “Button Shapes” option under Accessibility. If enabled, what this toggle does is puts borders around the heretofore plain text, non-bordered UI buttons.

Most of the commentary I’ve read on this change has been from designers who are upset that the borders are ugly, and they question why Apple chose to add them.

That’s not what I’m questioning. My concern is more that Apple has created an operating system that clearly has a ton of UX and UI issues, and yet is now burying ‘fixes’ within accessibility, away from where the typical user will see it. To my mind, the defaults of any design should be the most usable, even if that means some kind of compromise on whatever artistic and aesthetic vision you have. With iOS 7, Apple’s strayed some way from that goal; I hope as its mobile OS continues to evolve it will trend back towards being more usable, rather than being a showcase for Jony Ive’s infatuation with a certain kind of minimalism.

Further reading: Visual Preferences by Lukas Mathis • Shaping Buttons by Eric Schwarz.

December 16, 2013. Read more in: Apple, Design

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‘Hot’ women versus ‘influential’ men in web design

What the fuck? That was my initial reaction on being told earlier today about an article featuring ‘hot female web designers’. Amazingly, it gets worse. The full article title (no link, because) is “20 Hot Female Web Designers That Will Take Your Breath Away” and is either knowingly trawling the web as link bait or has a disconnect the size of the moon.

It begins:

Sizzling hot designs from hot female web designers will prove that, though web design industry has always been viewed as a world fully packed with men, the best stuff doesn’t always come from them!

Or how about: “Great work from women in the web industry proves that although the industry has long been seen as male-dominated, men definitely don’t create all the best work”?

Female web designers constantly battle to acquire the top spot in web design industry.

And then stupid blog posts screw them over by mentioning them for their physical characteristics rather than their work. Great!

though females are considered extinct in web designing

Extinct? Certainly not. But if they were, it would probably be through being killed off my an avalanche of stupid set off by a volcano of idiocy.

But first let me ask you to hold your breath.

OK. Holding.

To escape from the wrath of the male hot web designers and being accused of being a sexist,

No longer holding. Instead thinking of just how many things can be so wrong in so few words.

let me remind you that this article is made to uplift the spirits of young female web designers.

Nothing is more uplifting than being told you’re hot rather than, say, a great designer!

This is to show the little girls out there that web designing is not just a man’s world. To prove that [site name redacted] is equal in promoting both sexes in web design, feel free to read this post: 15 Most Influential People in Web Design.

Because men are influential but women are merely hot. Got it. (And, no, before you ask, not a single woman is on the influential list—after all, they’re just too hot and, apparently, not influential enough.)

Again: what the fuck?


September 5, 2013. Read more in: Design, Opinions

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iOS 7: bold new direction or flat fashion victim?

My latest piece for

Every detail of the six-year-old OS’ aesthetics and interaction has been overhauled. Initial responses have been mixed and frequently subjective, but people often react poorly to change. So, what’s the truth? Are the major criticisms just knee-jerk noise, or is Apple about to release a mobile dud? Stuff goes in search of expert opinion to find out…

There’s a lot to say about iOS 7 from a design standpoint, but this time I didn’t want to do so myself. The idea with this piece isn’t “yet another op-ed”, but instead talking with interface design experts like Matt Gemmell and Alex Morris, along with pointing at the very best pieces so far written on the web about the subject (including Gemmell’s superb overview).

I hope you enjoy the article.

June 17, 2013. Read more in: Apple, Design, Technology

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Exclusive insight into how iOS 7’s Game Center logo was designed

iOS 7 has a new interface, including new icons. Most make sense, but it’s hard to understand what Game Center’s represents until you know the reasoning behind its design, captured in this EXCLUSIVE transcription of audio taken from a microphone hidden in Jony Ive’s white room of despair.

Game Center icon
  • Ive: Hey, team. So we’ve got another icon to design, for an app called Game Center.
  • Team member A: What’s that?
  • Team member B: I’ve never heard of it.
  • Ive: Me neither. But I checked Wikipedia and it’s been on iOS for years, and so we have to design something for it.
  • Team member C: Um, I’ve a question.
  • Ive: Sure—go ahead.
  • Team member C: Uh, this might sound silly, but… what’s a game?
  • Team member A: That’s a good point. I’ve no idea.
  • Ive: We need to research what these ‘game’ things are. I know all about ‘center’, but ‘game’ is new to me. It’s very exciting.
  • Team member A: You don’t look excited.
  • Ive: I always look like this. You know I only have one expression.
  • Team member A: Sorry.
  • Ive: That’s OK. *mournfuleyes*
  • Team member B: Hey, wait a minute. I remember playing a game with my niece, during my annual hour off from Apple.
  • Ive: That’s great—what did you do?
  • Team member B: She had this liquid and she used it to blow bubbles. She had lots of fun—almost as much fun as we do when we lovingly paw at an iPhone or iPad.
  • Ive: Wow. That does sound like fun. So, games are bubbles. Got it. Get to work, team!

June 11, 2013. Read more in: Apple, Design, iOS gaming

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On simplicity as a virtue in computing

Responding to the same ‘Samsung out-innovating Apple’ piece I wrote about earlier, John Gruber at Daring Fireball talks about the iOS app launch grid:

The utter simplicity of the iOS home screen is Apple’s innovation. It’s the simplest, most obvious “system” ever designed. It is a false and foolish but widespread misconception that “innovation” goes only in the direction of additional complexity.

This is a viewpoint I’ve long shared and continue to argue in favour of. The problem is that the tech press lives in its own little bubble, and often those commenting on articles (and therefore shoring up viewpoints) are also those heavily into tech, tweaking and customisation. The reality is most people either cannot do such things or really don’t care about doing so. Most people just want to get on with performing tasks.

The question with iOS and its perceived limitations is whether it stops people from doing this. Some pundits have said the iOS lock screen should be massively overhauled, to add a slew of widgets, providing immediate access to information from diverse sources. Clearly, that’s something that works for some people, but it’s also a confusing, unfocussed mess for others. I look at my parents, new to touchscreen devices, battling iOS. If they were bombarded with crap the second they turned on their devices, said devices would soon end up in a drawer, never to be used again. But because they get a clean grid of icons and can focus on a single task, they’re getting into using these devices, and exploring the app ecosystem.

Even from my own perspective, I’m becoming an advocate of simplicity over complexity. I used to weld countless add-ons to my Mac, but I’ve in recent years stripped them back to only include add-ons that I cannot do without, because removing them would make me significantly less productive. I’m not sure how a more complex launch environment on iOS would make me any more productive. At-a-glance tiles can barely show any information anyway, and if they were showing something that’s ‘cropped’, I’d be more likely to open an app and become distracted. By contrast, when I open Tweetbot on iOS, it’s because I want to spend some time on Twitter, and the configurable Notification Center can take care of flinging an alert in my face for anything that’s especially important and/or time-sensitive.

Note that I’m not arguing that Apple’s got it ‘right’ and Android and others have got it ‘wrong’. But, like Gruber, I am arguing that taking a default stance that increased complexity is always a boon for computing is a bafflingly wrong standpoint that should cause any writer to take pause and reconsider.

February 20, 2013. Read more in: Apple, Design, Technology

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