Monday, September 14, 2015

Problems With iOS’s Flat Design

Amy Hoy:

But a little faux leather isn’t the problem. The problem is deeper:

  • misusing metaphors (e.g. turning buttons into links)
  • eliminating the only affordances that software can have — visual affordances
  • using fake physical metaphors for interactions, such as using “wheels” for data entry
  • eliminating information hierarchy – homogenizing spacing and typography, for “visual tidiness”
  • giving all types of interface widgets the same visual appearance
  • reusing the same interaction design for click UIs (on 13″-27″ screens) and touch UIs (on 5″ screens)
  • tiny tap or click targets with invisible boundaries
  • software and icons that all look the same

And these mistakes are especially galling because they’re exactly the kind of thing that Apple themselves used to rail against.

Nick Heer:

Here’s the thing: the Apple that Hoy describes hasn’t existed for a very, very long time. Beginning around the introduction of OS X, Apple stopped following the HIG so strictly and started experimenting.


I include these examples not to say that Hoy is wrong in her criticisms of recent iOS interface design, but to point out that the HIG was something that was frequently about aesthetics and trends. iTunes 5’s UI wasn’t a smooth grey because of research and interaction; it was because brushed metal stopped being trendy and started to look kind of, uh, bad. “Unified” windows in Tiger did not have a consistent use-case defined by the HIG, either.


The problems with iOS’ UI aren’t because it doesn’t follow the HIG. It rewrote the HIG, establishing even greater consistency between apps.

2 Comments RSS · Twitter

"It rewrote the HIG, establishing even greater consistency between apps."

HIG is not just about how it looks but also about how it works. So that, for instance, when you start using a new app, it feels intuitive. Does using a new app (including Apple's own apps) on iOS feel intuitive? Well, too many times, it doesn't IMHO (e.g. finding the preferences for an app is like wandering in uncharted territories).

I think old Apple UI had huge problems but I fully agree with the original criticisms. Especially with regards to affordances. Use has taken a backseat to appearance as design - often based more on a print aesthetic.

That said though there is more consistency now than before. Although it could be better.

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