Monday, May 27, 2019

Wish for a Return of Vibrant Tapdown States

John Gruber:

I don’t know why, but one of those things has been bugging me a lot in recent months: the drab gray color that indicates tapdown state for list items and buttons. Putting aside skeuomorphic textures like woodgrain and leather and the 3D-vs.-flat debate, the utter drabness of tapdown states is just a bad idea. I didn’t like it when iOS 7 debuted, and I like it even less 6 years later.

In classic iOS, when you tapped down on list items or buttons, they’d instantly light up in vibrant color. The standard color was a bright cheerful blue. In iOS 7 through 12, the tapdown state is the color of dirty dishwater.

Steven Aquino:

John talks about delight being sapped from iOS post-iOS 7, which is true in many ways. But the tap down state he calls out here is an accessibility issue too. iOS 6 blue was better—more visually concrete and contrasting.

Andy Lee:

Related: a key principle of graphical user interfaces is the notion of direct manipulation, which necessarily means clear and immediate visual feedback. More than once I’ve seen Apple fail in this respect.


Skeuomorphism was a visual device used to train users on how to use phones when we transitioned from the physical form to digital. It was a solution of the time and that’s all.

Kyle Howells:

I see this point of view a lot. That skeuomorphism was a crutch we as society needed but have now outgrown.

I think this sort of thinking is incredibly misguided and damaging.

Dan Masters:

Some joyful Apple software highlights

Benjamin Mayo:

The standard set by iOS 7-12 is much more drab, almost clinical. It’s a flat, nondescript, grey that seems like it was chosen specifically because it would not draw the eye. The grey is close enough to white that anything white would not have sufficient contrast, so the illumination effect is also no longer present. Cell content no longer reacts in tandem. The whole interaction is a lot more lifeless. Rather than the UI egging the user on to complete the tap action, today’s iOS drearily yawns and says “okay, if you must”.

This is just one of the laundry list of things that people railed against in 2013. Criticism died down as people acquiesced to what was given to them. Many critics, myself included, accepted the iOS 7 design as a rush job and thought that Apple would obviously catch their breath and ‘fix it’ over the next couple of OS versions. I don’t think anyone at the time expected us to still be stuck with these missteps six years later.


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For the first few years after iOS 7 released, I always looked forward to using older apps that hadn’t been updated to use the new SDK, because I’d still get the iOS 6 UI elements.

All these years later, I still miss the earlier iOS style (just without the Corinthian leather excesses). I want contrast, buttons with borders, and no frame drops when scrolling though a table view. My iPhone 4 managed to do all that (before iOS 7 slowed it to a crawl)... no excuse Apple can’t replicate that experience on much faster (and more expensive!) hardware.

Posting to agree with remmah. I also love how it's finally acceptable to criticize iOS 7 among the Apple "talking heads". Timidly, people starts admitting that iOS 7 was a hideous design blunder and a massive downgrade in most aspects of user experience. Everyone who was pointing this out back then got vehemently shut down by these same people.

Notice how Gruber quickly points out that skeuomorphism is still the devil. I give them 2 years before they walk back that one too.

"Notice how Gruber quickly points out that skeuomorphism is still the devil. I give them 2 years before they walk back that one too."

John Gruber has always villified skeuomorphism, yet has also consistently praised PCalc. I don't understand why calculater apps, 99% of which are designed to resemble physical hand-held calculators, seem to escape the ire of skeuomorphism critics. Ideally, all calculator apps should look/work more like Soulver, with its free-form text entry area in which your entire calculation is still plainly visible after you've performed it.

I think most of iOS7 was good - but I think the lack of obvious "clickabilitiy" is a problem. That could be fixed somewhat with accessibility settings. Most of us expected Apple to refine the design somewhat - particularly as it came to OSX (now macOS). However on macOS we now have an odd mixture of flat design with 3D features. While I always found the old OSX as a bit too garish particularly in pseudo-3D effects, I think iOS could benefit from a little as indicators as to what to do.

I can't be alone in having to often think a bit to decide what text is touchable and what's not. While that level of difficulty never beset OSX/macOS as much, it is there. Further now that Marzipan is coming in a more full bodied way these issues need to be addressed. This goes in both directions as iPad screens get bigger. Just compare Pages on macOS with Pages in iOS. Surely the sidebar for the format panels deserves to be something that happens on iOS.

Supposedly iOS will get significant revisions as the iPad finally becomes more capable. But that will inevitably mean that some of the tradeoffs for space iOS has made may be rethought. I suspect the imperatives for the iPad may lead to a rethinking of iOS design to be more like macOS design if only on the iPad. Although perhaps not this WWDC.

Doodpants, a Calca like UI for a reverse polish notation like calculator that some like is really just interactive Forth.

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