Thursday, May 16, 2013

iOS 7 wish list: Interface Design

Part one of several (exact count not yet determined)

Those that read here often know that I'm an Apple freak, so no surprise I'm waiting with semi busted breath for Apple's WWDC keynote to see what is going to happen with iOS 7. And yes I've been checking out all the various rumors, concept attempts etc. Everyone else is tossing in what they think is going to happen, what they hope will, which has made me think about what I would like to see. 

I've already spoken at length about items like the alleged iRadio and what I wish for the iTunes shopping experience so here I'm going to try to focus just on iOS itself not companion services and systems. 

Lets start with the basic interface.

There's been a lot of talk about Scott Forstall exiting Apple last year. I can't say I'm upset. In my opinion he totally borked iOS 6 by missing a couple of huge bugs and taking out some very useful features (more on those later). Most of the talk has focused on Sir Jony Ive taking over command of Human Interface Design (ie how users interact with programs). This is something of note because Sir J has never hidden his distaste for skeuromorphic design. For those unfamiliar with the term, it means making something on a computer visually mock something real life. An example: in real life offices per computer we had filing cabinets with folders and papers we 'filed' so when graphical computer interfaces came out they wanted something that was more familiar than data,documents, directories etc. So the documents became files with icons what look like pieces of paper and directories became folders with icons that look like, yep file folders. 

A lot of folks are saying that Sir J is going to kill ALL of that stuff but I disagree. My reading of all of his comments, not just partial quotes out of context, is that it's fluffy stuff that he dislikes. The whole file and folder thing has a function in making the system understandable particularly to new users and nongeeks. But with iOS 6 a huge deal was made out of cute things like shadows in controller knobs that move as your view moves. There's no point to this and it just adds bloat. THAT is what I think that Sir J wants to remove. 

Along with the cutesy junk I foresee perhaps more simplified icons. I don't mean these squares with letters in them stuff like some folks are pushing out but just take what is already being used and remove the gradient backgrounds, no more reflections etc. Rather like the example seen in this fellow blogger's concept. Peter's Messages App Icon is what I'm hoping is the truth in the rumors, not some of the icons that I've seen in other concepts that totally change things up so they are crude squares with vague artwork. 

Also I think that Sir J might remove some of the potential bloat from other graphics like the paper tears and stitching. I have no issue with that. I'm not much for cute junk myself. 

A couple of other things I could see changing with little fuss would be the dock and "folder" handling. Frankly I think the dock could be dropped. The whole point was to make it easy to jump to commonly used apps but the 'multitask' bar serves the same purpose. They could even add a bar control like there is for notification center where we get to pick what stays in the bar and what is closed completely out if we leave the app. And the folders could be handled more like Launchpad in Mac OS - filling the screen giving more space for icons and perhaps even allowing for a second level of sub grouping. 

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