12 Comments

Summary:

Prior to iOS 7, Apple’s design guidelines assumed that smartphone users were new to touchscreen user interfaces. That assumption was discarded with iOS 7, and developers had to shift their thinking, but several were excited to be free of those restraints.

iPhone5-3iOS7_PRINT

Last week I looked at app counts and submissions to the App Store to gauge how much of an impact Apple’s iOS 7 has had on development teams over the summer. What the numbers didn’t show was why iOS 7 had such big an impact.

While there are certainly some programming changes that developers must contend with each time there is a major update, what I found after talking with developers this week was that iOS 7 also initiated more than a few complete redesigns for apps in the App Store. And these initiatives had a lot more to them than just flattening the look of the app.

Evolving API changes that were expected

An example of one of the big differences under the hood with the iOS 7 transition compared to iOS 6 that developers had to contend with is how device identifiers are being used. In prior releases, the methods developers used were deprecated, meaning Apple strongly suggested that developer stop using them, but they were still there all the same. In iOS 7 they have been completely removed.

“As an app marketing platform, the only major change we’ve had to accommodate is the shift away from UDIDs and MAC addresses that iOS 7 makes final, which has been underway for more than a year.” said Craig Palli, chief strategy officer at Fiksu. “Our SDK is fully integrated with the IDFA (Identifier For Advertising) and the Limit Ad Tracking feature and it is already up and running on iOS 7. In fact, slightly more than 1 percent of our traffic is already on the new operating system.”

Since WWDC in June, developers have been installing iOS 7 on their registered devices. Fiksu is already seeing 700,000 marketing events per day coming from such devices that are running iOS 7.

iPhone users are more experienced now

While every major release is certain to come with changes like this that developers need to adjust to, there seemed to be another reason that so many teams have been sent back to the drawing board this summer. With a subtle message from Apple to developers that iPhone users are more accustomed to the operating system than one might think, apps started undergoing major redesigns this summer.

“As soon as we installed the first iOS 7 developer beta on our phones, it was immediately clear that iOS 7 was much more than a design change.” said Raphael Ouzan, founder and CTO at BillGuard. “Like it or not, we knew iOS 7 would shift overnight what people expect. So we put our app roadmap on hold and immdiately started work on our iOS 7 version.” What Raphael was referring to was a major update to the iOS Human Interface Guidelines defined by Apple. These guidelines specify how developers design apps.

Failure to comply to these guidelines could result in an app not being approved for the App Store. “iOS 7 guidelines and design paved the way for a much lighter app experience,” Ouzan said, explaining how the new guidelines target a user community that no longer needs to be instructed on how the iPhone works.

“Content first, design second,” he said. We removed the unnecessary ornaments on navigational buttons. Translucency and the layering engine enabled us to eliminate design clutter and create better hierarchies.”

Rethinking every element of the user interface

It is one thing to publish a document stipulating that developers make some changes to how their apps are designed, but Apple did much more than that this time around. The company changed the code in such a manner that it truly influenced the way developers thought about solving design issues. The entire flow of the app needed to change.

“All of the previous major updates introduced features and comparatively small design changes, like supporting the larger screen height of the iPhone 5. With iOS 7, we had to comb through every screen in our app and rethink every detail to make sure that we were following the new aesthetics,” said Roman Karachinsky, CEO at News360. With all of the rumors about how much of a change iOS 7 was going to be early on, Karachinsky and his team were planning on undertaking a massive overhaul of their app this past summer.

What they did not plan for was an iOS update that eliminated the need for so many navigation controls. Focusing more on content, News360’s iOS 7 redesign will have less of an emphasis on navigation. “We made a big effort to have the app ready by the time the GM hit” Karachinsky continued, “we are pretty confident it should be in the first wave of apps approved for iOS 7.”

Design changes that extended beyond iOS

Getting apps submitted to the App Store in time so that they will be there when the public starts upgrading was a key part of every developer’s strategy that I spoke with. “We’ve been prepared for two weeks now,” said Anand Iyer, head of product at Threadflip. “Our iOS 7 build was submitted to Apple shortly after the Gold Master was released on Tuesday.”

While Iyer was prepared for updating its iOS app, what he was not prepared for was how adopting the changes to iOS 7 would affect its mobile web site as well. “We were forced to think about how we could vastly simplify our experiences across the board, even for the web. We have even started to rethink our mobile web experience.”

The code wasn’t broken, the design was outdated

Not one team that we had an opportunity to speak with acted like the changes being made were the result of a broken app that they had to fix because of iOS 7. Instead, there was more of a tone of excitement as they were finally able to abandon may of the visual elements that were initially there just to teach users how to use a touch-based smartphone. Following Apple’s updated iOS Human Interface Guidelines was no small undertaking. In some instances it has even influenced redesign efforts on other platforms like the web.

A final race to the App Store

The only question that remains is how many apps that have undergone such changes this summer will Apple be able to approve in time for the release. Looking at the data from Shiny Development that tracks app approval wait times, it appears that the count is currently at six days and is trending upward. This indicates that developers that have not already submitted their iOS 7 update to Apple likely won’t be able to ship updates to their users on September 18th.

  1. Interesting. Is it possible to add one or two simple images showing how ornamentation will ne reduced?

    Share
    1. Hi John, you can see how ornamentation was reduced here: http://ios7redesigns.tumblr.com/post/60839634531/billguard-ios-7-redesign.

      Share
      1. billguard, I don’t see how the new design is better. The old design seems slightly better to my eyes.

        Share
        1. Hi Apu, were you able to look at the new design on your phone? Sometimes that makes a difference. Hope you’ll try the app on Sept. 18 and let us know if you feel different about the design while using the app. -Marina from BillGuard

          Share
          1. Old design is better. New design is too bright.

            Share
  2. Where are the guidelines of these “new aesthetics” listed?

    Share
    1. Hi Geoffrey, it was interesting read the experience of other app developers in getting ready for iOS 7. Thanks for including BillGuard. -Marina

      Share
  3. I know this post isn’t about the story above but:

    I think Apple wants to make iPhone more beautiful and personal!

    I have got an idea: Why not built a light in the back Apple logo.

    You can give the light “think different” emotion colors.

    You can also give your phone a personal heartbeat!

    Super cool and personal!

    To the readers of Gigaom: Like this so Apple will notice!

    Yours, Stijn

    Share
  4. The idea that ease-of-use is no longer required is such crock. An obvious interface is better even for sophisticated users. People don’t want to think about their phones. Everything should be instantly obvious. This is not true in the case of flat design. An icon that is pressable and an icon that simply display status and is therefore not pressable is rendered exactly the same in flat design. This is a bad idea. Steve Jobs is probably turning in his grave.

    Share
  5. I don’t care much for the flat-cartoon interface that’s all the rage these days, and this is not a critique of Apple, it is a critique of design trends.

    The icons have less detail, thus fewer cues as to what the they are supposed to represent. Is it a butterfly or a jet plane? Hard to say. When I see the light and ultralight fonts, my first thought is not, “This is the app I want to use,” rather, my first thought is, “Note to self: get new glasses.” Just because the fonts are detectable, it doesn’t make them readable.

    When I see a button in the form of a flat, solid colored rectangle, my first thought is not, “What a well thought-out modern design!” Instead, my first thought is, “Oh, a flat solid rectangle.” I’m not impressed.

    Share
  6. Alexandra Murashova Thursday, September 19, 2013

    Many people want mobile apps but think it is too hard to create them. Fortunately now there are quite a lot of useful online services which allow building apps without programming skills and in hours. I am using SnAPPii at the moment and really glad I can feel like a mobile app developer and make apps on my own.

    Share
  7. Capanicus focus is to provide business across the world with world class web based solution to enhance and compliment business needs

    Share

Comments have been disabled for this post