The biggest hiccups in iOS 7’s new UI

spotlight iOS 7

With the release of iOS 7 last Wednesday, Apple entered a new era in its software design philosphy: a style that abandons skeuomorphism, gradients and textures in favor of translucency, depth and motion. However, as with any major shift in software design, there’s going to be hiccups along the way. Below, I’m going to take a look at the most annoying ones in iOS 7.

Disappearing controls

The white payback bars blend into the background

The white part of the sliders disappears against the background of the video.

Many controls in iOS 7 have a flat appearance now, with no gradients and only one background color. The problem with this, as Cabel Sasser pointed out on Twitter, comes when you have a background that matches the color of the control, as the control blends in and disappears. As an example, if you’re running iOS 7 and you play, say, Apple’s iPhone 5s marketing video, you’ll notice that the volume and playback sliders are only partially visible.

New Music app

music_albums

Which would you rather scroll through?

I have two problems with the new Music app. First, they changed the way that you navigate an artist’s albums. In iOS 6, when you selected an artist, a list of their albums came up and then you could navigate into each album to see its songs. In 7, the albums and songs are combined in one view, and you can’t drill down to a particular album. This design makes it harder to select an album when there’s many, because I have to scroll through the songs for every other album. The only rationale I can think of for the new design is that you don’t have to switch back and forth between album and song views, but I’d much rather do that than scroll through 11 Modest Mouse albums and their songs.

music_comparison

My second problem is the way the Music app looks on the iPad: like a blown-up version of the iPhone app. This has consequences for usability, as in the iOS 6 Music app you can see up to 20 artists at once in portrait mode, compared to 8 for the iOS 7 version. Considering that Apple executives derided Android tablets for their lack of tablet-optimized apps, it’s worrisome that the new Music app isn’t tablet optimized itself. I’m hoping that this was simply due to time constraints and a better version will come along in an update.

Unified status and navigation bars

facebook_statusbarIn iOS 6, the status bar and navigation bars were conceptually separate and the status bar was always black or a gradient that matched the navigation bar. In 7, the two bars are unified and have one, flat color. I actually like the way this looks better than in iOS 6, but this new design also introduces problems. First, developers will have to use the black status bar anyway if they have a sidebar that’s a different color than the status bar. The iOS 7 Facebook app is a good example of this: when you’re on the main news feed, the status bar and nav bar are blue, but when you open the dark-colored chat sidebar, the status bar changes to black so it doesn’t clash.

awkward_statusbar

The second problem comes up when you have an app without a navigation bar: you’re left with an awkward-looking floating status bar that matches the background of the content behind it. The updated Apple Store app and Reeder 2 both have this problem.

New search gesture

In iOS 6, you could access a universal search field by swiping to the left-most home screen, which had a little magnifying glass instead of the usual circle to indicate its purpose. In 7, you swipe down on any home screen to open search. I can understand the rationale behind the change: in an app, you swipe down to get to the search field as well, so why shouldn’t it be the same way on the home screen?

While the new approach is conceptually consistent, it sacrifices discoverability in the process by getting rid of the magnifying glass indicator. Apple tries to solve this problem by showing the user a prompt after they set up their devices that explains this change. If Apple had simply updated the look of the old design, it would have still been discoverable without submitting the user to yet another annoying setup prompt.

Little things

  • The Missed tab in Notification Center almost always has the same notifications in it as the All tab, so what’s the point of it? I think it’s there just so they have three tabs.
  • If you have a notification badge on an icon at the top of a homescreen, you can actually get the badge to go up into the status bar because of the new parallax effect.
  • There’s no Edit button in the new Weather app, so if you want to delete a weather location you have to be aware of the “swipe-to-delete” convention first.
  • As Marc Edwards pointed out on Twitter, the new date picker UI has fewer and smaller drag areas than the old one, making it slightly harder to use.
  • In the iOS 7 camera, you switch between modes like Panorama and Square by swiping left and right. The only problem is that there’s no visual hint that you should swipe, and you can’t simply tap on the label of a mode to switch to it.

Editor’s note: GigaOM will be highlighting the future of UI design at our experience design conference RoadMap in November in San Francisco.

Are there any design issues with iOS 7 that I missed? Tell us in the comments. 

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