iOS 7 isn’t bad, change is just difficult
Over the last two weeks the internet has been an endless stream of shit throwing and increasingly negative blogs about iOS 7 and how the OS could have been designed better.
Everyone who is a designer or wanted to be a designer has been putting up either their own “fixed” iOS 7 concepts online or a blog pointing out their mistakes and gushing about how Apple has done wrong. For an example of what I’m talking about here, Gigaom collected a range of reactions from around the internet from people who were clearly upset Apple never consulted them about it.
Before WWDC, there was endless complaining that iOS had become boring and stale, that Apple had to change the entire OS to save themselves. Now, within minutes of seeing/installing the early iOS beta, many are declaring it “too confusing” and “too far in the other direction.” Both of these examples were published on June 10, the day Apple announced iOS 7. I somehow doubt they spent more than an hour actually using it.
I’ll admit, my initial reactions to iOS 7 were that of surprise and a little confusion, but that’s why it’s important to take a step back and allow yourself time to become familiar with it. Screenshots are a far cry from actually holding a phone in your hand that you can use. Interfaces move and change dynamically, so holding the device and actually using the OS is far more meaningful.
From my experience over the last week, iOS 7 feels fresh. It’s open, bright and modern. It isn’t about flat design at all, despite what graphic designers may tell you. It’s about providing an experience that’s modern and uses the screen in the best way possible.
Simply looking at a few examples side by side illustrates this nicely.
This is Apple maturing their user interfaces. Icons, colors and layouts change. iOS 7 is the culmination of Apple’s work over the years into something that looks and feels different. Newer. I believe that normal users – the people that are actually the ones that matter to Apple – will love the new iOS. It’s fun, playful, feels fresh and brings a new way of looking at things to a platform that many were growing tired of.
It’s easy to see how many could perceive iOS 7 to be borrowing or stealing elements from other platforms, but I’d argue that everything is a remix anyway (watch this video series). Everyone is inspired by something and design is always influenced by other designs. Android being painted as an inspiration for iOS is a big change from years ago, considering how far the platform has come in terms of design. I hope the Android team feels honored that they’re able to be perceived that way now.
Personally, I’ve found over the last week of using iOS 7 that it grew on me quickly. I find it hard to imagine myself going back to iOS 6 now and when I use someone else’s iPhone it feels claustrophobic. I’m not saying iOS 7 is perfect – because it certainly isn’t – there is plenty of work to be done. The meat of it’s there and we’re only beginning to see the picture Apple is painting of the future.
These knee-jerk reactions we see on various blogs are great for gathering page views and advertising money, but it doesn’t really mean anything. Somehow, design doesn’t even really seem to be considered on the Samsung Galaxy S4, yet it is now the number two handset and we don’t see graphic designers shedding a tear over horrifying UI elements. Design matters, obviously, but clearly ‘normal’ people are able to see past that to some degree.
Change is extremely difficult and users can be extremely vocal when they’re not used to a new way of doing things. Consider whenever Facebook changes a small element in their UI, petitions and mass messages are almost always circulated that write about how it should be undone immediately.
Eventually, it tapers off and people actually come to like the new way of doing things. The world goes on. People eventually forget it was ever any other way.
That’s what I believe will happen with iOS 7, too.