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Jeffrey Thompson

I'm a Software Engineer from many places, currently working in Sydney.

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iOS 7's design has been both widely criticised and widely praised. Doing away with a great deal of the skeuomorphism present in previous iOS UIs, in many ways it can be seen as an evolution of the smartphone UI. It's clean, functional and modern. There's no more stitched leather on the calendar, buttons have been replaced with typography and the ever-present status bar is now combined with the top of your view's content, theoretically (but not practically, not really...) giving more focus to your content. But the whole experience just doesn't feel as polished as it did in iOS 6; rightly so, we're still at the first release of this UI.

This is a collection of some of my thoughts on the UX in iOS 7.

Selecting Text

While highlighting text, when you so much as touch a piece of whitespace it carries the selection forward to greedily include the whitespace, making it jarring to select up to the end of a paragraph. It's hard to explain in words so here are some pictures to illustrate:

Trying to select to the end of the line. My finger is directly over the last character (the full stop), right where the end-of-selection caret is, as I would expect.
If I move my finger just a tiny bit to the right, the selection cursor jumps instantly out from under my finger and over to the right, jarring me.

Readability

It's all well and good trying to achieve a clean UI but it needs to be functional and on iPhones and iPads the primary function is the consumption of content, most of which (for most users) is verbal. Great work was done on the font rendering side of things, but there are quite a few readability problems that slipped through the nets. The biggest one for me is in Private Browsing in Safari, which darkens the UI chrome rather than lightening it as normally happens. Mostly this is fine, but there's an oversight when you're searching for text on a page; the colour of the text in the search controls has minimal contrast.

You probably can't even make out the text or the controls in the lower toolbar.
There are also other readability issues, mostly around contrast. The thread titles for messages in Mail don't really have much contrast against the mid-grey background:

The title of the thread "Cordova Debug Mode" and "2 items" is not given very much contrast. This is probably intentional so that your eyes are drawn to the messages themselves, but as a user I've been trained to check the top of the screen for context, and in this case I just notice "Thread" and then "a bunch of messages". Would have been nicer to be drawn to the context first; maybe replace "Thread" with the title of the thread, rather than just telling me that it's a thread, which doesn't really tell much much at all.

Inconsistent Buttons

Buttons no longer look like buttons, now they just look like coloured text. Sometimes. Sometimes they're grey until you tap them. Sometimes they have a letterpress effect. Maybe I'm a little old school, but what's wrong with a button looking like a button, or at least being distinguished from its surroundings by some kind of border that shows you where you need to aim your finger. This is not applied consistently in the OS; there are times when you will still see a "button" with a border, and times when you'll see text that's tappable but not differentiated from its surroundings by colour or that letterpress effect.

Here we have coloured letterpress words, with a bold "Done". Actually this is surprisingly low contrast but anyway.

This is fairly regular; we have a blue line art icon indicating that you can pull up a list.

The song is actually a button, but it's not really made clear that you can click on it. We also see another style of "button" here, the circular icons.

This is probably an oversight but that Remove looks completely out of place, one of the last surviving pieces of the iOS 7 UI.

The meaning of the "Accept" button here is unclear to me. Actually I've already accepted the meeting, but it actually looks like the most clickable icon there even though if I tap it nothing happens.

Here in Game Center the App Store button is surrounded by a box, and is probably the most button-like button in the entire OS now.
A lot of this might be nitpicking but consistency matters a great deal to the user experience.

Notifications

Notification Center is now has three lists of notifications you're probably going to care about instead of just one. Surely the "Today" panel belongs on the lock screen?

Notification Center. Today feels like it belongs on the home screen to me.
All and Missed just makes no sense to me. Every notification in Notification Center is already Missed, or I would have tapped/responded to it as it came in.

Character/Style/Flair

Most of the built-in apps (save for Notes, which just looks sorely out of place) now follow the same clean design: white translucent toolbar merged with the status bar, letterpress text buttons, thin line art toolbar icons, and titleless tableview section dividers. The only difference between most of the apps is the colour of the text. This is very subtle differentiation between them, but to be frank it's a little boring. I liked the fact that just at a glance i could tell I was in the calendar app based on the leather stitching that surrounded my entries.