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WWDC 2013: Focusing on the little things

Paul Turner

I was one of five lucky Nerds who got to attend Apple’s WWDC this year, and it has been a blast so far. The keynote was probably the most exciting in terms of the big-picture changes coming from Apple. Interestingly enough, the big picture means focusing on the little things.

The small details

iOS 7 brings a whole new interface, one that pays attention to the small details that define the total experience. The new look is centered on the idea of simplicity and efficiency, bringing order to complexity, as Jony Ive said. What this has served to remind me of is the complexity involved in making an app feel and look easy to use.

By now you’ve probably seen images of Apple’s re-design of several of the apps. Gone are the days of faux leather; instead we now have a systemwide flatter, more minimalistic look. As with any change, opinions on this shift will range from extremely negative to very positive, but one thing is for certain: it’s here to stay.

Changes for developers

Apple has gone all in with these changes and in a way forced the hand of developers from here on out. Consistency is one of the pillars of the iPhone/iPad ecosystem, and users enjoy having a common look, feel and experience across all of their apps. With Apple updating all of the stock apps, users will become accustomed to the new way of interacting with apps. Going back with the edge of the screen, fluid transitions between screens, and translucent views will all become second nature to the user. This means that users will begin to expect the same from third-party apps.

This doesn’t mean developers should immediately freak out and start working weekends to revamp their apps to match the new look. On the other hand, if your app has a custom UI that you’ve worked on over the years, you may be telling yourself, “I don’t need to make any changes. My app already looks great.”

I feel that these are both the wrong approach.

A deeper look

Instead, iOS 7 warrants a deeper look at the app and its functionality. One of the things that Apple made clear was that they did not simply go about changing how things look. Instead, they focused on the experience and how things feel for the user. The word game Letterpress was given a 2013 Apple Design award because it “stands out for its beautifully understated game interface, simple gestures, subtle animations and restrained sound design.” So you can see that it’s not just changes in appearance that are important.

In all, I love Apple’s new change in design, and not entirely based on they way it looks. More importantly, I like the fact that the platform is evolving and changing, instead of clinging to what has worked in the past. Apple is forcing developers to look at their apps once again, and to think about how they can improve their experience. Developers will look at what Apple has done and “steal” certain features, but also will improve upon others, helping sustain the rich environment of apps that the iOS platform is known for.

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