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Thoughts on iOS 7's new look and the Storyist for iOS redesign?

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Hi Folks,

 

If you've upgraded to iOS 7 (or even if you haven't), you know that Apple completely redesigned the user interface for this release: Brighter colors; thinner, more elegant system fonts; flat, "frosted" toolbars; borderless buttons; an overall lighter appearance.

 

Storyist for iOS 2.1 (just released) adopts these design concepts, and should feel right at home in this new world.

 

So what do you think? Do you like Apple's new design direction? How about Storyist's update?

 

I've been working with the iOS 7 betas for a while, and now when I switch to a device running iOS 6, the "old" style looks a little dated. However, my reaction when I first saw the redesign was "Wow, this is going to shock people."

 

I'm curious to know what your initial reaction is and how you feel after using it for a week.

 

-Steve

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Hi Steve,

 

I updated to iOS7 a day after the release and I'm still not sure what to think of the redesign. While I agree iOS 6 does look a bit dated, there's a deja-vu to a lot of the iOS7 visuals too (flat shaded, frosted transparency). But whereas there has been a trend in UI's to go to a darker charcoal grey (at least for art apps), Apple have done the opposite and gone for a pure white, which I find quite glaringly bright and hard on the eyes.

 

Borderless buttons and ambiguous icons do make navigation a little trickier too. I'm not sure the visual language has been locked down yet. While the older iOS had a dated look, the rounded bars and buttons did at least give you some separation between parts of the UI. For me, I think there is more change for change's sake than for improved functionality, and a ripping out of any trace of skuomorphism.

 

I never had a problem with skuomorphism, as long as it was done well. It added a certain (pseudo) tactile familiar 'feel' to any app that used it, and often it aided in adding a touch of nostalgia and atmosphere and made you forget you were using an electronic device. No-one complains about using an analog clock to show the time, because it's a better display to use than just having digits. Yet it emulates the look of a mechanical device.

Bad design and user interface I feel was the bane of trying to emulate reality though, where form took over function. But even now, in iOS7 we set preferences by 'pressing' a visual representation of a toggle switch that by all visual clues should be slid left or right. That, is bad skuomorphism, not fake leather trim on a notebook.

A lot of the new iOS7 features also appear to be battery sappers, so whether you like them or not, one of the first things to do after upgrading is to turn them off.

The parallax wallpaper looked a lot better in the online videos than in real life, and is a not so great solution to the lack of separation of your app icons from the wallpaper (something iOS6 did just fine).

Storyist seems to have made the transition to iOS7 quite easily, no doubt thanks to the nice UI design. There are a few things I miss though- as overdone as the linen wallpaper was, there's something to be said having untextured index cards on a textured background. Negative space draws your eyes to the cards and not the background. Sections in the outliner used to be separated with some bevels, rather than just listed on a solid block of color. However, the 2-tone keyboard I prefer in the new. The notes are a little out of place now too, as they still have the skuomorphic look of a post-it note in this otherwise more abstract interface.

But these are extremely minor criticisms. Storyist is a well designed app and the update to iOS7 has a very familiar look and retains the colors and contrast of the older version.

Oh, and the addition of fountain support for novels... a very pleasant surprise. ;-)

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Hi Ross,

Let me preface my comments by saying that I think Apple's new design is a starting point, and that it will evolve over time as designers get more experience with it. You can already see the change from the initial iOS 7 beta to the released version.

I updated to iOS7 a day after the release and I'm still not sure what to think of the redesign. While I agree iOS 6 does look a bit dated, there's a deja-vu to a lot of the iOS7 visuals too (flat shaded, frosted transparency). But whereas there has been a trend in UI's to go to a darker charcoal grey (at least for art apps), Apple have done the opposite and gone for a pure white, which I find quite glaringly bright and hard on the eyes.


Yes, the color scheme change was quite a bold design decision. Not only did they move from dark to light, but from more muted colors to pastels. Color preference is a very personal thing. I wouldn't be surprised if many people who bought an iPhone or iPad because they liked the old color scheme are unhappy with the new one. I also wouldn't be surprised if the "old-timers" who came to iOS from Mac were unhappy. The old design took a lot of cues from the Mac interface (e.g. gray gradient toolbars and buttons). The new design strikes out in a different direction.

Borderless buttons and ambiguous icons do make navigation a little trickier too. I'm not sure the visual language has been locked down yet. While the older iOS had a dated look, the rounded bars and buttons did at least give you some separation between parts of the UI. For me, I think there is more change for change's sake than for improved functionality, and a ripping out of any trace of skuomorphism.


I agree. I think that removing the borders from buttons makes the interface a little harder to use, at least initially. Apple's guidance was to use color to indicate what is tappable, like a link in a web browser.

More problematic was the advice to use text rather than icons in the interface where possible. This might work for English, but makes localization to other languages more difficult. I see that even Apple has backed off from this a little.

I never had a problem with skuomorphism, as long as it was done well. It added a certain (pseudo) tactile familiar 'feel' to any app that used it, and often it aided in adding a touch of nostalgia and atmosphere and made you forget you were using an electronic device. No-one complains about using an analog clock to show the time, because it's a better display to use than just having digits. Yet it emulates the look of a mechanical device.

Bad design and user interface I feel was the bane of trying to emulate reality though, where form took over function. But even now, in iOS7 we set preferences by 'pressing' a visual representation of a toggle switch that by all visual clues should be slid left or right. That, is bad skuomorphism, not fake leather trim on a notebook.


Skeuomorphism does have it's place. Files and folders are probably the original skeuomorphic design elements, and while Apple has been trying to get rid of folders for years (see the various iterations of "groups" in the iOS home screen), people are stubbornly refusing to go along. I'm certainly guilty of that.

One of Apple's goals for the redesign was to have the interface get out of the way so you could focus on your content. Unfortunately, removing the skeuomorphism from the toolbars and buttons blurs the lines between UI and content, at least until you know your way around an app. They went for a cleaner look at the expense of a slightly more difficult initial user experience. I think this was a conscious decision. At one point Jony Ive says that five years after the launch of the iPhone, people know their way around a smart device, so it isn't a big issue. I hope he's right.

A lot of the new iOS7 features also appear to be battery sappers, so whether you like them or not, one of the first things to do after upgrading is to turn them off.

The parallax wallpaper looked a lot better in the online videos than in real life, and is a not so great solution to the lack of separation of your app icons from the wallpaper (something iOS6 did just fine).


I'm sure that some of these new design elements (parallax, single-pixel-width lines) are there because they highlight things that the newest iOS devices can do well and the competing ones can't. The fact that older iOS devices don't do them well either isn't something Apple cares about too much. They want you to buy new devices.

Storyist seems to have made the transition to iOS7 quite easily, no doubt thanks to the nice UI design. There are a few things I miss though- as overdone as the linen wallpaper was, there's something to be said having untextured index cards on a textured background. Negative space draws your eyes to the cards and not the background.


Linen isn't available any more, but you can still use the leather or metal background by going to the Storyist pane in the Settings app and changing the background pattern.

Sections in the outliner used to be separated with some bevels, rather than just listed on a solid block of color.


I actually went back and forth on whether to remove the bevels from the outline view rows or not. :-)

I needed to update the look, and the question was to make it one pixel wide or remove it completely. In iOS 7, the table view bevels aren't edge to edge any longer, so the default behavior would have been to have different starting points for the bevel depending on the outline level of the row. This looked ... odd.

The deciding factor was that the Project view in the Mac version doesn't have beveled rows, so there is precedent.

However, the 2-tone keyboard I prefer in the new. The notes are a little out of place now too, as they still have the skuomorphic look of a post-it note in this otherwise more abstract interface.


I decided to stick with skeuomorphic file and folders design elements because people are familiar with them. Same logic with the comments. I'll probably tone down the gradient in a future release.

But these are extremely minor criticisms. Storyist is a well designed app and the update to iOS7 has a very familiar look and retains the colors and contrast of the older version.


Thanks. I hope it strikes the right balance between what is new in iOS 7 and what is true to the app.

Oh, and the addition of fountain support for novels... a very pleasant surprise. ;-)


It was your feature request that got the ball rolling. Thanks again for that.

-Steve

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I'm usually pretty relaxed about changes to operating systems, but IOS 7 makes me think of a program designed by Fisher-Price. I absolutely hate the look. As a result, I'm just refusing to upgrade until Apple either comes to its senses or throws in a feature I can't live without (iTunes Radio ain't it, although it lured Sir Percy into upgrading). :)

 

It also seems to have quite a few weird bugs, but that's not surprising in a major upgrade. No doubt Apple will fix them eventually.

Best,

M

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I updated to OS 7 straight way and have been very pleasantly surprised with it. Sure, I'd read and seen all about the update prior to installing it ,and new to some degree what to expect, but not until you use it can you appreciate how different and a fresh it is. While many things haven't structurally changed it is certainly more than skin deep. It really is a fresh look that instantly make the previous iterations seem dated. There are many areas that show great promise and I hope Apple capitalise on this, such as learning more about what you do and where you go for the Today view, to make a smart phone a lot smarter. (I realise Google Now already does much of this and that you have to give up a degree of privacy to get the most out of this, but as a paranoid sort I'm more willing to give some up to Apple than to Google. Anticipatory computing being one of the next big things IMHO).

 

Some things do still grate with me. Some of the pastel icons are really quite poor, like they were made by someone who had just discovered Illustrator. (Safari, Settings, Contacts readily spring to mind). While some have an understandable theme, such as the 3 communications app (Phone, Messages & FaceTime) but now require a bit more mental agility each time to select, seeings as all 3 use the same white symbol on a green gradient. In comparison look at the Evernote gradient - it really is more pleasing with a some subtle shading.

 

Certainly the aesthetic of iOS 7 is very print design like, which personally I like as I spend a fair amount of time in InDesign. There is that Swiss look aesthetic which has stood the test of time and which a think Apple has successfully used on screen, especially so on retina displays. On my non-retina display iPad I do find the UI text less pleasing, which has quickened my desire to upgrade to a retina iPad, so I'm waiting for the next iteration of iPads.

 

But to the question of how Storyist works in iOS 7 I feel the transition has been a success. I don't think it's complete, but the first version for iOS 7 is sound. (And I'm sure Steve you're already planning on what needs to change).

 

Just like the UI as a whole it is a lighter, less heavy UI - a day prior to iOS 7 I would have thought the UI for both were fine, but it's interesting what a day makes and how dated the previous versions both look. As in the UI I feel a retina display is required, but seeing as this is were displays are heading I'm ok with that. Another area which my 2nd Gen. iPad is showing its age is with translucency .On my iPhone 5 it works really well, but on my iPad it doesn't. Instead of translucency I just get transparency, which can make certain parts of Storyist seem noisy, lack depth and contrast. This occurs in the Document popover and when the text in the navigation sidebar scrolls under the buttons on the bottom, or the text at the top, since the OS doesn't blur the the content underneath. This is an OS/hardware issue and nothing to do with Storyist, so I can live with that.

 

Now that we've started down this road there is a sense of impatience for apps to start using the new look - seeing as using a non-updated app looks so heavy and dated now. So I feel that Storyist should embrace what it has started and go the whole way and shed the remnants of the old look, such as folders, comments, cards, and the the icons for files and story sheets. Sure it's an undertaking but I think in the long run it would lead to better user experience. It's not that I think they should disappear, but feel they need to embrace the new design language for a more unified UI.

 

One specific change I don't really see the point of is the chevron and the info icon in the sidebar. Surely the chevron is enough to indicate more, and the addition of the info icon means a more highly truncated line of text.

 

Looking forward to where this is going. Nice work Steve.

 

Simon

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I do think that iOS 7 is very much a work in progress. Just looking at the inconsistency in app icons being either flat colored or shaded dark to light or light to dark demonstrates that. Using color to distinguish labels from buttons will become second nature in a while but it's very dependent on how well the UI in an app is designed.

 

Having white as a dominant background I think is a mistake, and something Storyist has thankfully avoided especially with the project view being that nice dark blue grey that keeps your focus on the writing.

 

The new look for iOS7 works great, but I think that's down to the design (it also looked great in iOS6) of the app rather than the design of iOS7! Clean, intuitive and functional. My criticism is really a criticism of iOS7, I wouldn't change anything you have done to the app- it matches the new style and design philosophy perfectly.

 

And thanks again for adding novel support for fountain. Now I have no excuse to start writing all those ideas I've filled many notebooks with!

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