Raw thoughts from Alex Dong

Is iOS 7 the victim of narrow design mentality? Design for design's sake?

Like I said, I feel let down by the iOS 7 design. It is not that Apple won’t be able to get the contrasts right or they can’t nail the design details. It is not that this does not open up a whole new trend of design that focuses on content, which I agree is a good thing. It is about what is Apple.

Designed by Apple is fine. I love Apple’s product because they are beautiful and such a joy to use. But down in my heart, I see Apple as a technology company, not a design company. Macintosh made it possible for normal people to run VisiCalc at home. iPhone offered GPS and high-def camera which enabled a whole range of innovations/industries. These are the things I am looking for on a technology platform provider.

The following comment from HackerNews summarized my thoughts perfectly.

Yay change for change’s sake.

This is exactly the wrong attitude in my opinion. How does it help users to all of a sudden have most apps feel ancient? Is it really something to be proud of? That for the next year we’ll be working on replacing existing utilities so that they feel “right” and “fresh” instead of doing what we should be doing: thinking of actual new software that is worthwhile to write.

I’ve been saying this for a while but I think what is happening, and what many developers haven’t noticed yet, is that we have exhausted the utility of software for software’s sake. The interesting stuff happening in mobile now has nothing to do with “design” in the traditional sense any more. Its not enough to just have a coder and a designer on the team. The really cool stuff is all about what your phone actually allows you to do in the real world. Look at apps like uber, postmates, spotify, and twitch.tv. Most of these have terrible UI’s, but that’s not the point. The point is that they allow you to do things. I can have a car on my doorstep! I can listen to almost any song I want. They’re not just another calculator app or news reader, so who cares if its not the prettiest or easiest thing to use in the world. They are an interface to actually useful services. Software was interesting on its own a decade ago, but the industry has grown up, its time to do things now. That doesn’t mean that “UI and UX” don’t matter, it just means their definition changes and grows beyond just how you tap things on glass and what pixels you choose to animate.

The reason that iOS 7 seems comforting in the way its described in this article is because it gives developers who haven’t realized this something to do again. Marco is absolutely right, for a long time it has felt like all the major categories have been covered on the app store. That’s a good thing! It means we’ve solved lots of problems. We shouldn’t daydream of a day when those problems get artificially unsolved so we can have another shot at them. We should move on.