On iOS 7 App Design and Uniformity

iOS 7, of course, is bringing sweeping UI changes like the operating system has never seen before. Many developers are currently hard at work, building iOS 7 versions of their apps.

From what I’ve seen, it’s paying off. I’m currently running several betas of iOS 7-only apps,[1] and many of the apps in my SECRETS! folder feel right at home on my sacrificed-to-the-beta-gods iPhone.

But they all feel awfully similar.

I can take a look at screenshots of them and tell them apart, mind you. Developers are using color in some very exciting, unique ways on iOS 7, but white frosted glass is everywhere, as are the standard UI controls found in Apple’s first-party apps.

While I don’t have an app for sale, I can appreciate the tough spot developers are in with all of this. Not embracing iOS 7’s new UI will make apps instantly feel old, leading some users to look at alternatives that might feel more updated.

I think many developers are staying close to what Apple has done in apps like Mail, Messages and Safari.

In all honesty, it’s probably a good move. Time will tell what will remain fashionable or acceptable, and staying in Cupertino’s shadow for a bit should be safer for now.

(Of course, the fact that most of what Apple has done with UIKit looks pretty damn good doesn’t hurt, either.)

Federico Vitcci chimed in on this earlier on Twitter:

I wouldn’t be surprised if it took until iOS 8 for 3rd party devs to experiment more. So much stuff still in flux.

A repeat of 2008 (App Store) and 2010 (iPad launch) seems likely. Follow Apple’s model, then start iterating and experimenting more.

As Freddie V. brings up, this phenomenon isn’t new. Looking back at apps from the early days of the App Store, it’s clear the developers and users both have gotten more comfortable with UIs that branch out from the conventions outlined by Apple.

I’m looking forward to see what sort of creativity iOS 7 sparks within designers. Until then, I suppose, things will be a little more uniform than what we’ve all gotten used to over the last couple of years.

  1. hashtag humblebrag  ↩