The Apple event of the season sold out in 71 seconds, and Maestro was lucky enough to score 3 of the 5000 or so tickets available to developers around the world. We were introduced to a lot of great new products and features during the keynote, but I think the biggest news (at least the news that matters most to us at Maestro) was the introduction of Apple’s newest mobile operating system, iOS 7.
The announcement of the new OS has stirred quite a reaction (particularly from the design community), but I’d rather not dissect that argument here. Matt Gemmell and Craig Hockenberry do an excellent job of that and sum up my feelings regarding the new look and feel quite well. Instead, I’ll focus on Apple’s intent and how it will affect app development moving forward.
Goodbye Chrome, Hello Content In the early days of the iPhone, people were not all that familiar with touch screen user interfaces aside from the poorly designed LCD stylus-based PDAs. Certain design metaphors were necessary to promote the right kinds of interactions. Dragable content needed faux–3D grips to simulate a gripable surface that you might push with your thumb, slide gestures required some form of slider button on a track, and buttons needed to look pressable.
These days, touch screen, gesture-based user interfaces are so ubiquitous, that skeuomorphic design techniques have become largely unnecessary. In fact, the constraints inherent in those techniques are beginning to outweigh the benefits. Such approaches to design end up taking a large amount of the device’s screen surface in UI chrome and adornment. Freeing the UI from the old way of doing things should make it easier for designers to create layouts that focus on what matters most: the content.
Transitions with Intent Removing the embellishment from the UI does a lot for bringing clarity to the presentation of content, but designing interactive intent now becomes much more important to establishing a good user experience. Where before, well-executed transitions and animated interactions were a show of craftsmanship and extra level of polish and shine, now they are essential to effectively conveying the intended feel of interacting with two-dimensional content on the screen.
In iOS 7, Apple has released a number of new APIs that make creating these animations and transitions much easier for developers, so you can expect to see an increase in the use of animation with apps later this year. However, as the saying goes, with great power comes great responsibility. Successful developers will use the new animation APIs to enhance the storytelling within their apps. It should blend in, enhance the way the app feels, and should be largely unnoticeable in the greater scheme.
What About Our iOS 6 Apps? Well, you can’t bake a cake without breaking a few eggs. Likewise, you can’t completely rebuild the structure of the current platform without changing some of its fundamental behaviors. For the most part, existing apps should run fine with minor adjustments to the current code base. However, it won’t be long before the existing apps begin to feel dated, clunky, and dull. If user experience matters, it would make sense to revisit how your apps work in context with iOS 7. Marco Arment, of Instapaper fame, wrote a rather insightful piece on his blog that suggests a rebirth in the mobile app space. The idea that a shakeup like iOS 7 could level the playing field for new-comers looking to enter a saturated app market, makes this an exciting time to be a developer.
Any Love for the Enterprise? Most of the information I have regarding iOS changes for the enterprise is still under NDA, but as a former IT lead for mobility in an rather large enterprise company, I can say that many of the holes we struggled with incorporating consumer devices made for personal use have been filled. There were a lot of exciting MDM and MAM (mobile device management and mobile application management, respectively) updates made around security, like the ability to offer true SSO for all enterprise apps under management, and per-app VPN configuration options as well. For more detailed information, check with your enterprise Apple rep or MDM provider, or watch this space for more information when the new APIs become public.