For the last time, iOS 7 isn’t flat! It’s all about depth

I’m getting a little sick and tired of everyone calling iOS 7 “flat”.

People seem to think it is “flat” just because that’s what a lot of the media say. It’s as if no-one is really using it or no-one ever listened to Jony Ive’s explanations. To my knowledge he’s never, ever said iOS 7 is “flat” – quite the opposite.

Depth, not flatness

iOS 7 is all about depth and layers.

Right from the beginning there’s a home screen with parallax, providing depth.

Control Center slides up in front with a translucent background to show depth with content behind, orienting the user and making it clear this is “over” their content and intuitive to slide down.

Notification Center slides down from the top and does the same.

Applications, like Safari, also use this with the address bar subtlely covering the content with a hint of what’s behind, giving, yes, you’ve guessed it, a sense of depth:

Examples of Depth in the iOS 7 UI

Why skeuomorphism is limiting

Yes, the icons and apps are no longer skeuomorphic so might seem “flatter” but they are not flat – there’s considerable use of gradients and colours to provide a sense of depth.

Skeuomorphism gave us a riot of psuedo-”depth” that was uncoordinated and gave no clues as to depth order in the UI.

It was yet another hangover of simulating real world limitations in software – yes, there’s familiarity but there’s also all the unnecessary limitations of the real world and all of those faux textures take up valuable screen and memory space.

A good example of this real-world hangover is iBooks and similar e-book solutions.

In the beginning the emphasis was all on simulating real books with separate pages and page-turn animations.

Then people stood back from that and realised that “pages” are a limitation of paper books – they aren’t needed in an electronic world. Much more naturally intuitive is continuous scrolling which also allows juxtaposition of content across page boundaries. So long as you can bookmark your place (or the system remembers it), pages are not necessary.

It’s easy to become blinded to what is “natural”. Gandhi once said “do not confuse what is habitual with what is natural”. He wasn’t talking about tech, but his comments are relevant here. We’re habituated by the constraints of the physical world. When designing digital solutions we need to free our minds from those constraints.

Many people might not like the new look of iOS 7, fair enough, but please, please, please stop calling it “flat”!

Posted in Technology.

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