Look and Feel

Today Apple unveiled what's going to become a whole new world for the iOS ecosystem. Alongside an impressive update to OS X and new hardware announcements like a refreshed MacBook Air and long-awaited Mac Pro came a complete re-thinking of iOS from what seems like the ground up. No stone was left un-turned with this new beginning for iOS. I wanted to talk about what that may mean for the iOS ecosystem's users and developers.

Apple has always been a champion for great design. That's apparent in the look of their products. The iconic Macintosh for example, or the elegant and attractive iMacs and MacBooks. The iPhone 5 may be the most attractive device Apple has made yet, with details like the chamfered edging and matte black finish. But in many ways, more important than how it looks is how it feels to hold, and to use. An iPhone just feels right to many of us, the same way that a Mac felt right to us before smartphones.

My favorite Steve Jobs quote, which received a mention today at the keynote, is that 'design is how it works'. What Apple has done with iOS 7 is a true testament to that. The design of iOS is no longer about the appearance of rich controls and detailed artwork and buttons. The focus has shifted to how the software makes the experience feel. Instead of rich textures, the layers in an application show through to provide depth and context and keep the focus where it should be: on content. The chrome becomes more muted and gets out of the way when you don't need it and comes back when you do.

But more than just the depth and translucency, we can see a big emphasis on motion and interaction. Shifting a background image based on how you hold your phone. Changing the angle of tabs in Safari. Even something as small and simple as shrinking, but not hiding, the URL bar in Safari as you scroll up. All of these are delightful touches that help bring an app to life through interaction. Parallax, blur and many of these techniques have been possible on iOS for some time now but this shift in iOS 7 shows which direction Apple sees the design winds blowing and I am excited to see them embracing it and taking the lead on the future direction for the platform.

At Google I/O a few weeks ago, I was disappointed with the lack of focus on developers building immersive experiences centered around great look and feel. Design is clearly important to Google. The polish and design in many of their own recent products is a testament to that. And while there were some good sessions around animation technology and UI design, I don't think you could say that it was a major emphasis from them to developers.

And that's why I am so excited about iOS 7. To me, it's not just about the lack of skeumorphic elements or linen backgrounds. It's about a focus from all angles on delightful user experience and engaging motion design in applications. Like with the introduction of iOS, Apple has set the bar for developers with iOS 7, and is giving us great tools to build these same kinds of experiences on the platform. I'm excited that they are pushing us forward and can't wait to see more of what everyone is going to build on the new version.