Thoughts on iOS 10

After a week or so of using iOS 10, I thought I’d write down a few of my thoughts.

Everything’s bold

When Apple first announced the new Music UI they also give a little peak of the new bold font weight added to the SF UI family.

At first I wasn’t a fan. It seemed too similar to Arial Bold and in a world of San Fransisco non-bold fonts, following on from Helvetica Neue, it felt a little un-Apple. However, from the previews I’d seen it immediately brought a visual hierarchy to the Music interface. Headings were clearly defined and greater contrast is achieved from the removal of the grey heading background.

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Icons within Music are heavier. The stroke/outline is double the thickness of other icons throughout the OS. I’m still undecided on this design, however I think I’m leaning towards the previous thin icons. Although the heavier icons in iOS 10 allow for effective use of two-tone colour, a vertical option list containing icons for each action demands your attention, drawing you away from the list itself.

Music, although heavier, is also cleaner via the removal of the ‘more’ button replaced with Force Touch/Long Press to active the menu. I must admit, I had to turn to Google to discover this. Not owning a 6s means Long Press is not a natural or normal behaviour, so removing this button increased the discoverability of the menu. Now I’m aware, I think I’m preferring this approach but for new or even existing users, this could be a small pain point.

What I didn’t expect from the Music previews was that this bold font would inspire the OS outside of Music, rubbing off on icons and other apps such as Maps.

Maps
The Maps UI has received a significant overhaul. Buttons have been re-introduced adding affordance and visual weight to destination actions such as ‘Go’ and ‘End’.

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This seems a very sensible decision. Map users are those likely to be behind the wheel of a vehicle. In this context, the user will not be in a position to offer full concentration and attention during interaction. The app needs to provide immediate visual recognition and assist the user who is simply scanning the UI, looking for familiar shapes and patterns. This is where the new green ‘Go’ and red ‘End’ buttons excel. They provide the familiar button shape, without adding too much chrome and are enhanced by the use of positive and negative colour, meaning with a quick glance the user is able to find the action they’re looking for.

Messages

Messages has also received a big overhaul, not so much from a UI but a from a feature perspective. For me, the effort required to enrich the message is not worth the result. Adding invisible texts or animations to the text requires a lot of effort for very little gain. I’m a user from the 90’s. I’ve been texting since the good old Nokia 402 days and I probably show my age when admitting this, but I love the simplicity of the previous versions of iOS Messages.

Over the years, Messages is one app that hasn’t dramatically changed on each release. There’s been some UI additions, differentiating between iMessage and SMS, the move from Skeuomorphism to Flat design, but overall, the simplicity of texting never changed. Although texting hasn’t really changed within iOS 10, these new features require extra UI and in the process they make texting feel slightly laborious than needed.

Layers
The visual improvements to Notifications and Control Centre describe a much clearer visual map. In iOS 7, Apple introduced the idea of layered content, using background blur to help communicate the sense of depth. iOS 10 takes this a step further with the introduction of horizontal swiping on the top layer. Control Center is a good example of this. By removing the Audio/Video controls to within their own panel, not only does it provide more real estate to help better define the shortcut icons, it additionally enforces the concept of a rich multi-layered UI.

Overall thoughts
iOS 10 is still new and I like that Apple has had the courage to continue to build on their post-skeuomorphic UI. Is the new iOS 10 big, bold and beautiful? Almost. The more I use it, the more I enjoy it. More importantly the easier I find it. With some tweaks here and there, and consistency across all built-in apps which will come in time, my opinion is that the simple addition of a Bold font could lead to Apple’s most polished, loved and successful iOS.

Written by

UI & UX Designer. Passionate about design, health & fitness and wellbeing.

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