Give Users Some Credit
Rethinking UX perceptions in iOS 7
I was reading an article on Ars Technica where I came across a statement from iOS Developer Darshan Shankar:
“With no edge definition and no contrast, users may not realize that something is clickable” - (http://arstechnica.com/apple/2013/06/developers-react-to-ios-7-and-being-sherlocked-at-wwdc-2013)
This was not the first time I came across this reaction to iOS 7, and I will admit that I too felt the exact same way upon first glance at Apple’s latest operating system. Then I started to think about how mobile usage, or any type of touch interface usage, has evolved over the last few years. It’s well known that the first touch interfaces were designed to reflect real-world interfaces (I'm not going there) in order to train users how to use these new devices and software. What I think many critics of iOS 7, and maybe “flat” interfaces in general, fail to see is that the general population of users has graduated from this training period.
I think it is reasonable to assume that most educated users don’t really need to be told (even indirectly through the use of borders and shadows) where to touch any more. I believe that most users now just assume that everything is touchable until proven otherwise.
I'm not a fan of discoverable interactions like clever gestures that reveal functionality (though I do take pleasure when I find one and even remember it the next time). But, I'm not going to assume that people need to see a stroke around the word Close to know that you can touch it to dismiss your current activity. Yes strokes and shadows define hit areas, but don’t the icons and text labels provide context in the same way? It’s up to the Designer to choose appropriate placement, labels, and icons to define the context of interactions and set those apart from non-interactive content.
There are going to be challenges with this, but every version of iOS and all the other modern OS’s have provided the training to get users to this point. If you can’t solve how to provide the proper context to your interactions a stroke around the icon isn't going to help users figure it out. Give everything context, and let’s give our users some credit.