iOS 11 and the Usability Statement it is Making

Photo From Benjamin Geskin

User familiarity has long been a point of contention in digital design. The argument is that we cannot change the way our design functions by reason of we will lose users, because they are unfamiliar with how it works. Valid point, but how will we advance design, to hopefully find something that is more intuitive and user friendly, if we don’t take long bold steps in a new direction. There are actually multiple examples of this working in the real world and with the recent announcement of iOS 11 we’ve got a fresh new statement being made.

Features

iOS 11 has a slew of new features packed in and honestly it is a bit hard to fully grasp and understand all of them without doing some homework. Let’s take a look at some of the major features of iOS 11:

Control Center and Notifications redesign
App Store redesign
Apple Music redesign
Files
Multitasking and app switcher
Drag and Drop
Screenshot editing
Markup
Document scanning
One-handed keyboard

Those are just the features I found most notable, the list goes on from there with many incremental adjustments to a lot of different apps. With a rollout this big how does Apple expect us to know about the updates or how to use them. I think the answer is that they don’t expect us to know what the updates are or how to use them.

New times, new users

Just as the internet went through a revolution in usability in the last few years, we’re currently having a revolution in internet users and it’s the younglings. My crowd, maybe? I don’t know, I’m 24 and I am still a little confused on how Snapchat works, so I might not be the young crowd that I’m talking about here.

I have a niece, 3, and two nephews, 5 and 7. They all have their own iPad and iPhone (I know, right?). They know everything: how to turn on cellular data, view YouTube, record and upload to YouTube, download games, play those games, download Snapchat, and then add me on Snapchat. There isn’t anything they can’t figure out how to do.

My point is, anecdotally, I don’t want to attribute these young kids’ ability to learn interface to UX research. I think they would have figured out how to do all of that no matter how those apps were structured. It’s because they grew up with these digital landscapes and are learning how to use the internet not because they had to, but because they want to.

It is refreshing to see companies realize that they need to give their users the tools they will need and not be inhibited by user competence. UX research is still massively important and was definitely a major pillar propping up all of the new features introduced in iOS 11. I see the future of interface being rooted in core UX principles, but there are and will be more gems that work perfectly and break all of the rules, because users are becoming more determined.