(How) iOS 7 can be amazing

How Apple can nail the next generation of iOS by redesigning, adding detail and adding finish (+ examples)

I've been very vocal about what I think of the design of iOS 7, even to the point where people unfollowed me because I couldn't stop talking (ranting?) about it.

The thing is; I actually think iOS 7 is great. Well, it can be great. Amazing, even.

Steve Jobs once famously said that design isn't just how it looks; it's how it works, and iOS 7 works great. Apple has finally added much requested features, the way the UI responds to the way you hold your device and the animations are great (a little too slow maybe though). But there's also a lot still wrong with the way iOS 7 currently looks.

Some people said to me that iOS 7 is about the user experience rather than the visual design and that you can't judge the OS based on just how it looks. While that's true, it's not an excuse for putting something out that looks awful and amateurish in many ways.

With all due respect to all designers and engineers at Apple, but as someone on Twitter wisely said:

If you have to explain why your design principles make sense,
they don’t make sense.

Removing every single shadow from the UI and designing every icon around a grid system are ideas that might have sounded great in theory, but don't work out practically.When you're completely redesigning an OS with an incredible legacy, it's not a good idea to stubbornly stick to new principles or have icons redesigned by your marketing and communications department. Icon design is an art and a distinct job.

Now, I care very much about this product, so I have redesigned six screens from iOS 7 beta 1 from the ground up and added detail and finish, to show that in some cases moving away from your new design principles isn't a bad thing, and to show how amazing iOS 7 can look.


In these images, the screen on the left is my redesign, while the screen on the right is taken from iOS 7 beta 1.

Everything has been redrawn from scratch, having put attention to every little detail. The icons are not designed around the new grid system, because it is wrong.

The result is a much clearer, professional looking interface with icons that jump out. Some changes I'd like to mention: the signal strength indicator and battery icon are now clearer, I reduced the blur in the dock, and I've added a badge in the status bar indicating the amount of unread notifications in Notification Center; a feature I've wanted forever.

Control Center

Let's pull up Control Center. Again, I reduced the blur, but increased the opacity of the sheet for more clarity. I removed the arrow on top because it has no further use; just tap above the sheet or swipe it down to dismiss. I also removed the music position slider as you can tap and hold the previous and next controls to change your position, plus three sliders is a little too cluttered for me. The calculator and camera shortcuts are simplified versions of their homescreen counterparts to improve consistency.


Now let's jump into Maps. I added some subtle shadow effects, turned up the opacity and turned down the blur on the navigationbar and toolbar, which make the screen instantly clearer. I also restored some of the old icons, because I find them better.


Applying the same navbar and toolbar changes to Calendar again improves things a lot. Some people may dislike it and others may love this: I restored the clearly outlined buttons. Solid in the navbars, outlined only in the toolbar.

App Store

Basically the same treatment, and of course improved the iconography here as well. Replaced the Updates tab with Purchases, since apps auto-update in iOS 7.


And finally, Settings. In my opinion, full-width menu items are confusing because they could be seen as a header to another view or a toolbar. That's why I restored the grouped tableviews, which also results in a higher content density (more options fit on the screen).

I hope you can now see why I've been so vocal about iOS 7, because the new version of iOS is a bunch of great (design) ideas of which most are executed poorly in its current state.

In the coming months, I truly hope Apple tweaks and polishes the OS in the ways I described, because this is how iOS 7 can, and in my opinion deserves to look.

September 16th 2013 Edit: Having used iOS 7 for an extended period of time and seeing it being tweaked over the course of the beta period, I have to revise my opinion a little bit.

The iconography is still awful in a lot of places (including the ones on the homescreen), the animations are still too slow and a few interfaces were clearer in iOS 6, but I do like the overall update as a whole.

I can understand some (but not all) of the design decisions Apple has made. I'm excited to see what third-party developers will do with all the new tools and how they will update their apps.

There's still a lot of room for improvement (the keyboard for example), but I wouldn't want to go back to iOS 6. It's a new beginning for iOS and it can probably only get better from here.

I can't wait for a jailbreak to come out, so I can perfect the OS to my taste: theme the icons, speed up the animations and supercharge my keyboard using Octopus Keyboard.

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