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God damn it Jony.

or How Apple tried to outdesign Google at their own game… and failed?!

God damn it Jony.

or How Apple tried to outdesign Google at their own game… and failed?!


So. That was a bit of a fucking surprise.

I don’t think anybody thought they would actually take it that far but I guess part of me is impressed they’ve had the cojones to push it in such an opposite direction to one that so many Apple-devotees are used to. However, why they’ve gone quite so far baffles me. I always thought Android was a bit ‘too flat’ and threw up some usability issues when it came to finding tappable elements and hit radii, however the recent UI updates for apps such as Google Now have been beautifully implemented.

Sexy flat design from Google.

Apple have, gasp, followed the lead of Google & Microsoft in their UI style… and somehow not managed to do it as well?! For sure there are elements which are beautiful in the new designs (weather, compass and clock take a bow) but there’s some very basic elements which look frankly unfinished (and I hope to god that’s what they are). The colour selection on the icons is lurid and tacky (and perhaps chosen purely so to not fall foul of a Layervault lawsuit by going pastel) but I’m shocked that was allowed to leave anyone’s design studio, let alone Apple. The notes app uses thin YELLOW Helvetica on a WHITE background for it’s headings and ‘non-button button text’… how does that fall into anybody’s remit as good usability/readability? (It also has some horrendous shadowing apparently at random, uses an inner shadow on the thinnest icons mankind has ever seen - which are also terrible - and has some sort of wet paper texture as the background. Bizarre.)

The back arrow I’m happy to see them implement a simple icon but it seems clunky and poorly misweighted next to the text. The padding looks like it wasn’t considered at all. Similarly some of the other line-style icons seem rushed or amateurish (flashlight icon on the control centre and delete icon particularly).

I’m picking holes I suppose but given we’re talking about Apple here, I shouldn’t really be able to.

Obviously, it’s not all bad. I love the use of translucency and the feeling of layered glass that runs through the OS and apps. The layers on the z-axis work well (if feel a little odd for now) and the notification centre is great. The restraint and simplicity is gorgeous in places (dialer buttons, camera, photos icon, clock icon showing the actual time etc) and it’s a game-changer for mobile design - every OS platform is now super-flat. And I think that might be my biggest problem with it.

As a UI designer, I feel like I’ve had my design vocabularly forcibly shrunk down to 100 words. Like telling a developer they can only ever write code in Basic from now on. It feels a bit like I’ve been strong-armed into a style I don’t think is particularly intuitive or a great direction for UX but as my boss just emailed me “Tim, get used to it. It’s not going anywhere.”

God damn it Jony.