When Apple launched iPhone in 2007, it introduced an interaction paradigm and touchscreen interface for mass-market – unlike anything else. The total experience of actually using the device was stunning. At the same time it was, and still is, designed to be very easy to use. It’s meant for people of all ages and backgrounds.
How do you design something that is so new, yet so accessible to such a world-wide audience?
The answer to that question in 2007 for Apple was using a combination of old and new touchscreen interface elements, which borrowed from real-life -like representations of objects and behaviours. A push button, a page turn. And sure enough, the world responded to that with the resounding embracement of this new paradigm of touch. iPhones were sold, competitors felt the pressure to follow, and rumble got even louder with iPad.
For reasons unknown, Apple chose not to greatly change the foundations of the touch interface from the original iPhone of 2007. Which then gets us to now – six years later.
How do you design something that is new, yet so accessible to such a world-wide audience?
In 2013, everyone already knows iPhone-like touch interface. Whether an Apple device or not, they have more in common than different. Now, if you get rid of the real life representations – the approach that offered the easy learning curve in the past – how are people going to be able to get around in the device?
There are probably designers who wouldn’t even bother with such fundamental questions, but at least I see that Apple found another answer to that question: Change visuals, but not the fundamental interactions.
iOS7 is the transitory release to aimed at introducing a touch interface with no physical looking buttons, no boxes inside boxes, or superfluous ornamentation. It is at the same time like nothing before, yet familiar. This is because most of the time, you can still tap where you tapped before, swipe where you swiped before. It just looks different, and has a bit more dynamic, “live” feel to it.
Once everyone learns – via the familiarity – what a button without borders looks like – essentially how to “read” a touch interface of the digital world, then the next step can follow – re-imagining the touch interface layout and experience for the fully digital world. A world, where back button could cease to exist completely, because it already is a gesture from left edge, not a tap of a button.
Until then, Apple is taking the carefully calculated steps in iOS7 to reassuringly guide the world into beginning of this new era.