Thursday, June 27, 2013

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Why Embracing iOS7s New Design Is Smart For Startups Using Android Too


This post was originally published on Women 2.0's blog.

Since Apple unveiled iOS7 last week at WWDC, I’ve read countless design articles weighing in on the new look. These ran the gamut from wild jubilation on the death of skeuomorphism to a pixel by pixel dissection of the home screen icons.
Personally, I’ve found myself looking at the new design in comparison to the look of the latest Android apps, which I had a chance to check out first hand at Google I/O last month thanks to Women 2.0. Ignoring my design hat for a moment and thinking as the co-founder of a Consumer Mobile startup that is building for both Android and iOS, the changes coming to iOS7 are great for developers.

Comparing The Two

The two major platforms are starting to converge on design, each taking their own approach to a flat look and feel. For developers like me and my team, this means that, despite having limited resources, we can more easily and more quickly support both platforms by taking advantage of the similarities between them.
The best comparison I found to show each platform’s take on flat design is their calendar apps, looking specifically at the day view. Android is on the left and iOS7 is on the right.


  • Both highlight the appointments themselves with color.
  • Android then excludes color altogether to show the page in white and gray and let the appointments themselves be the pop.
  • iOS7 introduces a red tint color into the elements that are pressable, not detracting from the important content, but still making it clear to the user how to interact with the elements on the screen.

White Space

  • iOS7 maximizes white space, from the spacing of buttons to the indentation of the times. It’s a relaxed, wide open screen.
  • Android prefers the opposite approach, with an edge to edge content look. They use every possible inch of space to devote to the content, and seem to consider white space a dirty word.

Navigation Between Days of the Week

  • iOS7 leaves navigation on display, requiring only a single tap to move day to day.
  • Android de-emphasizes this navigation in favor of the content, hiding it all away in a drop down menu in the top bar.
Although there is a unique take on each side, I think the similarities are also really apparent when looking at these apps together. And those similarities are what I am most excited by as a developer.
As with most small teams, I’m the only UI designer, so I previously had to make a choice about where to focus my energy to produce an app that not only looked good, but also meshed with its platform. We chose to build for iOS first because although the skeuomorphic world of iOS required more pixel pushing to fine tune drop shadows and gradients, we also had fewer screen sizes to deal with. That meant that once it was pixel perfect, it took less work to maintain over time, leaving me more room for iteration on key interactions and flows that would improve user experience.

The Benefits

In the future, instead of designing one set of icons, buttons, and layouts to fit iOS, then an entirely new set to work on Android, I can share many elements across both. Sharing our icons, for example, will free up time for me to customize the app to the unique parts of the specific platform: working with widgets in Android, or building in rich transitions for iOS7.
Finally, our users benefit from a more similar look and feel across platforms too. Whether they pick up an Android tablet or an iPhone 5, by having a more consistent look on both they’ll instantly be familiar with our app. Our branding will hold true across both and be more powerful as a result. This is part of a better user experience that I’m anxious to take advantage of.
That’s the part I care most about in the end. Whether I like the look of iOS7 as a designer or not is immaterial if it helps give my users joy, makes their lives easier, and lets me build an app that they will love to use over and over again.
So, although I still can’t personally say whether I like the new look for iOS7 as a designer just yet, I can say wholeheartedly that I love what it means for me as a developer.

mnorganMichelle is the Co-Founder of Blink Messenger, an app that lets users have a group conversation in which they can send sketches, audio notes, video clips, photos, and text messages that will self-destruct after a set time. Prior to Blink, the company launched Kismet, one of the leaders in the hot Ambient Social Networking space at SXSW 2012. Michelle is a technical UI/UX designer and was recently named one of 30 female entrepreneurs to watch in 2013 by Jane Dough. You can follow her on Twitter @mnorgan.