Usability, not ‘flat’ design, key to Monday’s iOS refresh

“Apple is expected to debut a revamped iOS on Monday, featuring a ‘flatter’ design that, if not done properly, could be a step backward in usability, a pair of user interface (UI) experts said,” Gregg Keizer reports for Computerworld. “‘Totally flat design, like in Windows 8, is a terrible usability mistake because it removes the users’ ability to see at a glance where they can click,’ said Jakob Nielsen, a usability guru with nearly 80 U.S. patents to his name. Nielsen, co-founder of the consulting firm Nielsen Norman Group, was formerly a top-level engineer with Sun Microsystems and has a Ph.D in human-computer interaction. ‘The actionable elements on the screen have to be called out in some way.'”

“A ‘flat’ UI isn’t inherently better than what replaces it, argued Bruce ‘Tog’ Tognazzini, also a co-founder of Nielsen Norman Group,” Keizer reports. “‘The long and short of it is that [flat design] is simply a design aesthetic and/or ideology,’ Tognazzini said, calling flat a fad, not necessarily a bad one, that inevitably will be replaced. ‘I have nothing against either skeuomorphic design done right nor flat design done right. It was weird when they were blended together, and Apple had managed to do both of them wrong.'”

Keizer reports, “Tognazzini spent 14 years at Apple, where he founded the Human Interface Group — the team that Ive now leads — and acted as the Cupertino, Calif., company’s evangelist for Human Interface.”

Read more in the full article here.


    1. Wrong.

      If that were exclusively the case, then the iPhone would only ever be used for what Steve Jobs said it could be.

      Instead, we have people who say “Look at this thing! What else can I do with it?”

  1. Steve Jobs in his early life appreciated calligraphy and graphic design, and brought that to Apple. I like the wood grain touches myself, but could live with a flat (aka boring) design.

  2. So, i think Apple make wrong step, really. I thought Apple will change completely to flat, but now icons looking very creepy and the icons are not Flat Style. I can suggest an very good article about flat design principles – with really nice examples and professional designs and icons.

    Second, about colors: colors in new iOS are horrible, please Apple, take a look for example here – and inspire yourself about how to use colors correct in flat design.

    1. There is an art to making an interface both attractive and functional. Using one ‘aesthetic’ with another can work beautifully. But I have to say, I now equate ‘flat’ with BORING and ANTI-FUNCTIONAL when used strictly on its own. It ruined Windows 8. Thankfully, ‘flat’ is NOT strictly used in iOS 7. As per usual, the analcysts got their guessing wrong. I’ll wait for actual iOS 7 for final judgement. But the mix of colors, transparency, shading, contrast, animation and even 3D (sadly minimal though it is) made the demo of iOS 7 look lovely in general.

      Apple is NOT going ‘flat’. I’ll leave that adjective to apply to the lazy and wrong analcysts.

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