iOS design inconsistencies persist across Apple’s own apps

“This has been bugging me for a while — definitely since iOS 11 was unveiled last June and probably before then. I have no clue what Apple’s strategy is with their iOS app icon sets, other than to resign myself to the truth that there isn’t one,” Benjamin Mayo blogs eponymously. “For simplicity, I’m focusing on just the share icon in this post (what Apple formally calls the ‘action’ button) but these criticisms apply much more widely.”

“iOS 7 infamously introduced 1px line icons for toolbars with geometric, boxy, shapes. Like all of iOS 7, this was a controversial shift from what came before it, but Apple did apply it consistently,” Mayo writes. “Community response to this radical redesign was very split; I recall hating most of it. It didn’t seem like Apple was dead set on it either. Over time, Apple retracted some of these things. The font became less whisper-thin, popovers and other logical layers incorporated real drop shadows. The synergies with the icon set began to disappear.”

“My gripe is there is no consistency, no structure or logic,” Mayo writes. “It’s scattershot, it’s a mess of competing visions. I couldn’t say what Apple’s human interface team wants the share icon to look like, let alone the structure and experience of iOS apps as a whole. Everything is in disarray.”

Read more in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Perhaps having an industrial designer in charge of user interface design wasn’t such a hot idea after all?

Pick a design language, one design language, and stick to it consistently, Apple!

Once again, the issue with Apple Inc. today is a matter of focus or, more precisely, lack thereof.

Enough dicking around with doorknobs. Let’s have some serious Jobsian focus on the customers’ experience again, please!

Jony Ive returns to Apple’s management of design team after 2 years – December 8, 2017
Royal College of Art in London appoints Apple’s Jony Ive as its Chancellor – May 25, 2017
Pundits suspect Apple’s Jony Ive no longer involved in iPhone, Mac product design – November 22, 2016
Where is Jony Ive? – March 28, 2016
Obviously, Jony Ive is preparing to retire from Apple – May 27, 2015
Jony Ive is Apple’s next Steve Jobs – May 27, 2015
What Jony Ive’s ‘promotion’ really means – May 26, 2015
Now Jony Ive will have an even bigger influence over Apple’s image – May 26, 2015
Stephen Fry meets Jony Ive, Apple’s newly-promoted chief design officer – May 26, 2015
Jony Ive gives up day-to-day managerial duties to focus on big picture – May 26, 2015
Jony Ive promoted to ‘Chief Design Officer’ – May 25, 2015
Jony Ive is the most powerful person at Apple – December 12, 2014
Jony Ive hasn’t been given too much power at Apple – because he’s always had it – February 5, 2013
Steve Jobs left design chief Jonathan Ive ‘more operational power’ than anyone else at Apple – October 21, 2011


  1. Consistency is a virtue, even when the reference design is suboptimal. A decent approach that is consistently executed is far preferable to a mashup of differing styles, even if some of those styles are superior to the status quo.

    If/when Apple decides to make a change in the UI style, it should apply that change consistently across its own apps and facilitate their implementation on third party apps.

    As has been stated previously, it is time for a “Snow Leopard” clean up action with respect to both iOS and macOS. Get rid of the bugs and the dross, improve efficiency and reliability, and ensure UI consistency. We don’t need shiny new functions every year, no matter how much fun they may be.

    We also need consistency in hardware implementations. If FaceID is the next big thing, then roll it out as quickly as possible on all iOS devices. And make a decision with respect to functions like 3D Touch – is it in or out, Apple? If it is in, then roll it out across the board. If not, then ditch it as an honest effort at innovation that did not make the cut in practice, at least at this time.

    1. Ah for the days of the multi volume set of design guidelines that was put out by Apple 30+ years ago. Everyone knew what the guidelines were. Thus 99.99% of the time to quit a program the quit was under the File menu and it was Command-Q. Contrast with the Windows platform where the menu selection could be under any number of different menus and could be Control-Q, Control-X or any number of other commands.

      Yes, back then it was sometimes a bit of a pain to code in those nuances in order to be consistent with Apple’s design standards, but once done, it assured your program would be easily picked up by Mac users.

      Apple’s design teams have lost their way quite a bit. Don’t even get me started on the fact that macOS had gotten like Windows in that sometimes closing the last window in an application shuts down the application and in other applications it does not — and that’s in Apple’s own applications, not just third party applications. It used to be that closing a window did just that: closed the window. It may not have been what you always wanted to happen, but you knew closing that window just closed that window and nothing else. The list of inconsistencies about this little nuance is long and varied all by itself.

      Once upon a time, back before the dark days, if you learned one Mac program really well, you knew 70% – 90% of the commands and menu items of each other Mac program. While we did have paper (sometimes hardback) manuals back then, well versed Mac users rarely opened them — and then only for very odd nuances of the program. It was one of the things that made the Mac the computer “for the rest of us”. Today this is getting less and less true by the day.

      1. Seems as if there is no unifying vision internally, that no one is holding back the egos of powerful managers, and no one is reconciling the various visions. Jobs was able to but then he had clout. and charisma of the founder. I sense that Ive and Cook are at loggerheads.

  2. to make the most beautiful door knob in the world. I also expect that the software designs and functions to have a broad, clear and non-obtuse functionality.
    At times, I’ll ask myself how my father, or a new user would adapt and understand what they see in iOS. Unfortunately, there’s a frequent groan as I imagine their impatience trying to unlock the oblique puzzle of “pure” and “fine” design put forth by Jonae Ivea. Visually, things align with a talented designer, but when judging with functionality in mind (it just works), there are too many instances when it seems like a design for the “initiated.” “Hiding” things is a passion for JI, but he needs to “hide” them more creatively.

  3. Forget about the share icon, I don’t like Apple’s logo consistency either. Sure, it’s always the same shape, the same “apple with a bite out of it and a leaf” but all those different ways of displaying it confuse me. I mean, when it’s black on a MacBook, Silver on an iPhone X, LIT on an old MacBook Pro and lit PLUS huge on an Apple Store facade! Are all of these supposed to be representative of the same company? This, as I’m sure you can imagine, drives me crazy!!

    And don’t even get me started on the rainbow logo, I’m still in THERAPY over that phase!! Oh, and the versions that looked like candy, is this even the same company? How can anyone make sense of this?

    Either Tim or Ives has got to go… I think that goes at the end here right? Oh, and SAD!

  4. True on iOS and Apple’s OSX applications.

    3rd party apps on OSX, which is what I rely on 95% of the time are consistently better.

    In their interface workflows, they are much less likely to pose the “where do I go next question”.

    But for them its survival of the fittest question, as it always has been and will be in the real world.

  5. Author: ““My gripe is there is no consistency, no structure or logic,” Mayo writes. “It’s scattershot, it’s a mess of competing visions.”

    Amen, GRANDE!

    I’ve been saying this for years since my eyes first viewed visually starved and stick men iOS7.

    MDN is also correct in that industrial design disciplines are counter to graphic and navigation design principles.

    Give Apple credit they have quietly increased the font weight and made some visual design improvements.

    But as the author indicated and is correct, no design consistency exists. Sloppy like so many other things since Cook commanded the spaceship.

    Proof? All you need is to look at four iOS Icons: Photos, Camera, Weather, Health. Only a blind man would miss the visual design inconsistency …

    1. It’s a box with an arrow pointing up… in different colors. I mean, knowing some of the issues in the past with the UI, I thought there would be some ACTUAL inconsistencies on offer in the article. Looking at the list of icons across the top… I was thinking “Oh, this is just ONE example… and it’s a bad one, but they will surely have better examples in the article?” No. The main conceit in the article is that “SOMETIMES THE THING THAT’S (100% AND CONSISTENTLY) A BOX WITH AN ARROW APPEARS IN DIFFERENT COLORS AND THAT CONFUSES AND BEFUDDLES ME SO! IF IT’S BLACK ON A WHITE BACKGROUND, IT SHOULD ALSO BE BLACK ON A BLACK BACKGROUND, CONTRAST BE DAMNED!! NOW GET OFF MY LAWN YOU SNAPPERS OF WHIPS!”

      No, apparently this author is not above a little clickbait either, but, then again is there ANYONE remaining that’s above clickbait?

      1. I think the Author’s complaint is not just color but line width used, rounded(or not corners), and his largest point, Apple not standardizing on the same single box with arrow design, when it changes, across its own Apps. It’s not as if they need to go through a vigorous App review process for their basic productivity Apps do they?

        1. For anyone that REALLY feels this way, life must be barely tolerable. The real world is far less consistent. How can they possibly use the bathroom in a world where sometimes it’s MEN, sometimes it’s a stylized stick figure without the flared out dress thing and sometimes it’s Buoys (in a seafood restaurant).

          But, that’s just kind of the point for these types of writings, yeah? It’s that writer’s opinion that a box with an arrow pointing up is not good enough.

          1. I think instead of bathrooms, tables at a single fast food restaurant may be a better analogy. Imagine one with each table having the standard 2 chairs and square table but each ‘set’ with a different table and chair designs. Like Apple they have control over what tables and chairs to have in the dining area but choose not to make them consistent.

  6. Connectivity control pane is laughable. When WiFi or Bluetooth are turned off, a white icon has a white slash across it. When cell connection is off, the icon turns grey. Then there is the “kill all” airplane key, which works differently than manually turning off the other controls because disabling WiFi in the control center is now a temporary thing, for reasons not acceptable to a person who expects to control his own device. When you use the Airplane Mode, the main screen will show a little icon in the upper left corner indicating it. When radios are all turned off manually, the home screen offers no indication whatsoever.

    In short: Apple doesn’t even know what they are doing anymore with interfaces. It’s as if they can’t be bothered letting the user know what’s happening behind the scenes. They are taking away control of iOS devices one small step at a time. Informing the user is an annoyance that Apple only sometimes begrudgingly does, very inconsistently. At least with a Mac, it’s easy for the user to fix most of the bad defaults.

  7. When your timer goes off, the orange button is stop and the grey button is repeat.
    When your alarm goes off the orange button is snooze and and the grey button is stop.
    Orange ( or actually red) should be stop, for both timers and alarms.

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