iOS 7 and the UX of updates

By Rob Sterry

With the recent roll out of iOS 7, Apple has been left riding a tidal wave of mixed reviews ranging from the good to the bad and the ugly.

With any new release teething problems are inevitable but if you believe what you read Apple like to delay releases until things are almost perfect. With iOS 7 for me the problem lies with the lack of instruction. On a recent visit to an Apple store, ironically to fix an issue created by iOS 7, I noticed around 4 customers in 30 minutes visiting the genius bar with iOS 7 questions or problems.

When introducing new features there is an element of “have a go and see what you can do” but when they are drastically different users will inevitably become irked, confused and lose patience. With iOS 7 when this happens there is no manual, so what do you do? Head for a search engine? It would appear this is where Apple relies on a support network of bloggers, forums and industry experts to tell you “10 things you didn’t know about iOS 7” or alike.

Is this the right thing to do? I’m of the idea that if something needs a manual it isn’t all that intuitive. Don’t make me think, you say? iOS 7 does more than make me think, it makes me scratch my head.

On top of this iOS 7 introduces a range of new icons, again some good some bad. In our user research I’ve seen countless examples of icons that are designed with good intention but fail to have the desired effect. When this happens users become confused and frustrated which inevitably has a negative impact; creating friction where the intention was to remove it.

iOS 7 is guilty of poorly designed icons in a several places. Yet again you look to a search engine for help with this problem and now have to hope you’ve interpreted things correctly in order to search for a solution: (“round circle with a square in it that looks like a stop button – what does it do?”)

With gestures, users have learned behaviours from previous versions of iOS. Making minor amends to improve things I applaud, but changing them completely? Closing apps was a simple double tap of the nav key, then press and hold the app to bring up the close option. With iOS 7 closing apps is a “slide up” gesture. It’s fair to say I’m not the only one who had to use a search engine to find that out.

What can we learn from a roll out as big and important as iOS 7? Maybe it’s better to chunk up releases so that you can become accustomed to one or two changes at a time. Maybe all at once in one big bang is right, it certainly creates a hum of chatter, blogs, support posts and here I am writing about it. In the long run iPhone users will adapt to using iOS 7 but I can’t help but think that at least for the foreseeable future many Apple customers will have the nagging feeling that they are missing out on features and functionality. And perhaps even have the feeling that apple devices are meant to be used by people cooler and smarter than them.

Rob Sterry

As Principal Consultant, the majority of my time is dedicated to helping one of our biggest international clients create a vision for improving their user experience. It’s my job to understand their objectives and their customer’s needs and create tangible, meaningful solutions that solve complex design problems.

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