Apps as Content

Jared Sinclair wrote about his disagreement with Apple’s messaging for iOS 7 in his recent post, Apps are content, too. It’s an interesting take on what has come out of Cupertino this week, and you really should go read it.

Unfortunately, I think it’s bullocks.

I tried very hard to sympathize with Jared, after all he is one of the minds behind Riposte, one of the most frequently used apps on my phone. But after sleeping on it, thinking about the WWDC sessions I’ve watched, and using iOS 7 on my main phone1 I found I simply could not agree.

When I read Apple’s marketing copy, I do not get the sense that they expect every app to use Helvetica Neue Ultra Light on a white background. Instead, I see a call to rethink the way we differentiate our apps. Use more of the screen for presenting content, and less of it for branding. Instead of chrome, the way apps present the user’s content and allows them to interact with it will be what sets them apart.

Jared linkes to a piece by John Gruber, Twitter Clients Are a UI Design Playground, to bolster his argument. I believe John’s post does just the opposite. In particular, John writes

Twitter is such a simple service overall, but look at a few screenshots of these apps, especially the recent ones, and you will see some very different UI designs, not only in terms of visual style but in terms of layout, structure, and flow.

Layout, structure, and flow. Even if you buy the argument that Apple wants all apps to have the same style (I don’t), I’ve seen no suggestion that these three other things are somehow set in iOS 7. Twitter clients (and ADN clients) still have plenty of room to be UI design playgrounds.

I also don’t believe Apple would be providing us with some of the incredible new tools present in iOS 7 if they expected us to all create identical apps. There is so much new for us to use. Apple isn’t stomping out creative UIs, they’re fostering them.

On the same marketing page Jared quotes from, Apple also says this:

Simplicity is often equated with minimalism. Yet true simplicity is so much more than just the absence of clutter or the removal of decoration. It’s about offering up the right things, in the right place, right when you need them. It’s about bringing order to complexity. And it’s about making something that always seems to “just work.” When you pick something up for the first time and already know how to do the things you want to do, that’s simplicity.

It seems to me that what Apple really wants us to do is think long and hard about every aspect of our apps. Don’t throw in a fancy textured navigation bar just because it looks good. Either justify its existence, or throw it out.

Jared may not see it this way, but to me Riposte has one of the most iOS 7-ish UIs currently on my phone. No chrome. Content is king, taking up the entire display. It fits perfectly, even though I have it set up to use Avenir Next and Auto Dark Mode. Because everything on the screen is there for a reason. That sure seems to me to be what Apple wants us to be doing.

  1. Please do not do this unless you have a very good reason. I agonized over whether to do it for some time, finally deciding that it was my only choice in order to ship a new app I have in the works.