Why iOS 7 is Objectively Bad

A discussion on Facebook with an Apple employee resulted in some comments that I thought would be better presented here. The response to my general complaint about iOS 7 was that it was new, and with anything new it just takes time to learn the differences. I disagree. iOS 7 is demonstrably and objectively wrong. Here are just a few observations.

My problem with iOS 7 isn’t “how do I remove an app from memory?” or “how do I do a search?”, but rather with the overall appearance (and therefore usability).

  1. There is less difference between the container and the content. Look at the Contacts app, where the screen is all white except for small blue labels and small black values. I just tapped a blue label (“home”) to change my daughter’s home phone number and it called her instead. It’s hard to tell whether something is touchable or editable. And what is editable (the captions in this case are, in fact, changeable) and what is fixed (like the navigation bar text at the top of the screen).
  2. There is inconsistent use of color. The Contacts app uses a blue “tint color” (which is what the SDK calls the color that is used for buttons, captions, etc. throughout an app). The Calendar app uses orange. The Notes app uses yellow except (and this is true of all apps) when a system-defined UI element pops up (like the confirmation dialog you get when you select the trash can), in which case you get blue as the accent color (except for the Delete Note button, which uses red, even though the trash can itself was yellow).

    What the system seems to be communicating is that color is irrelevant and that I shouldn’t count on color to tell me anything. But at the same time, red is consistently used for “danger” — like delete confirmations. And blue is always used for alert boxes. And the tap-and-hold menu is always white text on black (even if the text itself that you’re selecting is white on black, making the menu impossible to see). So is color important or not? iOS 7 would say “no” out of one side of its mouth and “yes” out of the other.

  3. Fonts and icons are thin, making them blend into the background. Fonts are sans serif, making them harder to read.
  4. There is a lot of gray-on-gray and white-on-white. Low contrast is hard to see. In an effort to de-accent the container and focus on the content, we’ve made the control elements (buttons and captions) harder to see and read.

There are not “how do I do this in iOS 7” observations. These are objective criticisms of the design of the user interface. I don’t need instructions on how to read a sans serif font or how to see low contrast text on a similarly colored background. You can’t educate your users past the unarguable flaws in the design of the operating system.

Ironically, it’s not “ugly”. It looks very clean. But even though white road signs with white lettering would look “clean”, we make road signs with high-contrast white-on-blue or black-on-yellow to make them easy to read. iOS 7 fails the readability and therefore usability test.