Dane. Designer.

Old Blog

How It Looks And Feels Is Supposed To Tell You How It Works

“Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like. That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”

— Steve Jobs

This quote was hauled out for the video presentation of this redesign, and I'm afraid I'm going to have to go ahead and wield it as a bit of a club. Because quite frankly it's talking the talk, but not quite walking the walk. It forgot the corollary to the quote, which is 'how it looks and feels informs the user how it works'.

So let's start with the lock screen, not only because it's the first thing you see, but because it's fundamentally mis-designed.


The current lock screen on iOS instructs the user what to do by showing a handle in a track with hinting text.

That's not the case with iOS 7 however. You'd be excused for believing that the arrow beneath the 'Slide to Unlock' text is showing you which direction you should slide to unlock. But it's not. And there's a similar arrow at the top of the screen there's a similar arrow pointing down.

Let's be clear; this is the fundamental gesture that gets you started with your phone. One friend of me told me how his 6-month old figure out how to unlock his (iOS 6) iPhone. Think about that for a second. If you're going to spend nights and weekends sweating anything, this should be it, because without it, your users are left lost and helpless before they even start.

Of course you swipe from left to right, as you've always done. The text still has a shimmer animating across it, but it's not very perceptible, and it seems more as if it's showing you the instructional text... for the up arrow.

More than that, why is it left to right? Why can't it also be right to left? Free of the tactile handle and its track, there's really no reason, and you'd also be excused for being confused (as I've also been), when you swipe it right to left and it reacts... but doesn't unlock.

So we have one arrow at the top pointing down, one at the bottom pointing up, text that 'points' right and then also a camera which points... nowhere (and is really small). Tap it, and the lock screen bounces. Hopefully people will divine from that that they can drag the camera up to take photos.

However, that leaves us with three drag indicators at the bottom of the screen, two of which are up! Good luck not triggering the control center when you're trying for the camera.

And that's not even going into the notifications. On the old lock screen, the icon for a notification could be swiped right to go straight into the relevant app. It wasn't particularly discoverable, and most users might not have known about it, but it was there nonetheless. However, in iOS 7, the entire notification is swipeable, which seems like a good idea, though how pocket-safe this whole thing is, remains to be seen. The great issue is that the lock screen can be swiped left to right to open anywhere, except when notifications are there, in which case they'll take over the swipe. So even though it might seem as if you can swipe anywhere to unlock, the result is entirely dependent on whether you have notifications, which mean that you can't simply take the phone out of your pocket and swipe to unlock. Granted, you couldn't do that with iOS 6 either, but at least it had a clearly designated area for unlocking, which 7 does not.

Because the whole screen is now a drag area, it's also much more prone to unlocking by accident, either in a pocket, or simply when picking it up.

We can haul out excuses about short development times and it being a preview. And yes, I too hope it will be fixed before release. But it doesn't change the fact that this was either designed without understanding how and why it works, or without respect for it. Seeing something like this has shifted my belief in Apple's discipline as the leader in interface design.

I believe in Apple because of its discipline, and because of its conservative, but thoughtful approach to design. This seeming recklessness makes me very concerned indeed.

Disclaimer: I understand iOS 7 is in beta. My point with these posts is that some of these are things are fundamentally misconceived. Apple is no slouch, I'm sure in time they'll fix these issues. But much of this stuff shouldn't have left the whiteboard if you ask me. Also, I believe in publicly discussing these issues so that we can all learn from them and educate each other.