Apple is making a major change to the iPhone’s operating system, iOS 7.
In the latest version of iOS 7, it is giving users the option to turn on button shapes around clickable areas in applications, says Mark Gurman at 9to5Mac. The new software is still in beta, and only developers have access to it.
So what does this mean?
In iOS 7, as presently built, you mostly get text that you can click on. In the Notes app for instance, if you’re in a note, you can press on “New” and it makes a new note.
This plain text as a button has been very controversial in the design world.
There is a reason designers add some sort of shape to an on-screen button. It provides a visual clue that pressing on that section of the screen will result in an action.
For instance, look at this from iOS 7, which was on a Tumblr dedicated to finding flaws in iOS 7.
Trim appears twice on the screen. One of the uses of Trim is as a label for what you can do. Another is a button that can trim things. Which is which? You have to press to figure it out. It’s a little confusing.
In a critique of iOS 7 written in July, Christa Mrgn talked about this by saying, “Action sheets in particular feel too austere to me in their current form; with button borders gone and the only indication of the ‘preferred’ choice being ever-so-slightly bolder text, I worry about user confusion. It’s impossible to tell at a glance what the least destructive option is, and sometimes it’s hard to tell what’s content and what’s UI.”
Apple is capitulating to the critiques. It is making the clickable areas more apparent by adding a shaded area for buttons if you turn on an option in accessibility.
Gurman shares this screenshot from the iOS 7.1 beta which demonstrates the changes. Notice the shading around the words in spots? That’s what happens after turning on the button option. (More below…)
Now, you may be saying to yourself, “OK. It’s adding some button shading. So what?”
If you’re saying that, you’re not crazy. This isn’t a massive change. Apple has made other tweaks to the operating system.
What’s huge about this change, though, is that Apple isn’t forcing it on users. Apple is making it an option in the settings.
For Apple, this is atypical. The thing that people love and hate about Apple is that it doesn’t give users a choice. It carefully thinks about how it’s going make its operating system look and then it deploys.
Apple is putting the choice in users’ hands.
This is the second major opt-in feature Apple has added for iOS 7. You can also turn off the motion backgrounds for the phone through accessibility.
This means that in the future, people are going to be able to decide what buttons look, and how the background works.
Jony Ive is moving slightly away from the ethos of Steve Jobs which emphasised absolute control for Apple.