There has been a lot of hubbub about iOS, post Steve Jobs and, especially, post the shuffle at Apple. If you have read tech-writers’ opinions, you would know that a lot, and I mean a lot, of them are bickering about iOS being a bit too, ummm, Skeuomorphic. Designers, app developers, and a lot of tech enthusiasts are urging Apple to clean iOS off the inherent skeuomorphic elements widely visible across the current version of iOS and most importantly across the horde of default apps on iOS devices.
I agree with a majority of those view-points, and only some of the suggested overhauls seem absurd to me. Also, I kind of find it difficult to accept that skeuomorphism is the only reason why every Tom, Apple and Harry would be happy with an iOS ‘DeForstallization’. Why has skeuomorphism become such a perfunctory complaint among us all?
Let’s go back to pre-2007 — 2007 being the birth year for iOS. Think about how
smartphone interfaces looked — those UI elements, the functions, the colours, and the intuitiveness of the design elements. Few would disagree if I say that touch-enabled devices of those times did not come close to what we have today. Of course, it had a lot more to do with technological advances than with core design of the interfaces. But, the answer to why skeuomorphic elements are omnipresent in iOS, probably, hides in the minds of those involved in launching the operating system.
“a physical ornament or design on an object made to resemble another material or technique.
Back then, we could not have foreseen the capabilities of a touch-screen enabled interface. Someone using an iPhone (we’re referring to the iPhone because the iPhone basically revolutionized touch on screens for interactions beyond calling and texting) would have found it hard (well not that hard actually considering there was the ‘touch and check, or trial and error’ option available always) to decipher if a flat interface element was actually an action element or no. That person would have to spend a good amount of time with the device to reach up the peak of the learning curve. Could Apple have afforded to let users take that extra time to adapt to a revolutionary but hard to understand device? Consider that, it must have been a make or break situation for Apple. I don’t think Apple actually wanted to risk answering that question based on usage statistics. Maybe I’m wrong in what Apple thought back then when they were developing the iOS interface pre-launch. But, knowing Apple, I’m sure they not only wanted to nail the ‘connection’ between the user and the device but also wanted to make that connection simple enough for anyone to pick the device and be a pro user within minutes. How else would they have made it simply work.
Fast forward to today, we have witnessed close to 6 years of the iPhone legacy and 6 beautiful devices. What has not changed is iOS! The design elements which defined the core experience of iOS have been untouched for almost 6 years of the product’s life — of course you could argue that Google managed to pick a lot of elements from iOS and better those elements over the course of time, but then nobody is complaining about it. That is eternity innit by today’s rapid upgrade-or-die paced tech industry standards? Yes, it is. Which is why everybody out there has become bored with the unchanged UI design of iOS. Everyone is talking about how the interface needs a refresh, how the design has become stale, how Apple should stop playing safe with the software design, or how skeuomorphism is such a big ball of shit my cat doesn’t play with anymore.
Truth be told, I agree that skeuomorphism doesn’t resonate with us once it crosses that line between analogy and replication. You know what I mean? So in essence, it’s not that skeuomorphism doesn’t have a role to play in staling out the freshness from iOS. But, I think skeuomorphism is also bearing the brunt of a frustrated clan of followers who are just plain bored with the fact that there hasn’t been a significant change to iOS in spite of a rocking 6 years of profiteering.
Nobody is claiming that iOS hasn’t improved; people are saying that iOS deserves to be better than what it currently is, and that it can be better than what it currently is simply because we are bored. But then, for those who love to base their urges and requests on strong grounds, wouldn’t Android’s maturity be a silly reason to generate enough brouhaha for an iOS re-design? And that, I think, is why skeuomorphism has to take the blame and, if Apple succumbs, sacrifice its legacy of making things Simply work.