Experience Fashion; Time to change to the 2010’s for Apple

Fashion has long been a part of user experience. You can take a look at the UI of a product and can probably place it in time. It helps that the UI is tied to a system UI that is a heavy cue (e.g. You will recognize a Windows 3.1 UI vs. Windows 95 vs. MacOS 9 vs…..).

Just as you can place software UI fashion, you can obviously do the same for clothing. If you think “80’s” I bet you will picture some clear apparel and looks.

There was a lot of interest in Apple’s organizational move to place software UI under Jony Ive. Most were excited to see the unity of hardware experience, especially since he is held in such regard.

Few worried about what changes he would bring. Would they be too bold? (“Don’t change a great thing that my Mum knows how to use!!!”) Does he “get” software? I am in the excited camp, mainly because I am ready for a change. I admit it, I am a lil bored with iOS. Having gone through the revolution that was holding the hitchhikers guide to the galaxy in my pocket, recent improvements feel very evolutionary. I am asking myself the “will this make my happier?” question a lot more recently, which becomes very meta very quickly, but that is another topic.

The fashion of software has always been driven by constraints. The “what tools do I have available?” of a platform changes very quickly. The path of text based UI to a desktop GUI to mobile and touch. I guess the same is partially true for clothing too. As we have new materials to work with and innovations in manufacturing, we can have new forms of design.

Some fashion seems to last the test of time. A nice pair of denim jeans are timeless. A simple black suit. It seems like the cleaner and simpler the cut and design, the longer it can last. If the design highlights the underlying content, it wins.

We have been seeing a push to “let the content do the talking” where the UI takes more of a backseat. The small mobile form factor makes that necessary, but it had also moved to the desktop (Chrome) and hardware (new tvs with minimal bevel).

The Windows “metro” interface is a great recent example of pushing simplicity into the platform. There has been talk about how some of the constraints on the engineering side (dealing with compositing) helped push a simple flat look, and it has some side effects.

When I use Windows Phone applications two things jump out at me:

The apps tend to “look good out of the box”

– compare this to the Web, where most experiences looked bad by default (because there weren’t many defaults)

– Twitter bootstrap has become a de facto starting point (which some designers dislike!)

The apps tend to look the same, and are more Windows branded vs. tying to the given brand. For example, when I launch the LinkedIn app on Windows Phone it feels like it is written by Microsoft (it may be 😉 and it is just injecting content from LinkedIn.

I guess the balance is always interesting. Can you find constraints that make an experience great by default, but also leave enough room for the spirit to shine and mate with the platform.

With iOS we saw the migration from stock iOS looking apps to the point where people both had the ability, and were also experienced enough to stay within the platform but also push the boundaries. The innovation has gone from Apple apps more into great third party ones.

So, I am very excited to see what iOS 7 comes up with. iOS.current is a nice pair of worn jeans, but they are starting to feel a lil 80’s. I wonder if Jony can get us a black suit for a change of pace?

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