Not Just for iOS7 – ClickMobile Gets Flatter
Author: Gil Bouhnick
IT Consumerization is often being mentioned when talking about hardware (mobile devices) or software, while in fact, the trend goes even deeper. It represents a new wave of users’ habits, expectations, and demands.
New technologies and trends from the consumer world are immediately required by enterprise employees or IT departments (or both), pending business security measures of course.
In the consumer world, the UI is a key, and the battle for the perfect UI is taking place as we speak. The most recent significant event was, of course, the unveiling of iOS 7; a recreation of Apple’s popular mobile OS, with a clear focus on a flat UI emphasizing the content. The change in direction that Apple took was so significant that it awakened the discussion about the user interface and experience, and started a snowball effect of apps being re-designed based on Apples new flat design.
From Dull UI to Skeuomorphism
As technology improved, skins and resolutions made it possible to turn any UI component into an “interesting one”, one with depth. Techniques included shadows, 3D icons, gradient colors and more.
When Apple released the first iPhone, the user interface was considered to be amazing. Light years ahead of everything else we were familiar with (sorry BlackBerry, Windows Mobile…). With the incredible resolution of the Retina display, Skeuomorphism, or real-life visual metaphors, were brought to the next level and remained popular for 5-6 years across mobile devices (including Android). A great example of this is the rich looking leather cover that used to exist in Apple’s iOS Calendar App for iPad.
From Skeuomorphism to Flat UI
For the past 3-4 years there has been a growing trend in the mobile/web world to go back to simple, 2D, flat design. Microsoft was the first, web designers embraced it, Google and Apple followed.
Flat UI is not just about the way that the elements are presented; it’s about placing the content at the highest priority so that users can focus on the important elements rather than the frames.
In a world where content is king, and our appetite to consume more and more information grows – a flat UI is a good way to improve the representation of content.
The first company to adopt a Flat UI was Microsoft with the introduction of Windows Phone 7 “Metro UI” (later renamed to Modern UI, and enhanced to Windows 8 and WP8).
Metro UI was controversial at first as it not only presented a completely flat, even shallow UI, it also had some provoking principles of cut titles, semi-hidden labels, colorless images, large objects, and a radical focus on Typography (text replacing icon-based buttons and action elements).
Microsoft promoted the idea of “content, not chrome”, but most people found it hard to digest.
Google’s design is not truly flat, but it does borrow a lot of concepts from flat design. This is why it is often called the “Almost Flat” UI. Google’s new user interface is sharp and colorful. It uses mostly 2D images hosted within large buttons with slightly more shadows than other flat UI systems.
In a way, Google’s UI evolved slowly into the world of “flat” without being too radical about their changes.
The biggest shift in UI philosophy belongs to Apple and iOS7. Apple’s designers got rid of all shadows and gradient colors, replaced the entire icons kit, and removed all button frames. While I’m not sure I like the new design better than the old one – I must admit that the overall experience has improved dramatically with iOS 7.
What about all the others?
Over the years we have seen some new design principles being created from the ground up, representing true market trends, and remaining agnostic to specific OS guidelines (social apps are a good example). With the release of iOS7 it seems like the flat UI is taking over, almost “officially”, as it is now embraced by the 3 software giants. We already saw hundreds of popular apps being modified in order to become more “flat”. It will be interesting to see how these changes will affect the success of those apps, and you can bet I will write about that in the future.
ClickMobile Goes Flat
For quite a while now we have wanted to make ClickMobile more focused on the content and less on the frames. But since most of our customers were (and still are) using iOS and Android based devices, it felt wrong to have a UI philosophy that didn’t match the actual operating systems.
During 2013 things started to change rapidly, even before the release of iOS7. The flat UI trend became real and you could find many popular apps changing their design accordingly. We created a whole new skin for ClickMobile: cleaner, simpler, modern, flat.
The release of iOS7 was perfect timing for us to execute our plan. The new design removes some of the frames and texture in favor of lighter colors and more content. It goes perfectly with ClickMobile’s powerful, responsive UI that automatically adjusts itself to the screen size and the nature of the device it is running on – providing an optimized user experience across all devices – not only smartphones and tablets.
With the new ClickMobile, activities are done with fewer clicks, and it’s easier to find the content you are looking for, especially when working outside in daylight. New gestures and animations will make it more intuitive and fun to use.
We are excited about the new design of ClickMobile and how it will combine perfectly with some new, exciting features coming up at the end of this year (more about those features in upcoming newsletters). We are making usability our top priority and many of the new tools coming out this winter will be focusing on creating better workflows for the field users in order to make them more efficient and happier with their ClickMobile solution.