Thursday 12 November 2009

Apple iPhone Tech Talk London 2009: iPhone User Interface Design Essentials

Eric Hope — User Interface Evangelist

  • solve a problem
  • clearly defined style
    • axes: (usage) serious / fun; (content) tool / entertainment

serious tool

  • use alignment well — see address book & settings for examples
  • avoid redundancy
    • if a word is showing up more than once on a screen, get rid of it
  • prioritise info, esp. above the fold

games (fun entertainment)

  • games should be straight in — no hierarchy
    • most games are casual — you don’t know how long the user will have
  • games should be multitouch enabled — most are
    • any that aren’t are frustrating
  • lowercase “i” means go back to menu/options
  • give loud visual feedback

serious entertainment

  • stick to standard UI elements for navigation
    • the user doesn’t want to learn new things to get to their entertainment

utilities — dead centre on the grid

  • as graphically rich as possible, on a single screen
  • can they be run five feet away from you in a dock?
  • equate to single-use appliances


  • one door to one room
  • want a tree, not a web
  • shared things should be in a modal sheet
  • clean layout:
    • focus on structural integrity — as if they were real physical objects
    • the human mind feels uncomfortable if the UI would fall over if it were physical

gorgeous application icon

  • one of the most underestimated and undervalued contributions
  • legible:
    • one primary silhouette — can you do it in a shadow on the wall?
    • the mind parses shapes, then colours, then words
  • high quality (fidelity) art
    • store is saturated with different icons
    • initial apps had equivalent to apple, but now full colour, hi quality
    • apple don’t need to change their apps — they’re built-in
  • good example:
    • ramp champ — didn’t sell well due to icon ambiguity
    • pretty and well-defined, but name and icon didn’t mean much
  • “your icon is your business card”
  • make sure any branding doesn’t obscure silhouette

hi fidelity UI

  • tactile design:
    • no intermediary to interface (mouse, keyboard)
    • want wood, leather, aluminium — increases perceived value of app
  • free yourself by starting with paper prototypes

dynamic content — most essential

  • your app needs a pulse
  • apps have a short shelf life on the store
    • most mac apps are serious tools
    • most iphone apps are not — they’re content consumption based
  • most users read what’s in the update before they upgrade
    • don’t just “fixed bugs”
    • even if you say “fixed memory leak that affected 1% of users”
    • it’s a “love letter to your customer”

add in-app purchases

  • adds investment to your app
  • people will come back if they’ve purchased content within your app
  • even if a user only spends 99¢ on apps a week, they could spend 10 x 99¢ within a single app — increases their return on investment
  • make sure that users can pick up their existing purchases when they get a new phone


  • e.g. springboard press and hold
  • avoid continuous animation


  • “the forgotten frontier for iPhone development”
  • 90% of non-game apps have no sound
  • compulsion like a mother going to a crying baby
  • e.g. mail sent sound in the background even when you’ve moved on to doing something else


  • standard alert is generally a bad thing
  • icon for spotlight is 29x29 pixels — make sure you stand out
  • don’t introduce push notifications until it’s solid
    • people will disable it and never see improvements
  • support extras like copy/paste, undo/redo (generally uses shake)

app definition statement

  • (your differentiator) (your solution) for (your audience)

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