With more than 50% of all iPhones now running iOS 8, Apple has imposed a deadline of 1 February 2015 for developers to ensure their apps work with Xcode 6, Apple’s latest development environment. So what does this mean for you? Danny Gorog from app development company Outware Mobile tells us.
First things first, developers who do not upgrade their apps to Xcode 6 will not be able to submit updates to the App Store until they do.
iOS 8 includes more than 4,000 new features and capabilities. Marketing teams need to start thinking about what new iOS 8 features will drive increased customer satisfaction. Are there opportunities to develop new product and service offerings? Or can you extend your current offerings to provide more value to your customers? What innovations are likely to create a competitive advantage that is difficult to replicate? Some of the most important new features for marketers to consider are HealthKit, HomeKit and WatchKit.
Here are some things to consider when redesigning for iOS 8.
Apple pioneered touch UI on smartphones. The journey to educate customers about using a touch interface was executed by using skeuomorphic design. Skeuomorphic design is about representing real world objects on screen. For example, you would convince users that a button was pressable by making it look like a physical button in the real world including textures and 3D shadows.
With iOS 7, Apple moved away from skeuomorphic design and flattened and removed much of the embellishments that made apps look like real world objects. iOS 8 continues this theme.
Your app should be compliant with Apple’s revised Human Interface Guidelines (HIG). If your app has skeuomorphic elements, now is the time to remove them.
Today we live in a multi-platform world. Your customers will use a mix of iOS and Android phones and tablets. Try to leverage and reuse as many design patterns as you can.
An example of a design pattern is the navigation structure of your app. Should you use a slide-in menu or should you use a tab bar? Consider the future roadmap of your product and how this might affect design decisions you make today. Using a tab bar may limit your ability to add new menu items in the future due to a lack of space, while a slide-in menu might provide you with more flexibility for changes in the future.
It’s also important to consider and refer to your chosen platform’s user interface conventions. iOS users may expect to see a ‘back’ button on certain screens, while Android users will be happy to use the hardware buttons on the device. It’s important to understand these conventions and user behaviours using analytics in order to make informed decisions about the design patterns you choose.
Remember that the best and most used apps are those that provide the user with a great experience. While branding may be important to you, it should never come in the way of utility. The best apps create a balance between organisation branding, existing conventions and re-using elements between platforms to create the best and most intuitive user experiences.
Take advantage of new iOS 8 features
You need to think about all of the new iOS 8 features and how they can be integrated into your app to deliver more value to your customers. Consider the following new technologies and how you can use them:
- WatchKit – Wearables is a growing market and a great opportunity for innovative new products. Extend your iPhone apps to work with the Apple Watch that complement your existing service offerings in innovative new ways.
- App Extensions – Look at what your users are doing and make things even quicker and easier to access. Extend functionality and content beyond your app. For example, create a widget that allows your users to view content or perform quick tasks from the Notification Centre, without needing to open the app itself.
- TouchID – User authentication has never been easier. Allow users to log into your app securely and easily by scanning their finger on the iPhone or iPad Home button.
- Apple Pay – Allow your customers to pay in-app for goods and services securely and easily with a single touch.
- Handoff – Are your users on the move when they’re using their apps? Handoff allows users to start an activity on one device and seamlessly resume on another. For example, imagine watching a live sports match on your iPhone on the train and then getting home and seamlessly continuing the activity on your iPad.
- HealthKit – Leverage and store a user’s health information in a centralised and secure location.
- HomeKit – Control and connect with different devices around the home and use Siri to trigger particular actions.
Plan for scale
With so many different devices now available you’ll need to ensure your app can scale to the required display size. Even the newly announced Apple Watch will come in two different resolution sizes so this is critical to designing an app. Simplifying designs will make this process easier. Ask your developers if they are using auto-layout and using as many standard controls (such as buttons and sliders) as possible to leverage efficiencies in design. Also, ensure that you are collecting the appropriate analytics data in order to make informed decisions about which devices to support.
If you’re redesigning now for next February, don’t forget to consider the next big announcement from Apple and start creating a wearable extension. The Apple Watch is touted for release in late February and if, as expected, is more than just a smartwatch it could become a game changer. Regardless of expectations, it will undoubtedly raise consumer awareness of the wearables segment. As new technologies like this emerge be ready to grasp the opportunities and engage with your customers on a new level.
Danny Gorog is co-founder and director of Outware Mobile.