What we can learn from apps made by Apple?

October 29, 2015

At times, it is helpful to go back to the original design of something in order to understand best practices and learn important insights for the future. This week, we are discussing what we can learn from apps made by Apple. As you know, Apple developed the very first app – and the standards used in their apps can help us to be thoughtful about our designs going forward.

Let’s look at a few apps made by Apple and ask “what can we learn?”

1. Podcasts: The Apple Podcasts app is impossible to delete from your iPhone or iPad. I was able to delete it from the Apple Watch but that is a different story. The Podcasts app is setup as a tab based app with five tabs: Unplayed, My Podcasts, Featured, Top Charts, and Search. The navigation bar at the top has a button for Categories which brings up a tableview of items and images. Under the Top Charts tab, the view shows each podcast title, an image, the date it was released, and the rating. This app shows us how simple and native an app can be. Meaning, an app does not need to have complicated features in order to be useful or engaging. Apple’s Podcasts app shows developers that there is value in the simplicity and cleanliness of a design.

2. Pages: You may think of Pages as Microsoft Word for Apple people. But, it is really a powerful app that offers Apple-Designer Templates, Text Formatting, Review tracking, and Sharing via iCloud. The app is designed with a collection view of templates where the user can select for new templates based on certain categories such as Basic, Reports, and Letters. Once the user selects a template or starts from scratch, the screen changes dramatically to offer only a navigation bar with a back button, paint brush, add item, share, and tools button. From this app, we can learn how to have limited navigation but offer additional options once the user taps a piece of content. It is incredible how many options become available to the user once they tap on content – they can rotate, drag, delete, edit, etc. Also, now with the iPhone 6s and iPhone 6s Plus, users can press harder using 3D Touch. According to Apple “for the first time, iPhone senses how much pressure you apply to the display. In addition to familiar Multi‑Touch gestures like Tap, Swipe, and Pinch, 3D Touch introduces Peek and Pop. This brings a new dimension of functionality to the iPhone experience. And when you use 3D Touch, your iPhone responds with subtle taps. So not only will you see what a press can do — you’ll feel it.” As developers, we can learn to limit navigation and offer additional options through taps and touches.

3. Garage Band: The Garage Band app turns an iPad, iPhone, and iPod Touch into a collection of instruments and offers a full featured recording studio. The app is fully landscape and starts with a collection view with the ability to scroll between multiple instruments. At the onset, there is no navigation other than selecting the primary instrument. Once a user selects an instrument, they are taken directly to the instrument display with a navigation bar at the top of the screen to record, pause, play, metronome, and adjust settings. From this app, we can learn how to organize the user’s experience into stages of activity. We learn how to limit users to only certain functions based on the view they are on. This is important for how it improves the user’s experience – they are not presented with thousands of options at a time. Rather, they are given options at the exact time when needed to create music.

In summary, we’ve learned how to simplify apps and stay native from the Podcasts app. From Pages, we’ve learned how to use taps and touches for providing additional options. Finally, Garage Band taught us the importance of organizing the user’s experience into offering only the necessary items. Feel free to leave a comment about what you’ve learned from an app.

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