Schlagwort-Archive: Simplicity

App UIs Are All Starting To Look The Same. That’s Not A Bad Thing

Welcome to digital Pleasantville.


Over the past several months, some innovative design leaders have taken minimal design to the next level. Facebook, Airbnb, and Apple have followed a similar blueprint to simplify prominent products in a way that reflects the trend of complexion reduction (CR) in mobile design.


You’ve never heard of complexion reduction, you say? Well yeah, that’s because I just made it up. It’s a trend that is beyond flat design, beyond minimal design, and independent of progressive reduction. Some may claim that it’s just the next step in minimal design—the inevitable result of designing for small screens that have little room for visual flourish—but I think it’s something more distinct. There are specific similarities and characteristics that define this new trend:

  • Bigger, bolder headlines
  • Simpler more universal icons
  • Extraction of color

The result? The user interfaces of some of our favorite apps are starting to look more and more like they could all be housed under the same brand.


I first started taking notice of this trend in early May when Instagram released its redesigned UI.

Some of the changes included removing much of the blue and dark gray color used throughout the app, making headlines bolder, and simplifying the bottom navigation and icons. What was left was a black and white UI with bold headlines where the content shined and functionality was clear. I appreciated the less cluttered interface and was reminded a bit of a platform I have been an admirer of for quite some time: Medium. Medium has been rocking the black and white since launch in 2012, and has reduced clutter with each redesign since, effectively making Medium one of the originators of complexion reduction.

Shortly after the folks over at Facebook unveiled Instagram’s look, I opened up the Airbnb app and was struck by how familiar it looked. This was my first time browsing the app since the company released a redesign in April, yet I felt like I had seen it all before.

Airbnb’s redesigned UI didn’t get nearly the media coverage of Instagram’s redesign a month later (partly because it wasn’t accompanied by a shiny new app icon) but it followed many of the same CR tactics.

The mobile redesign introduced larger, bolder headlines, removed unnecessary imagery and color, and simplified the icons to make them more universally recognizable. What was left was a very black and white UI where the content shined and functionality was clear.

Apple is the latest example of complexion reduction. Last month at Apple’s Worldwide Developer Conference, the tech giant announced a number of exciting things for consumers to look forward to, including the release of iOS 10, which Apple is dubbing, „The biggest iOS release ever!“ (or at least since iOS 8 which was referred to as . . . „The biggest iOS release ever„).

One particular announcement caught my eye. That was the redesign of Apple Music. While the most important aspects of the redesign are UX updates and additional features, the aesthetic was the first thing I noticed. Caitlin McGarry, a staff writer at Macworld, described the updated appearance well, „It’s a totally new look, with giant cards, bigger and bolder fonts, and a clean white background that allows the album art to shine.“

Sound familiar? The design differs slightly from the blueprint used by Instagram and Airbnb (They use solid icons! What the heck Apple?) but the key elements are there: large bold headlines, black and white UI.


As I mentioned earlier, this means more and more of your favorite apps are going to start looking like one another. Why? Much like the NFL, tech is a copycat league. These redesigns were met with generally positive reviews (some people are complaining about a „lack of personality“ in these new black and white UIs but they’ll soon get over that. You open an app for it’s functionality, not it’s personality) so I expect apps both new and old to start jumping on the CR bandwagon.

This means your iPhone home screen will soon become nothing more than a colorful mosaic of bright portals transporting you to Pleasantville.

Now, whether you are for or against this monochromatic fad, it is undoubtedly a sign of progress. The product design process is advancing and evolving from the old segmented approach that encouraged superfluous design to a more holistic process that is truly focused on the user. In the old product design process, a UI designer may be handed wireframes by a UX or product person with the instructions „make it pretty.“ The designer would then spend hours or days adding color, removing color, changing color when the best solution may have been right there in front of them all along . . . the wireframes! As the lines between UX and UI design blur in today’s more integrated design process, designers become less worried about their specific responsibilities (like making it pretty) and focus on the ultimate goal of creating the best product for their user.


How Apple lost its way: Steve Jobs’ love of simplicity is gone


Ken Segall, who worked alongside the tech giant’s co-founder, says company’s incredible growth was rooted in his love of simplicity – but things have changed

 Steve’ Jobs’ vision, strength and charisma made him the benevolent dictator – able to align all the forces within Apple.
Steve’ Jobs’ vision, strength and charisma made him the benevolent dictator – able to align all the forces within Apple. Photograph: Sipa Press/Rex Features

Four years ago, I wrote a book about Apple and the power of simplicity. It was the result of my observation, having worked with Steve Jobs as his ad agency creative director in the “think different” years, when Apple’s stellar growth was rooted in Steve’s love of simplicity.

This love – you might call it obsession – could be seen in Apple’s hardware, software, packaging, marketing, retail store design, even the company’s internal organization.

But that was four years ago.

Though Apple’s customers remain fiercely loyal, the natives are getting restless. A growing number of people are sensing that Tim Cook’s Apple isn’t as simple as Steve’s Apple. They see complexity in expanding product lines, confusing product names, and the products themselves.

Is this just perception, or is it reality? Has Apple developed a problem with simplicity? Or is it simply maturing as one should expect from a global company? It’s difficult to be objective because Apple has become the world’s most overanalyzed company. It’s created passionate fans and passionate detractors.

My experience with Steve has led me to admire Apple – but I also believe in tough love. This is a good time to put emotions aside and take a cold, hard look at Apple’s current “state of simplicity”.

Steve Jobs, master of simplicity

Steve Jobs holds up the new MacBook Air at a conference in 2008.
Steve Jobs holds up the MacBook Air at a conference in 2008. Photograph: Jeff Chiu/AP

First, we need to get one critical fact out of the way: Steve Jobs cannot be replaced. He had the credibility of the founder, extraordinary instinct, vision and energy, and he could make things happen by sheer force of will. It’s just not possible for Apple to be the same without him – but it can still succeed.

Tim Cook has a different style. Remember, he was handpicked by Steve to be Apple’s next leader, and he certainly knows how to make Apple run efficiently. He also recognizes that he doesn’t have Steve’s many talents, so he relies on the expertise of others in those areas where he is less experienced – such as product design and marketing.

That’s where things get a little more complicated. Steve’s vision, strength and charisma made him the benevolent dictator – able to align all the forces within Apple. That kind of performance doesn’t come as naturally to Tim.

Simplicity in the product lines

Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the iPhone 6S last year.
Apple CEO Tim Cook introduces the iPhone 6S last year. Photograph: Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Images

Apple now sells three different iPhones, four different iPads and three different MacBooks. The Apple Watch comes in seemingly infinite combinations of sizes and bands. The Apple universe is exploding with complexity! Or is it?

One could easily argue that a watch is a fashion product, so the decision here makes sense. And there is ample precedent for Apple expanding existing product lines. The original iPod, for example, successfully grew into a family of products.

Markets mature. A bigger audience has more diverse needs. If Apple were to ignore those needs, they would only force customers to go elsewhere. (As they did for several years by not making a big-screen iPhone.)

So, yes, Apple’s product lines have become more complicated. But really, are they that complicated? The company’s entire selection of products can easily fit on an average-size table. When a company cares about simplicity, it offers the right choices – not endless choices.

Simplicity in software

Cook speaks about the Apple Watch at the Apple headquarters earlier this year in Cupertino, California.
Cook speaks about the Apple Watch at the Apple headquarters earlier this year in Cupertino, California. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Critics have had a field day complaining about the growing complexity of Apple software. Apple Music has been attacked mercilessly, and deservedly so. I personally find parts of it to be bewildering.

Apple’s ability to make software solid and simple has come under attack from a number of normally pro-Apple sites. Not that it excuses Apple, but many forget that such lapses also happened on Steve’s watch. He famously went ballistic over the flawed launch of Apple’s early cloud effort called MobileMe.

The fact is, even the best of companies make mistakes from time to time. What’s alarming the Apple crowd today is that the flaws and complexities now seem to be creeping into the products more frequently.

Simplicity in product naming

Steve Jobs speaks during an Apple event in 2010 – with a photo of him and Steve Wozniak in the background.
Steve Jobs speaks during an Apple event in 2010 – with a photo of him and Steve Wozniak in the background. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Once upon a time, Apple’s product naming was extremely simple. Computers were Macs and consumer products were i-devices.

Now the consumer products are offered as i-things and Apple-things (Apple Watch, Apple Pay, Apple Music). But we’ll give Apple a pass on this one because the i is obviously on its last legs, and a transition like this doesn’t happen overnight.

I’m less forgiving when it comes to iPhone naming. With the current models consisting of iPhone 6S, iPhone 6S Plus and SE, Apple’s naming scheme is becoming noticeably less simple.

Then there’s the issue of the S. For some reason, Apple has decided that every other year, it should just add an S to the current model number, because the S-year improvements are internal only. So Apple’s own actions have served to train the public that S years are the “off years”. This is an absurdity, given that such revolutionary features as Siri, Touch ID and 64-bit processing have all been introduced in S models.

The S naming has only served to confuse customers, and make it significantly more difficult for marketing to do its job.

Complicated, yes. But bear in mind that Steve is the guy who started iPhone with the S-names in the first place.

Simplicity in marketing

A pedestrian passes a wall covered with Apple iPod advertisements in 2005.
A pedestrian passes a wall covered with Apple iPod advertisements in 2005. Photograph: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

Apple has a lengthy, award-winning history in advertising. Even marketers in other industries have long considered Apple ads to be the gold standard.

This isn’t because Steve Jobs created great ads himself – it’s because he was adament about keeping the process simple. He trusted a small group of smart people at his longtime ad agency and he was actively involved in the process, week to week.

There were no middlemen, no multiple levels of approvals, and no focus group research. Trust me, few companies on earth work this way. It was Steve’s way of keeping complexity at bay.

With Steve’s passing, things changed dramatically. Apple is building a large in-house marketing group. Teams compete to produce new campaigns. More people are involved. In short, Apple is now managing its marketing more like a big company and less like a startup.

Does simplicity still rule at Apple?

Cook explains the features of the new Apple Watch last year.
Cook explains the features of the new Apple Watch last year. Photograph: Eric Risberg/AP

I have zero doubt that Apple believes deeply in the power of simplicity. Simplicity is at the heart of the company’s products and the foundation of its vision for the future.

But simplicity is a matter of perception, and it’s hard to ignore the fact that Apple is struggling to present a simple image to its customers.

There is serious work to be done in rebuilding the perception of simplicity that helped Apple become the world’s most valuable company. Existing problems need fixing, as do the internal processes that have allowed complicated products to make it into the hands of customers.

That said, it’s important to put Apple’s issues in context. Despite its current challenges – and its lapses – I don’t see any other technology creating a simple experience as well as Apple.

We live in a complicated world, and the companies that deliver simplicity are the ones who win in the end.

creating new product ideas – by creating new possibilities for the user

Jony Ive talking about creation process of new products, why Apply doesn’t use focus groups, and why the simple asking for problems doesn’t automatically produce good world-class products.

It’s simple, because users of today are not aware of the usage possibilities of the future.
Only if you are at least a few steps ahead of the market
– with current todays‘ views – and you are really trying hard to achieve something that is not new, but solves one of the problems – you are not yet aware about that you are facing them – then you are likely to succeed.
dieIdee InnovationsAgentur, March 2012

Sir Jonathan Ive, Jony to his friends, is arguably one of the world’s most influential Londoners. The 45-year-old was born in Chingford — and went to the same school as David Beckham. He met his wife, Heather Pegg, while in secondary school. They married in 1987, have twin sons and now live in San Francisco.

(c) by

As Apple’s Senior Vice President of Industrial Design, he is the driving force behind the firm’s products, from the Mac computer to the iPod, iPhone and, most recently the iPad. He spoke exclusively to the Evening Standard at the firm’s Cupertino headquarters.

Q: You recently received a Knighthood for services to design – was that a proud moment?

A: I was absolutely thrilled, and at the same time completely humbled. I am very aware that I’m the product of growing up in England, and the tradition of designing and making, of England industrialising first. The emphasis and value on ideas and original thinking is an innate part of British culture, and in many ways, that describes the traditions of design.

Q: Is London still an important city for design?

A: I left London in 1992, but I’m there 3-4 times a year, and love visiting. It’s a very important city, and makes a significant contribution to design, to creating something new where previously something didn’t exist.

Q: How does London differ from Silicon Valley?

A: The proximity of different creative industries and London is remarkable, and is in many ways unique. I think that has led to a very different feel to Silicon Valley.

Q: Why did you decide to move to California?

A: What I enjoy about being here is there is a remarkable optimism, and an attitude to try out and explore ideas without the fear of failure. There is a very simple and practical sense that a couple of people have an idea and decide to form a company to do it. I like that very practical and straightforward approach.

There’s not a sense of looking to generate money, its about having an idea and doing it – I think that characterises this area and its focus.

Q: What makes design different at Apple?

A: We struggle with the right words to describe the design process at Apple, but it is very much about designing and prototyping and making. When you separate those, I think the final result suffers. If something is going to be better, it is new, and if it’s new you are confronting problems and challenges you don’t have references for. To solve and address those requires a remarkable focus. There’s a sense of being inquisitive and optimistic, and you don’t see those in combination very often.

Q: How does a new product come about at Apple?

A: What I love about the creative process, and this may sound naive, but it is this idea that one day there is no idea, and no solution, but then the next day there is an idea. I find that incredibly exciting and conceptually actually remarkable.

The nature of having ideas and creativity is incredibly inspiring. There is an idea which is solitary, fragile and tentative and doesn’t have form.

What we’ve found here is that it then becomes a conversation, although remains very fragile.

When you see the most dramatic shift is when you transition from an abstract idea to a slightly more material conversation. But when you made a 3D model, however crude, you bring form to a nebulous idea, and everything changes – the entire process shifts. It galvanises and brings focus from a broad group of people. It’s a remarkable process.

Q: What makes a great designer?

A: It is so important to be light on your feet, inquisitive and interested in being wrong. You have that wonderful fascination with the what if questions, but you also need absolute focus and a keen insight into the context and what is important – that is really terribly important. Its about contradictions you have to navigate.

Q: What are your goals when setting out to build a new product?

A: Our goals are very simple – to design and make better products. If we can’t make something that is better, we won’t do it.

Q: Why has Apple’s competition struggled to do that?

A: That’s quite unusual, most of our competitors are interesting in doing something different, or want to appear new – I think those are completely the wrong goals. A product has to be genuinely better. This requires real discipline, and that’s what drives us – a sincere, genuine appetite to do something that is better. Committees just don’t work, and it’s not about price, schedule or a bizarre marketing goal to appear different – they are corporate goals with scant regard for people who use the product.

Q: When did you first become aware of the importance of designers?

A: First time I was aware of this sense of the group of people who made something was when I first used a Mac – I’d gone through college in the 80s using a computer and had a horrid experience. Then I discovered the mac, it was such a dramatic moment and I remember it so clearly – there was a real sense of the people who made it.

Q: When you are coming up with product ideas such as the iPod, do you try to solve a problem?

A: There are different approaches – sometimes things can irritate you so you become aware of a problem, which is a very pragmatic approach and the least challenging.

What is more difficult is when you are intrigued by an opportunity. That, I think, really exercises the skills of a designer. It’s not a problem you’re aware of, nobody has articulated a need. But you start asking questions, what if we do this, combine it with that, would that be useful? This creates opportunities that could replace entire categories of device, rather than tactically responding to an individual problem. That’s the real challenge, and that’s what is exciting.

Q: Has that led to new products within Apple?

A: Examples are products like the iPhone, iPod and iPad. That fanatical attention to detail and coming across a problem and being determined to solve it is critically important – that defines your minute by minute, day by day experience.

Q: How do you know consumers will want your products?

A: We don’t do focus groups – that is the job of the designer. It’s unfair to ask people who don’t have a sense of the opportunities of tomorrow from the context of today to design.

Q: Your team of designers is very small – is that the key to its success?

A: The way we work at Apple is that the complexity of these products really makes it critical to work collaboratively, with different areas of expertise. I think that’s one of the things about my job I enjoy the most. I work with silicon designers, electronic and mechanical engineers, and I think you would struggle to determine who does what when we get together. We’re located together, we share the same goal, have exactly the same preoccupation with making great products.

One of the other things that enables this is that we’ve been doing this together for many years – there is a collective confidence when you are facing a seemingly insurmoutable challenge, and there were multiple times on the iPhone or ipad where we have to think ‘will this work’ we simply didn’t have points of reference.

Q: Is it easy to get sidetracked by tiny details on a project?

A: When you’re trying to solve a problem on a new product type, you become completely focused on problems that seem a number of steps removed from the main product. That problem solving can appear a little abstract, and it is easy to lose sight of the product. I think that is where having years and years of experience gives you that confidence that if you keep pushing, you’ll get there.

Q: Can this obsession with detail get out of control?

A: It’s incredibly time consuming, you can spent months and months and months on a tiny detail – but unless you solve that tiny problem, you can’t solve this other, fundamental product.

You often feel there is no sense these can be solved, but you have faith. This is why these innovations are so hard – there are no points of reference.

Q: How do you know you’ve succeeded?

A :It’s a very strange thing for a designer to say, but one of the things that really irritates me in products is when I’m aware of designers wagging their tails in my face.

Our goal is simple objects, objects that you can’t imagine any other way. Simplicity is not the absence of clutter. Get it right, and you become closer and more focused on the object. For instance, the iPhoto app we created for the new iPad, it completely consumes you and you forget you are using an iPad.

Q: What are the biggest challenges in constantly innovating?

A: For as long as we’ve been doing this, I am still surprised how difficult it is to do this, but you know exactly when you’re there – it can be the smallest shift, and suddenly transforms the object, without any contrivance.

Some of the problem solving in the iPad is really quite remarkable, there is this danger you want to communicate this to people. I think that is a fantastic irony, how oblivious people are to the acrobatics we’ve performed to solve a problem – but that’s our job, and I think people know there is tremendous care behind the finished product.

Q: Do consumers really care about good design?

A: One of the things we’ve really learnt over the last 20 years is that while people would often struggle to articulate why they like something – as consumers we are incredibly discerning, we sense where has been great care in the design, and when there is cynicism and greed. It’s one of the thing we’ve found really encouraging.

Q: Users have become incredibly attached, almost obsessively so, to Apple’s products – why is this?

A: It sound so obvious, but I remember being shocked to use a Mac, and somehow have this sense I was having a keen awareness of the people and values of those who made it.

I think that people’s emotional connection to our products is that they sense our care, and the amount of work that has gone into creating it.

Article quote from :

Additional reading from: Waugh, Rob (20 March 2011). „How did a British polytechnic graduate become the design genius behind £200billion Apple?“. London: Dailymail. Retrieved 2 January 2012.