How long has it been since you took a good long look at the iOS human interface guidelines? The release of the iPhone 5? iPhone 4? Earlier? Never? If you’ve not looked at them recently and given your iOS7 app development a top-to-bottom review, your work may be suffering. Don’t worry, though. In this article, we’ll be reviewing the key points of the guidelines, condensed and refined for the developer on the go.

Core Principals outlines three themes as the core of iOS 7 development:

Deference. An application’s interface doesn’t compete with the content—it stays out of the way or complements it.

Clarity. Text is easy to read at any size, icons are effective and precise, adornments are subtle, and function drives design.

Depth. Motion and layers work together to create a livelier, more engrossing user experience.

Developers should completely strip away their old UIs and reconsider their apps from the ground up, integrating the new design principals of iOS 7 to create a functional, consistent user experience.


Understanding the UIKit framework and its terminology can go a long way in helping a developer meet Apple’s human interface guidelines in their designs. It’s also important to realize the difference between developer perspective and user perspective in this area, i.e. the difference in perception of ‘views and view controllers’ vs. ‘screens’.

Quick In and Out

iOS 7 design themes place a premium on apps which function as users want them to function, given the ‘use for a minute or two of downtime’ nature of many iOS apps. A quick launch without splashes and start buttons and an equally speedy exit make for the most satisfactory experience.

That also means skipping prolonged setups where possible. Drive Dominion recommends settings which will satisfy 80% of your users, ignoring outliers, and gathering information from other sources when possible.

Functional Layouts

Layouts with more options aren’t always more functional. Tappable controls should be at least 44×44 points, as PossPW suggests. It’s also important to understand how users focus on content. The top left corner is most important, with user attention slacked the further down and to the right they move on their screen. Clever use of size, color, and proper alignment groupings will make it much easier for users to find what they need and access it in busy or distracting environments.

Navigation should be transparent. That is to say, you don’t want end users noticing your navigation; it should be so seamless and convenient that the user moves from content piece to content piece without ever having to consider how to get to their next goal. Similarly, you don’t want users to ever feel trapped in a dead end or modal task with no obvious route back.


Certain gestures and methods of interaction are ingrained in iPhone users by now; if your app utilizes functions like the tap, drag, flick, swipe, double tap, pinch, touch and hold, or shake in a way that differs wildly from their standard usage, you can expect unhappy users. Likewise, don’t reinvent the wheel with custom gestures for standard activities. The only noteworthy exceptions to these baselines are games, where custom gestures often supply half the fun.


Consistency between apps improves the user experience in animation, graphics, branding, and other aspects of style as much as in gestures. Gratuitous animations and other ill-considered attempts to ‘stand out’ fall flat in the iOS 7 environment. Refined, unobtrusive, and functional are the keywords for branding and other aspects of style.


An app communicates with users. Knowing the language of the iOS 7 environment is very important for accurate, precise communication; words and terminology have specific meanings to someone who has used other iOS apps with implications which do not exist outside of that environment. Similarly, there are a multitude of standard UI elements, particularly those from the UIKit, which people have become comfortable with.

Developers must carefully consider the needs of the end user and the goals of the human interface guidelines before introducing custom elements to the experience.

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