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Over the last year and a half or so, I’ve been involved in designing several iPhone applications. Designing iPhone user interfaces is a lot of fun and may seem a straightforward design job to some of you folks. There’s more than meets the eye, though.
The task of a designer is not only to make the UI look good. It’s only a part of the job. What a designer is creating is user experience, which requires skills beyond a graphics editing program. Good graphics alone will not make the application usable.
Apple provides extensive iPhone Human Interface Guidelines, which is what you should read if you are creating apps. Here’s what my own experience taught me:
Probably goes without saying and falls into the obvious category, but you need to keep things simple. If you’ll remember only one thing from this article, then make sure you remember to keep it simple.
iPhone users love a clever app but not a complex one. Simplicity leads to usability. On the other hand, your app can become very difficult to use if you overcomplicate things.
As any experienced designer will tell you, clutter is a failure of design. Don’t try to fit too much into the small and unique iPhone screen. It won’t tolerate a large amount of information. Focus on the most important elements and features.
Ensure you have plenty of space between tappable elements, so the user does not tap the wrong button by mistake.
Follow the iPhone Convention
The iPhone interface, like pretty much all Apple interfaces, is great. You can learn a lot from simply following the iPhone UI conventions. Get familiar with preinstalled apps and learn from them. By learning from Apple’s interface and user experience, you will learn from the masters.
Remember, iPhone users are used to the native apps and expect a similar experience from your app.
Give Special Attention to Typography
The iPhone comes with a limited number of preinstalled fonts. Use them with caution. If you’re not careful, a Trebuchet MS here or a Times there could ruin your UI.
Your text needs to be easily legible. As I have mentioned before, it is safe to follow the default iPhone UI, which uses the lovely Helvetica. Study where and how Apple uses small font values. No one wants to bring their iPhone all the way up to their nose to read the text.
Ensure quick navigation
Everyone wants the app to be smooth and quick. Besides making the app and the screens load fast, the navigation must be done in such a way that the navigation between screens is fast. Ensure an intuitive and recognizable navigation system throughout your app.
Non-standard navigation controls can cause problems. Avoid website-like horizontal navigation menus. The iPhone screen is not a website screen and therefore you cannot use the same principles.
Your users are smart
iPhone users are smart and will learn their way around your app. Not everything needs to be obvious at first glance. For instance, you can let your users discover all the corners of the app and find out for themselves if a part of the UI is tappable or not.
That’s all, folks. Hope this has helped some of you.