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Migrating to iOS 7

Last month, Apple unveiled iOS 7, surprising the iOS industry not only with the direction of the changes in the new OS, but also in their magnitude. A whole new visual look-and-feel and an extensive suite of new APIs. With all these changes, it’s important to discuss what needs to be done in order to keep your app relevant to your users.

We’re going to discuss three important aspects of iOS 7: user expectations, information architecture, and user relevancy.

User Expectations

First and foremost, it’s important to understand that users are going to expect their favourite applications to be updated to feel at home in the new version of iOS. This can be quite a feat if your application is large, complex, or has a legacy codebase. However, the new look and feel of iOS 7 is going to happen – there’s no avoiding it. Applications that choose not to adopt the new visual style will feel out of place and outdated on the new OS.

The good news is that Apple has a history of featuring apps that adopt new iOS technologies in the App Store. This represents a significant opportunity: If your app embraces iOS 7′s design and is ready for day one of the new OS, it’s likely that Apple may feature you in your category on the App Store. That could lead to a lot of new users.

Beyond the visual look-and-feel, there are new APIs that your app should take advantage of. For example, there’s a whole new multitasking system on iOS 7 that your app should be using. Users are going to expect that when they switch to your app, it’s already updated to display the latest data. Updating the user’s content only when the app has already been opened is no longer an option.

Users will expect applications they use to be updated to adopt the new iOS 7 look-and-feel and technologies. If users aren’t satisfied with how your application fits into their iOS 7 workflow, they’re going to consider replacing it with something that feels right.

Information Architecture

While the visuals in iOS have changed a lot with the new version, the way that information should be organized within your app is still fundamentally the same. Users will still use the same familiar navigation paradigm that iOS has used since 2007 – only the ornamentation that surrounds the user’s content has changed.

iOS 7 encourages a sense of deference toward the users’ content. That has lead to a “flatter” design of the OS. Buttons no longer have borders surrounding them. Gradients are muted. Shadows have all but disappeared. These are all visual changes, not architectural ones.

The hierarchy of information you have in your existing app will still work, but the surrounding user interface will need to be reevaluated in order to stay relevant.

User Relevancy

Whether your application is using stock iOS visual components or has had its look-and-feel heavily customized, it’s necessary to reevaluate whether or not it still fits in.

As we mentioned earlier, users are going to expect your app to adhere to the new visual style and to take full advantage of the new APIs. Apps that feel outdated aren’t going to be relevant to users.

Stock applications that only use standard interface elements won’t require much work – updating to use iOS 7′s look-and-feel should be relatively easy. For heavily customized apps, the amount of tweaking is going to depend on a lot of different variables, but it’s going to represent a significant amount of work.

In either case, it’s critical that you take a look at your app. Is it going to fit in on iOS 7? How much work will it take? Do you have enough time before iOS 7 launches?

Conclusion

Apple has announced iOS 7′s release date as “this Fall”, giving the industry only a few months to react to the new changes. In order to remain relevant to existing users and continue to attract new ones, your app has to be updated.

The time to act is now, before iOS 7 is released. Take advantage of this opportunity.

We’ve released iOS 7 PSDs to help designers get a leg-up on their apps’ designs. We also have a capable planning and development team to get your app ready for iOS 7 now. If you’re interested, get in touch.

Ash Furrow More posts by Ash Furrow