My Friend, The iPhone: How iOS7 Makes My iPhone More Human

A few weekends ago, my iPhone slipped out of my pocket. Its sleek glass exterior tumbled through the air like a model on the runway tripping on a broken heel. I only knew of its demise when I heard the crash and sickening THUD as it landed face down in a puddle. There we stood – both equally crushed – lines of cracks webbing the screen. I felt like I had let a friend down, literally. Why?

The idea that our mobile devices create personal connections is well-documented. Jonathan Ive, arguably the most well-known designer of our age, is no stranger to the idea. His work ushering in the new iOS7 will undoubtedly carry heavy implications. Mainly, its effect on our ever-growing obsession with mobile devices.

Some examples of how iOS7 strives to make more personal connections with me –

  • The new Siri interface provides visual feedback as to whether or not it heard my request while I’m giving it.
  • The new multi-tasking app capability learns WHICH apps I like to use and WHEN in order to optimize them for performance. For instance, feeds and content will be updated at optimal times during the day based on the phone’s knowledge of when I like to check the news.
  • Photos are now organized into what Apple is calling “moments,” or “smart groupings of your photos and videos based on time and place” instead of an endless scroll of photos.

In other words, my device will give me feedback (BODY LANGUAGE) about whether it understands me, it will deliver content (TALK) to me when I want it and about things I’m interested in. Then, the phone organizes photos (MOMENTS) into contextual groups based on where I was and when I was there.

Holy cow.

At first glance, the device’s new learning capabilities, feedback functions, and helpful affordances make the iPhone easier to use, more fun, more engaging, and more applicable to my day-to-day activities. Possibly, it will be one of the most thoughtful interfaces to debut yet.

Making devices more relatable is certainly an active design choice. What better way to make an object more appealing and easy to integrate into our lives than to humanize it? So no, when I scroll my news feeds, it is NOT the same as speaking to a really well informed friend that just “gets me.” But undeniably, it can feel that way at times. Good user experience design works to “humanize the digital” by incorporating human behaviors and needs into the design language of the interface. Apple’s new iOS7 is its flattest, most Helvetica-inspired approach to interface yet. Its aesthetics are clean and far less skeuomorphic (there, I said it) than the last iteration. However, its interactions—the guts of how it acts and reacts to its human controller—make it more human.

In order to create deep connections between humans and their devices, a user-centric approach is crucial. At West Monroe, our user experience design methodology has provided compelling solutions for a range of clients, focused on optimizing the intersection between user and business needs. Recently, we created a consistent and engaging set of customer-facing websites based on a deep understanding of the business’s goals and the needs of its customer base. For a Fortune 500 Company, we traveled across the country gathering user feedback in order to set a portal design strategy that will serve as a foundation for future state development. Observational research and interface testing help to bring new interface solutions to customer experiences and back end processes alike.

In short, to improve the technology, we start with the human.

Apple’s new iOS 7 (released as beta at the time this post was written) will be fascinating to watch. The focus on needs and behaviors of humans to create engaging experiences will undoubtedly make it a success. Apple has set the precedent for an effortless customer experience, and all companies regardless of industry need to optimize business processes and customer touch-points by creating solutions that are centered around the customers and employees engaging with them.

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