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Learning iOS Design: A Hands-On Guide for Programmers and Designers

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Learning iOS Design: A Hands-On Guide for Programmers and Designers


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  • A focused walkthrough that dives deeply into each key app design principle
  • Covers outlines, sketches, wireframes, mockups, prototypes, personality, focus, consistency, color, unification, and much more
  • Exercises help students explore different approaches, styles, and strategies
  • Practical techniques work on any iOS device, and are easy to generalize beyond iOS
  • Assumes no app design knowledge: ideal for any developer, software engineer, or manager


  • Copyright 2013
  • Dimensions: 7" x 9"
  • Edition: 1st
  • Book
  • ISBN-10: 0-321-88749-2
  • ISBN-13: 978-0-321-88749-8

“This book contains everything you need to know to create awesome, life-altering applications. . . . I pride myself on knowing a lot about design, but when reading this book, I probably didn’t encounter a single page that didn’t offer at least one interesting idea, new concept, or clever design technique. It’s also written in a way that prevents you from putting it down. . . . You’re in for a treat.”

From the Foreword by LUKAS MATHIS, author of ignorethecode.net

Transform Your Ideas into Intuitive, Delightful iOS Apps!

As an app developer, you know design is important. But where do you start? Learning iOS Design will help you think systematically about the art and science of design, and consistently design apps that users will appreciate–and love.

Pioneering Omni Group user experience expert William Van Hecke first explains what design really means, and why effective app design matters so much. Next, using a sample concept, he walks through transforming a vague idea into a fleshed-out design, moving from outlines to sketches, wireframes to mockups, prototypes to finished apps.

Building on universal design principles, he offers practical advice for thinking carefully, critically, and cleverly about your own projects, and provides exercises to guide you step-by-step through planning your own app’s design. An accompanying website (learningiosdesign.com) provides professional-grade sketches, wireframes, and mockups you can study and play with to inspire your own new project.

Coverage includes

  • Planning and making sense of your app idea
  • Exploring potential approaches, styles, and strategies
  • Creating more forgiving, helpful, and effective interactions
  • Managing the constraints of the iOS platform (or any platform)
  • Crafting interfaces that are graceful, gracious, and consistently enjoyable to use
  • Balancing concerns such as “focus versus versatility” and “friction versus guidance”
  • Understanding why all designs are compromises–and how to find the best path for your own app

Register your book at informit.com/register to gain access to a supplemental chapter in which Bill Van Hecke discusses the design changes made in iOS 7.


Related Article

Respect Your Users: Making the Most of Notification Center in iOS

Author's Site

Please visit the author's sites metalbat.com and learningiosdesign.com.

Sample Content

Online Sample Chapter

Learning iOS Design: Outlining Your Ideas to Get Started

Sample Pages

Download the sample pages (includes Chapter 4 and Index)

Table of Contents

Foreword xix

Preface xxi

Acknowledgments xxix

About the Author xxxi


Part I: Turning Ideas into Software 1


Chapter 1: The Outlines 3

The Process: Nonlinear but Orderly 3

Writing about Software 4

The Mental Sweep 6

More Inputs to Outlining 7

Outlining Requirements 8

Antirequirements 9

Define a Platform 10

Listing Ramifications 11

iOS and Featurefulness 11

Reducing Problems 12

Outlining Architecture 13

Your Outline Is Your To-Do List 14

Summary 14

Exercises 14

Chapter 2: The Sketches 15

Thinking by Drawing 15

Design Happens in Conversations 16

Tools for Sketching 18

Sketches Are Sketchy 19

When to Sketch 20

Using Precedents 21

Playing Devil’s Advocate 22

Sketching Interfaces 22

Sketching Interactions 24

Sketching Workflows 26

Summary 29

Exercises 29

Chapter 3: Getting Familiar with iOS 31

Navigation: Screen to Screen 31

Advice on the Standard Elements 41

Custom Controls 52

Summary 53

Exercises 53

Chapter 4: The Wireframes 55

Thinking in Screens 56

Thinking in Points 57

Optical Measurements 57

Tools for Wireframing 61

Principles of Layout 63

Typography 72

Layout: A Place for Everything… 74

Summary 79

Exercises 80

Chapter 5: The Mockups 81

When to Mock Up 81

Styling: The Apparent Design Discipline 82

Mockup Tools 85

Color: Thinking in HSB 86

Get Serious about Value 88

Contrast: Thinking in Figure/Ground Relationships 89

Styling for Good Contrast and Visual Weight 89

Good Backgrounds 92

Transparency 93

1+1 = 3 94

Presenting Image Content 95

Evaluating Contrast: Posterize It 95

Contrast Examples 98

Birth of a Button 100

Mockup Assembly 106

Resizable Images 107

Retina Resources 107

Designing for Layers 108

Summary 109

Exercises 109

Chapter 6: The Prototypes 111

Test on the Device 111

Kinds of Prototypes 112

Paper Prototypes 112

Wizard of Oz Prototypes 114

Motion Sketches 115

Preemptive Demo Videos 117

Interactive Prototypes 118

Proof-of-Concept Software 121

Why Do Usability Testing? 123

How to Do Usability Testing 124

Summary 126

Exercises 126

Chapter 7: Going Cross-Platform 127

Platform Catalog 127

Standalone, Mini, and Companion Apps 129

Start from Scratch 130

Back to the Outlines 130

Case Study: Apple Mail 131

Summary 141

Exercises 142

Part II: Principles 143


Chapter 8: The Graceful Interface 145

Suspension of Disbelief 145

The Moment of Uncertainty 146

Instantaneous Feedback 147

Gracefulness through Layout 149

Six Reliable Gestures 151

The Sandwich Problem 153

Exotic Gestures as Shortcuts 154

Realistic Gestures 154

Hysteresis 155

Thresholds 157

Generous Taps 158

Meaningful Animation 161

Making SnackLog Graceful 163

Summary 164

Exercises 164

Chapter 9: The Gracious Interface 167

Denotation and Connotation 167

Cues 168

Imagery 171

Text 172

Writing: The Secret Design Discipline 174

Redundant Messages 176

Communication Breakdown 176

Guidance at the Point of Need 177

Visible Status 178

Contextual Status 179

Invisible Status 180

The Sense of Adventure 183

Capability 184

Defensive Design 185

Forgiveness 187

Making SnackLog Gracious 191

Summary 193

Exercises 193

Chapter 10: The Whole Experience 195

Serve the Soul 197

Conveying Capability 198

Documentation 206

Support 211

Localization 211

Accessibility 213

Ethos 215

Respect 215

Summary 219

Exercises 219

Part III: Finding Equilibrium 221


Chapter 11: Focused and Versatile 223

Debunking “Simple” and “Complex” 223

The Focused Design 224

Focusing SnackLog: Labeling 228

The Versatile Design 230

Summary 236

Exercises 236

Chapter 12: Quiet and Forthcoming 237

Adjacent in Space 238

Stacked in Time 239

Progressive Disclosure 240

Group by Meaning, Arrange by Importance 242

Promotion and Demotion 243

Splitting the Difference 246

iOS Loves Context 246

Hide, Don’t Disable 248

Disappear 248

Taps Are Cheap 250

Loud and Clear 250

Making SnackLog Quiet 251

Making SnackLog Forthcoming 252

Summary 253

Exercises 253

Chapter 13: Friction and Guidance 255

The Difficulty Curve 255

Experience Weight 257

Why Add Friction? 257

How to Add Friction 258

Unintended Friction 259

Guidance 262

Sensible Defaults 266

Summary 270

Exercises 270

Chapter 14: Consistency and Specialization 271

How It All Works Out 271

Getting the Most Out of the HIG 272

The Consistent Design 273

The Specialized Design 278

Summary 283

Exercises 284

Chapter 15: Rich and Plain 285

Color versus Monochrome 286

Depth versus Flatness 290

Realism versus Digitality 296

Summary 301

Exercises 302

Index 303

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