Breaking iOS Guidelines in Order to Innovate

Thierry Meier
3 min readAug 1, 2014

There are many beautiful mobile applications out there, without a doubt, but beautiful is not always good enough to stand out and craft a real experience.

Over the past years, more and more applications experimented with completely ignoring common human interface guidelines available under iOS and came up with different, interesting and very exciting looking products.

I want to showcase a few and illustrate, that there are cases, where inventing new patterns or communicating brand image is more benefitial to the product or organization behind the product than focusing on using guidelines and best practices. It might influence the usability of the product, but enjoyment and exploration of something fun and new might make up for it.

Starbucks.

Starbucks went for a custom navigation bar, which hasn’t been around like this before. Besides that, the interface elements feel refreshing and playful.

Blab. A video walkie talkie app.

This is Blab. A video walkie talkie app which seemingly had enough of perfectly circled avatars or simple color schemes. They took a chance and came up with a great interface, tailored to their demographic.

UNIQLO RECIPE.

Uniqlo published a cooking application which is still quite in line with the basic guidelines of iOS7. However, they accomplished a heavily brand look by using bold iconography, bold colours and creative use of shapes.

I think more people should break some rules, if the sitution allows it, and come up with innovative or different interfaces. I tried myself in a side-project of mine and found it rewarding and challenging.

Thinking outside of the box is not always easy, but it can help you solve design problems from a complete different perspective. Break away from best practices for a moment. It helps you innovate. Most standards and best practices today have been created by stepping outside of conventional patterns and then try something new and exciting.

Important: I am not suggesting that everything should be unconventional, different and experimental. Human Interface Guidelines are part of an operating system for a reason. Especially applications with complex interactions benefit strongly from guidelines. Peek Calendar is an example where I would refrain from being unconventional and dropping guidelines, because people want to get their tasks done quickly and close their calendar as soon as possible. People don’t open their calendar for their enjoyment.

Though, when you get the chance to come up with something different and feel like the problem, brand, organization and therefore the user can benefit from it. Go for it and be creative.

Do you have some more unconventional and different iOS experiences you might want to share? Feel free to hit me up on Twitter.

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Thierry Meier

Product Designer. Digital Nomad. Creator of @betterdaysapp. Follow me on Twitter @thierrymeier_.