Nozbe & iOS 7 – Part 1: Important vs Urgent

When rumors about a complete overhaul of the UI in iOS 7 started surfacing, everyone was curious about what that process would mean – for designers, developers, and users alike. After Tim Cook officially unveiled the latest iOS release reactions were mixed, ranging from full-blown delight to harsh criticism. When the new will try to take the stage and make the old obsolete, it is bound to encounter resistance, despite being “stunning” and “efficient.” Some even “prophesied” that the new design won’t take hold. Well, it did, and it looks like it’s going to stick around for a long while. We live in an era of minimalism and flat design. Most of us have been working with it for quite some time now. These new principles reestablish the overarching need for simplicity, emphasizing functionality and usability of tools (or lack thereof), but also herald a new set of challenges for app developers. What’s even more interesting, the attitudes toward these new challenges run the gamut from pessimist prognoses to enthusiasm of those who – like us – approach them with the curiosity of a veteran chef, able to whip up gourmet dishes from even the simplest ingredients.

We decided to gradually introduce iOS 7 concepts into our apps. Nozbe, a sophisticated app for fans of GTD (Getting Things Done) with task and project management capabilities, was the first one to get the iOS 7 treatment. We started out by removing unnecessary details which served a purely decorative purpose. This, in turn, put the focus back on key elements like content and usability. Some of our users prefer the older version, while others are heaping praise upon the updated look. We believe that Nozbe and iOS 7 are perfect for each other. When it comes to productivity apps, flat design is the way to go.

Nozbe on iOS 6 Nozbe on iOS 7
Drag left and right to see the difference

Curiously, after a long enough period of time, introducing even the smallest changes (in this case, focused on refreshing the interface) might have significant consequences. As a result, issues that weren’t particularly bothersome before may become pressing and sensitive. We assumed that putting a new coat of paint on the interface will make the currently available version of Nozbe iOS 7-ready, but improving the UI unearthed a few issues (some of them were mentioned in the user feedback, while others were discovered during the improvement process) that forced us to rethink the approach and start working on another update that we plan on releasing very soon. The necessity of putting content and usability first opened our eyes to a host of errors we made in our earlier efforts. And that’s priceless.

You start out thinking that you’ll just refresh the UI (not even redesign the app, per se) but then it hits you that YOU CAN DO SOMETHING BETTER, which ends up starting a chain reaction in your head and in your process. With “fresh eyes” you can see better, think more clearly, and place old notions in new contexts. Our senses become more acute, we get highly exacting, and the app has to be nothing short of perfect! And then, a decision – we’ll be changing much more than just the visuals.

What is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important.

Why did we decide to release an update with imperfections we were aware of? Well, the timeframe we were operating in was limited, we had to pick our battles; following Eisenhower’s advice on how “what is important is seldom urgent and what is urgent is seldom important” we focused on pressing issues first to take a deeper look at the important stuff later on.

We could have approached the task in various ways, e.g. discard the earlier version to build a completely new app or rework the old software to improve it. There is no single, correct approach in these situations. When it comes to Nozbe, we went with the latter. Nozbe can still be improved! Obviously, in our process, we had to include the preferences of users who have stuck with us from the beginning and are by now familiar with and used to Nozbe’s interface and structure. Moreover, when it comes to functionality, the iPhone and iPad apps had to remain consistent with the Web version of Nozbe.

It’s one thing to develop something from scratch, for a new set of users, and another to redesign a piece of software used by a host of users, each one with a distinct set of proclivities and needs. On one hand, we want our software to keep up with cutting-edge design trends, but on the other, it needs to remain a tool that people would still want to use.

Inevitably, each revolution carries its own set of controversies.

“What were you thinking? I have used the older version for a long time and was extremely pleased with the appearance of the UI. It definitely was better than the desk top version. The colors are so muted, it is difficult to read. There is so little contrast. Unless I am able to get the last version back, I will move on”. (by Dezmar)

Our team always carefully considers all the feedback we receive before making any decisions regarding the product. In the end, these opinions are the reason we change our plans.

“For fans of GTD Much better than the official application! An excellent Manager of tasks and projects for fans of GTD. The syncro with nozbe online service works well. The application integrates now the access to Evernote and Dropbox. Ergonomics is exemplary and the latest version of the magnificent application” (by Hagridor)

“Outstanding GTD Nozbe App!
 Now this has been updated for IOS7 it is in my opinion near perfect. Try this first because:‘Two touch’ adding to Inbox. (Other Nozbe app is three touch because it insists you go to details screen next then you have to exit). Editing order of items is far easier. Solid sliding movement rather than the ‘hit and miss’ hold and slide. Syncing is rapid and automatic Evernote linking is easy by tags. This app is a winner! Well done Macoscope guys.” (by Dean333)

The list of things that need fixing is not all that long, however, smoothing out a few of the included kinks might significantly improve the visual appeal of the software and make task and project management easier, more efficient, and satisfying. We will try our best to release an update addressing these issues as fast as possible. Known issues and bugs include:

  • problems with notifications, e.g. recurring Dropbox Authorization prompts appearing when we decide not to authorize app access at that particular time;

  • lack of font consistency;

  • lack of clear information when creating notes and actions;

  • empty cells (created when only the space bar character is entered), which create confusion and decrease clarity;

  • empty cells that are highlighted for unknown reasons;

  • jumping popovers;

  • different lengths of lines separating individual cells and uneven width of cells themselves;

  • lack of information on what exactly does the notification on the app icon mean;

  • in the iPhone version, tapping a task and then trying to change the order of the tasks results in the appearance of a pop-up that makes it much more difficult or nearly impossible.

It’s hard to admit that our Nozbe is still far from perfect, but we’ve decided that saying it loud and proud will positively influence the development of our app. Take a closer look at our app and poke around it for a while, it might just turn out that it’s the right fit for you! All comments and opinions are welcome.

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