I’ve spent the best part of the past week watching session videos from WWDC 2013, primarily to understand the differences between designing apps for iOS 6 and 7. While there were a number of common themes that propagated many of the sessions repeatedly, the one that seemed to be non-negotiable was for developers to transition their app layouts to use Auto Layout. Even the tone in which this was said was usually more stern and I half-expected the phrase “woe betide” to be used whenever it was raised.
It was clear that a lot of time and effort had been put into making Xcode’s Auto Layout tools more user-friendly and less stringent in their application. As per last year’s sessions, there were many speakers taking digs at developer internationalisation efforts (or lack thereof) and how use of Auto Layout would make this much easier. They also discussed, at length, the variances in the iOS 6 and 7 component metrics and how Auto Layout would help developers to create apps whose interfaces worked on all versions of the OS. With each session that brought it up, the concentrated focus on creating interfaces that are both fluid and dynamic drove home the message that developers would be making their lives a lot easier in future if they took up this UI design paradigm.
My takeaway was that this not only suggests that there may be a further divergence in the resolutions of devices with the arrival of the next generations of iPads, iPhones and iPods, but that apps should be readily portable between platforms as well. Having an app that can be easily transitioned to OSX means that users can use apps they rely on and play games they love whatever device family they’re currently using, and with the doubling-down on improving iCloud stability, that they can also get to their data at any time, anywhere.
There is one other ecosystem that is less obvious that would benefit from apps being easily ported. The Apple TV SDK might not have been announced this year, but you can almost guarantee that it’s working it’s way along the Apple development pipeline, as we speak. If apps are to be expected to work at the differing resolutions of many HDTVs, then having a UI that was able to dynamically resize and accomodate fonts even larger than those currently on either iOS or OSX would be essential.
I think that a lot of the messages, both direct and indirect, suggest that developers should start thinking outside of a single device family or even a single OS and look towards their apps being truly universal across the Apple ecosystem.