iOS 7.1 beta 2 adds Button Shapes, improves usability at the cost of aesthetics; Do you like it?

BY Jason

Published 14 Dec 2013

button shapes

Apple seeded iOS 7.1 beta 2 to developers of its iOS developer program yesterday, with a number of changes, one of which was an option to enable “Button Shapes” that adds a border around text-only buttons.

Text-only buttons were introduced in iOS 7 as a part of the drastic redesign from the skeuomorphic design traits of iOS 6. It was one of the many design choices that was criticised from a user-experience perspective, since it was hard to distinguish text-only buttons from other, non-tappable labels. From the UX Critique tumblr:

ux critique

The word “Trim” appears twice on this screen. One of them is a label, and pressing it does nothing. The other one is a button. Which one is which? How is anyone supposed to know? You have to do some guesswork. The “Trim” at the top is centered on the screen, so it is probably a title. To make sure, tap on it and see if anything happens.

After enabling Button Shapes, from Settings > General > Accessibility, the Trim and Cancel buttons have underlines below them. Apple has also changed the text of the label at the top to say “Trimming” rather than trim.

trimming button shapes

In other apps, the buttons have an actual shape around them rather than an underline:

text buttons 1

Steve Aquino says the Button Shapes option is great for vision impaired users. From Steven’s blog:

From a [accessibility] perspective, what the new Button Shapes do is restore a sense of explicitness to iOS 7′s interface. These types of visual cues are so important to many visually impaired users, myself included. Whereas previously I struggled in identifying whether a label was an actionable control or simply a label, iOS 7.1′s Button Shapes hearken back to the iOS 6-style, This is a button. Tap me!, level of usability. And therein is the point: usability. As I stated, it’s perfectly valid to wince at and decry the visual design of the new buttons, but make no mistake, the addition of this feature is a tremendous improvement for visually handicapped users such as myself. These buttons will make iOS 7 infinitely more usable than it is today, and Apple absolutely should be applauded for addressing a serious issue — not only for me, but even for the normal-sighted as well.

Let us know what you think about Button Shapes in the comments below.