Open Letter to OmniGroup About the iOS 7 Redesign of OmniFocus for iPhone

Dear OmniGroup Designers & Developers,

I’ve been a huge fan of OmniFocus, both Mac and iOS, for years. You guys helped me graduate college, become an ICU nurse, start a family, and change careers to become an indie iOS developer.

I’m writing to say that I’m very disappointed by the iOS 7 redesign of OmniFocus for iPhone. I’ve been using it since it came out, hoping that I would adjust to it, but it just hasn’t happened. Instead, I’m often reverting to a plain text list in a note-taking app for quick notes about the day’s tasks. I’m only using OmniFocus on my Mac now.

I’m not complaining about the flatness of the iOS redesign. Go with the current, by all means. 

Instead, I’m disappointed by the underwhelming airiness of the whole app. It is excessively understated to the point of being hard to use. Navigation looks indistinguishable from content. I have trouble seeing the logical hierarchy of information. My fingers hesitate before tapping anything because I’m never entirely sure that I’m tapping the right thing. The inconsistent use of transition animations — some are standard push/pop transitions, others are the custom vertical split — act like speed bumps, preventing the use of muscle memory. The light weight fonts feel fragile and make quick, accurate reading almost impossible.

In short, the new design slows me down. I can’t build safe muscle memories. I can’t quickly navigate the app without constant tension. The design is driving me away from OmniFocus, and I don’t want that to happen.

Here’s what I wish you would change, at a minimum:

  1. Consistent Navigation. Use one, consistent navigation paradigm throughout the app, even if it’s just the standard UIKit push/pop transition. Help me build power-user reflexes that speed up my work. 

  2. Distinguish Navigation From Content. Make navigation tonally distinct from content. I suggest using white text on a solid color background for toolbars and nav bars, and dark text on a white background for content. You could even use context-specific background colors for the navigation bars. The color cues from the dashboard screen would be even more resonant this way.

  3. Use Readable Fonts. Don’t use light weight fonts. Don’t rely on the text accessibility preferences, either, because what looks good in OmniFocus might look bad in another app. Make the out-of-the-box fonts easy to read.

  4. Make the App Logically Obvious At A Glance. Short of jumping into Photoshop myself and showing you what I mean, I will say this: the task editing screen should be redesigned with a more obvious logical hierarchy. The current design’s closest analog from the real world is a tax form: a dizzying grid of equally-important boxes. The task editing screen is complex for a good reason. All the features are necessary. Rather than hide the complexity with understated controls, take the opposite approach. Make them easily understood even at a glance. The tabs should look like tabs if that’s how they function. A good test would be to see how accurately a new user remembers the content of a task after being shown the screen for a brief interval, say 2-3 seconds.

Thanks for all your hard work over the years. I entrust so much of my life to your software. I want to continue to be a loyal customer and fan.


Jared Sinclair  |  @jaredsinclair

|  10 Jan 2014