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Design Thoughts: The Edit Menu

A few weeks go, it was brought to my attention again, through a conversation with my grandmother, that editing contacts or other items such as mail messages seem to be an odd practice at first and not intuitive. Even in the previous iOS 6 interface, this button always appeared to be an odd concept. Odd in the sense that new users, the thousands I’ve worked with, have a difficult time distinguishing what its purpose is. It may sound obvious to a common computer user, because the edit menu is where we go to cut, copy, and paste such as in word processing. However, many newborn users of iOS, even after reading the edit button, exploring for options, reading a manual, etc., do not know what the word means on a mobile device or why they should edit in the first place.


iOS 6 Edit Menu

iOS 6 Edit Menu

Within iOS 6 it appears to be a direct example of button. The button is a rounded rectangle with the type directly in the middle of it. This is how we commonly see a button from the web and digital interfaces to analog equipment. Regarding appearance, it has a soft gradient from top to the bottom showing depth. For position, it is established on the top-right side of the app mirrored in context to the ever-present back button on the top left. The word edit is also different in size from the content below it and also the word info directly to his left.

iOS 7 Edit Menu

iOS 7 Edit Menu

Now, let’s look at the new iOS 7 version. It consists of the word edit off to the right similarly to the older version. Additionally, the weight of the type is thinner than the word info in the middle. This and the color are the only two factors setting it apart from the rest of the text.

Furthermore, let’s take into consideration the word “edit.” With iOS 7, a new user has to think, “What am I editing?” “Oh, I’m in the contacts app.” “Edit, my contacts?” “Is this even a button?”

They go from seeing, reading, interpretation, identifying, and then they finally decide to make an action. That action could be ignored and the user could scroll down or press the back arrow for more decisions or actually press the edit button. The problem here lies at the point of identification. Sure, flat design takes away the aesthetic appeal to focus on content, but those actions on their content — aside from the natural scrolling — are not necessarily obvious. The visual cue is just color and type with no shape supporting it.

Many older people tend to say, “Young people are just more natural at technology than me, because they’ve grown up with it.” This is partially correct. I believe much of what gives a child their knowledge is their pure enjoyment of the interface through the curiosity derived within themselves. All they do is literally press buttons through trial and error (especially if they can’t read yet). Then, they gain familiarity. In juxtaposition, adults hold the capacity for logical thinking backed by their life context to contribute to their learning experience.

My final thoughts:

  • Is “edit” even the correct word for this? Could we use the word change or revise? I understand edit is historically the place on a computer for changes.
  • Is it really intuitive to know that edit means change especially since it doesn’t even look like a button anymore?
  • I haven’t even addressed the edit button within on iOS.
  • This is not clever design by any means. This is just the kind of thing that some with an eye for design think about. Stress the details. Never stop learning.

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