If you’ve ever made something, then you’re a designer. Ever built a couch fort? Arranged some flowers in a vase? Sketched a map for someone? Whether or not you thought very much about it, whether or not you followed well-researched principles, that’s designStarting from there, this book will take you all the way to being an honest-to-goodness app designer.

Learning iOS Design by William Van Hecke is a complete course in software design, especially for iPad and iPhone.

What’s so great about this book?

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This is no slim handbook of tips and suggestions. With 15 chapters across 300 pages, it’s complete enough to be a serious textbook (but more fun to read).


You’ll learn to see the entire process of software design through the eyes of an iPhone and iPad designer who’s been working on the platform as long as it has existed.


No single recipe works for every design challenge. This book helps you find solutions that work for your goals, no matter how big or small the scope.

Tour of the Contents


This book introduces and explores the topic of designing iOS apps, even if you don’t consider yourself a designer (yet). Even if you’ve never have taken an art or design course, if you consider yourself to have more of an engineering or analytical mind than a creative one, or if you’re mystified by what actually goes on in the process of design, you’re very welcome here.


At conferences, I’ve presented the topic of design to a largely engineering-minded audience. Lots of programmers know that they should care about design, but the whole practice of design seems from the outside to be mysterious or even arbitrary, leaving them disillusioned or apathetic about the whole thing. But after some demystification and conversation, some folks have told me that they finally get why design is important and how they can think about it systematically. This book will present the art and science of design in an accessible, sensible way.


Turning Ideas Into Software

“This book contains everything you need to know to create awesome, life-altering applications…You’re in for a treat.” — Lukas Mathis, Ignore the Code

The Outlines; The Sketches; Getting Familiar with iOS; The Wireframes; The Mockups; The Prototypes; Going Cross-Platform. Chapters 1–7 step through the phases of design, turning a vague idea for an app into a fully fleshed-out design. It goes from outlines to sketches to wireframes to mockups and prototypes. At each step of the way, you’ll find advice about how to think carefully, critically, and cleverly about your project. Each chapter concludes with exercises conceived to encourage you in planning out the design of your own app.




The Graceful Interface; The Gracious Interface; The Whole Experience. Chapters 8–10 present universal principles that apply to any design, and that should be followed in order to craft an effective app that people will appreciate and even love. Each chapter in this part is based on one of the three levels of cognition identified by psychologist Donald Norman, to make sure your app works on every level. Many of these principles are applicable to all software design, but here they’re tailored specifically for the strengths and challenges of iOS. The exercises for each chapter present sample situations to help you learn how to apply each principle.

Finding Equilibrium



Focused and Versatile; Quiet and Forthcoming; Friction and Guidance; Consistency and Specialization; Rich and Plain. Chapters 11–15 function as a reference, inspiration, and exploratory guide to the various decision points you may encounter in the course of designing an app. This part embraces the concept that all designs are compromises, and that many decisions have no single correct answer. That means that lots of different answers to the same design problem can coexist, and every design, no matter how unfashionable or unsophisticated it seems, has something to teach. You can look at each chapter’s opposed approaches as a sort of slider control, with a continuum of answers between the extremes at either end. For each challenge, a smart designer like you should seek an answer that works best for your app’s unique philosophy. Over time you may find yourself preferring one side of a given slider over the other. Maybe you like to err on the side of focused rather than versatile. Or perhaps you’d rather seek the Aristotelian golden mean, straight down the middle. That’s great; that’s what it means to have a style. Each type of decision is illustrated by examples of different solutions to the same problem, depending on the angle that you prefer.

About the Author

Hello, I’m William Van Hecke. Since 2004, I have been User Experience Lead at the Omni Group, one of the world’s most accomplished and affable Mac and iOS developers. At Omni we’ve built iOS apps for as long as that has been a thing. This book was written while I was earning my MS in Human-Centered Design and Engineering at the University of Washington. I got my start designing software by reverse-engineering my older brother’s text adventures in Basic on the Macintosh Plus, and then graduated to creating Hypercard games to mail to my cousins on floppy disk.

My primary hobby is hobby-collecting: fiction and science reading; bass guitar; the appreciation, translation, and development of niche video games; Japanese language; tabletop gaming; and 3D modeling. You can find me on Twitter prattling on about all these topics and more (@fet), or at my personal site (

Photo by Joel Reuter. No ducks were harmed.

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Here’s a collection of Photoshop and OmniGraffle resources used in the sample projects. You’ll also find the source documents for some of the sample sketches and wireframes seen in the figures, a template you can use to create app icons at all the various sizes, and even my own hand-drawn Helvetica ripoff for use in digital sketches.

Especially for your iPad and iPhone:

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Excited About iOS 7?

Me too! Learning iOS Design was released juuust as Apple was on stage announcing the next major revision of iOS. Thankfully, the core principles of the platform remain intact. And now you can download a free supplement that covers all the shiny new stuff and offers guidance on how to transition from iOS 6 to iOS 7. To get it, just hop over to InformIT and register your copy of the book. Paste in the ISBN (9780321887498), follow the retro-video-game-style proof of ownership prompt thingy, and then hit Access Bonus Content!

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