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WWDC 2017 Recap

With Apple’s 2017 WWDC behind us, we’ve had time to reflect on what’s coming up in the next few months. In this article, we’ll cover what’s new with the experience, technology, and design. With things like ARKit, CoreML, and Business Chat, apps are set to take on an entirely new life in iOS 11.

We want to show you how these updates can help your business.

New Features

Business Chat

With Apple Business Chat, companies have the ability to chat via the Messages app instead of having customers waiting on the phone—an incredible opportunity to connect directly with customers.

Your customers can interact with your customer service team to get support as well as tracking and placing orders. The real power of Business Chat lies in leveraging a device that’s already in a customer’s pocket and letting her communicate with you in a natural way. By connecting with customers through Messages, you can quickly answer questions, take orders, and now with Apple Pay integrated in messages, accept payment as well.

Real-world- examples

The really exciting aspect of this offering is what we can do beyond straight product-based customer service. In fact, anywhere we might insert chatbots, Business Chat could be part of the solution. Imagine a healthcare application where a patient can chat with a real person to get help with appointments, finding a doctor, or even making simple diagnosis (similar to the eVisit concept).

In finance, the pivot might be to financial advisor activities, particularly for customers who might be on the verge of becoming high value investors. Imagine a scenario where a customer has questions about how to move from one phase of retirement savings to the next, and being able to provide answers real-time from an actual person who has a view into her current account holdings. The possibilities abound.

For now, this offering is in developer preview, but we’re excited about the integrations that have already been announced. Business Chat integrates with Salesforce, LivePerson, Nuance, Genesys, and more. Business Chat will officially be available later this year. If you’re interested, you can sign your business up and test it in your organization. Regardless of how or when you implement this, such an offering has the potential to reach a whole new level of customer connectivity.

A New App Store

The new App Store design promises to be more engaging on a daily basis, and the influence of the original Beats app (with its large, chunky headers) is clearly making its way through all of Apple’s apps. It’s not all about aesthetics though. In addition to a better layout, we think the new App Store will prove to be a more robust platform for getting your app noticed.

You can now write the App Store Team requesting they feature your app in the App Store.. Don’t count on launching your app with a feature promotion to go along with it—consider it icing on the cake. If you’re featured in the App Store, that editorial content is also searchable.

Important Updates

There are a few updates to how parts of the app description look, including the ability to have a subtitle. Now you don’t have to tack it onto your app name, which has always felt a little hacky. While videos have been around for a few years, they now play a key role in the new experience. Apple lets you put up to 3 on your app description, and it’s clear that video is now table stakes for an App Store release.

The Ratings also received lots of attention. Apple officially disallows third party app review frameworks in favor of using their own review prompt (which was introduced in iOS 10.3).

Some other small, but helpful bits:

  • You can now update your app description without submitting an app update
  • iTunes Connect gets a customer service role so that your support team can reply to app reviews directly in the App Store
  • Apps and games will have separate tabs and separate Today features
  • App reviews are now all cumulative and not dependent on the current version

Accessibility

As smartphones and apps have become ubiquitous, accessibility concerns have increased in demand, and are frequently a point of conversation when building apps. If you are supporting apps that are publicly available, the best thing you can do for your users is to make your app accessible, whether they are patients, investors, or customers of some other type. For further reading, here are two pieces we’ve written about writing software for real people:

One of the biggest questions we answer about accessibility: “how is it anything more than a nice-to-have?” The reasons are numerous, but optimizing for accessibility is often a series of small changes that can result in higher revenue and engagement. This is a low effort/high reward scenario that should be investigated.

Designing for accessibility isn’t just about folks who are blind or deaf. There are people who are colorblind, low vision, or have motor impairments. When you consider those impairments, the audience for accessibility support has grown significantly.

Accessibility came up in numerous sessions, so it’s clear Apple is pushing much harder for accessibility in iOS 11.

Important Updates

Dynamic Type is now supported with custom fonts. There are now self-resizing cells, which also improves accessibility when a person changes their text size.

There’s also a new appearance for navigation bars. Look for chunkier headers with larger titles. If you’re using UINavigationController, you get this for free.

There are also new actions available for landscape mode. If you rotate, the tab bar shrinks down, but you can hold on the tab bar item and see a larger image and description.

iPad Drag and Drop

In terms of interaction, drag and drop was one of the biggest announcements of the week. While primarily targeted at iPad applications, there are many use cases that will be more simply supported on all the devices. iPads definitely got a lot of love in terms of layouts, features, and more improvements.

Be on the lookout for more to come from iPad Pro devices, and how we can better utilize them in the enterprise to replace laptops, desktops, and other kiosks.

New Features for Developers

On the developer side of things, Apple is continuing to provide developers with new tools, APIs, and other features to improve the development experience. At this point, there are numerous posts that others have written, such as RayWenderlich.com and Kuba Suder, highlighting the features our developers are drooling over.

In addition to emphasizing accessibility, Apple focused on privacy and efficiency throughout every session, and those points should be a part of every technical requirements discussion (if it’s not already).

Xcode has gotten a full overhaul and is now written in Swift, which is great news from a stability front. In terms of debugging, there are some really great additions to the debugging toolkit in Xcode including better thread troubleshooting, condition simulation, and even wireless debugging.

In terms of interfaces and layouts, Apple continues to evolve auto-layout implementations and encourage developers to take advantage of the modern layout features like stackviews and size classes. One interesting update to the layout implementation is the concept of a safe layout space. This is indicative of what’s the come in the iPhone 8, but also supports a wide variety of new features as part of the iPad advances.

In Closing

We are really excited about what’s in store for the public release in September. If you’re interested in what it takes to keep your iOS apps updated or you’d like to ask how this will impact your business, please contact us.

This post was written by Rachel Parsons with contributions from Josh Mauldin.

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About The Author

Practice Manager

As a maker of digital things, Rachel thrives on leading teams to deliver high quality software. She's been programming for over 15 years and leading for at least 6 of those years. Most recently, she’s been architecting mobile apps using Swift and React Native, and her teams are well-versed in development best practices. Invite her out for a mobile tech chat over a pint of craft beer, and you might make a friend for life.