The hardest part about designing for iOS 7 is its simplicity, says Huddle

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iOS 7 was such a radical design change, that many app developers are still working on updating their apps for it.

Huddle, provider of an app and service for sharing and collaborating on files, is releasing its iOS 7 app today. Typically, Huddle, which has been around for around for about two and a half years, takes around one to two weeks to port an app to the updated OS. 

This time, it easily managed the technical work behind porting the app to iOS 7 in about a week but then spent two additional months on the UI and design. “That’s where the essence of the difficulty is,” said Stuart Cochran, vice president of product and technology at Huddle.

Because the new design in iOS 7 is so simple, designers have to be much more careful about how they lay out the app, he said. That’s partly because buttons and links look just like regular text. “You have to work really hard to make sure it’s clear and easy” for users to figure out when there are links or buttons, he said.

The update process might have taken even longer but Huddle’s dev team has been careful to avoid custom work in the app. Customization creates more work when porting because the custom features must be rewritten. “We avoided that by good design when we built the app in the first place,” Cochran said.

Huddle also worked hard to find the right balance of taking advantage of new features while not overwhelming existing customers by introducing too many changes at once.

“An important part of our strategy was to focus on making it work really well without introducing so much change that end users didn’t know where to find things,” said Cochran. “It’s important for our enterprise customers to not have to go through a big learning curve.”

To that end, his team opted not to implement new capabilities in iOS 7 that give end users more formatting and layout options. Huddle also avoided using AirDrop for now, but hopes to take advantage of it in the future. “We decided to go with an incremental change rather than a big bang,” he said.

The new iOS 7 Huddle app adds a new feature, called Huddle Note, that lets users create notes, sharing them with colleagues from within the app. Huddle hopes it will let users do things like write quick notes while on the train or walking down the street to share with colleagues within Huddle, rather than needing to open a document-creating app or a consumer app to do so. Users will be able to track versions of the notes, allow colleagues to comment on it, receive notifications of updates, set approvals for who can contribute, and track who has seen the note.

Huddle customers include Pearson Chicago, Kia Motors, P & G, and Johnson & Johnson. It's also common in government agencies in the U.K., where the company originated.

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