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Wednesday, March 25th 2020

Apple Updates HIG To Include Pointers On iPadOS

Apple: Pointers (iPadOS):

iPadOS 13.4 introduces dynamic pointer effects and behaviors that enhance the experience of using a pointing device with iPad. As people use a pointing device, iPadOS automatically adapts the pointer to the current context, providing rich visual feedback and just the right level of precision needed to enhance productivity and simplify common tasks.

With a content effect, the UI element or region beneath the pointer can also change its appearance when the pointer hovers over it. Depending on the type of content effect, the pointer can retain its current shape or transform into a shape that integrates with the element's new appearance.

iPadOS defines three content effects that bring focus to different types of interactive elements in your app: highlight, lift, and hover.

The highlight effect transforms the pointer into a translucent, rounded rectangle that acts as a background for a control and includes a gentle parallax. The subtle highlighting and movement bring focus to the control without distracting people from their task. By default, iPadOS applies the highlight effect to bar buttons, tab bars, segmented controls, and edit menus.

The lift effect combines a subtle parallax with the appearance of elevation to make an element seem like it’s floating above the screen. As the pointer fades out beneath the element, iPadOS creates the illusion of lift by scaling the element up while adding a shadow below it and a soft specular highlight on top of it. By default, iPadOS applies the lift effect to app icons and to buttons in Control Center.

Hover is a generic effect that lets you apply custom scale, tint, or shadow values to an element as the pointer hovers over it. The hover effect combines your custom values to bring focus to an item, but it doesn’t transform the default pointer shape.

I'm happy that Apple has regularly been updating their Human Interface Guidelines regularly as iOS changes. A lot has been said about the state of Apple's documentation, but fortunately the HIG seems to have great clarity and regular updates.

The additions that they made to the iOS HIG around pointers and putting names to the different interactive states of the new dynamic cursor in iPadOS is very helpful. Namely: highlight, lift and hover.

Most of the time I have been pretty happy with the new highlight and lift paradigms. In apps it feels great. In certain scenarios, such as the SpringBoard icon grid, all the lift effects across relatively large shapes feels like it captures or snags the cursor too much. I sometimes have the same problem in that situation that I do with tvOS selection: the parallax effect can be hard to notice and sometimes it makes it hard to find the current pointer location.

I'm definitely interested in seeing how this develops over time and the overall user reception of this. I also wonder if something similar could be brought to tvOS with a new remote.

@wooji on Twitter: Experiments with iPad OS 13.4 pointer animation…

I think there will be some interesting ways that cursors can provide extra context. I do worry that there might be too much experimentation here initially. I hope Apple works hard to enforce some level of consistency to avoid some of the odd custom pointer shapes that have shown up on a variety of websites.