Designing Bible+ 6 for iOS: Typography and Layout

Posted by on 10/23/2015 in:

Bible study can be a complex thing. There are a lot of things to keep track of: highlighting words and verses, writing notes, leaving bookmarks, saving passages, creating categories, tagging things, reading commentaries, studying maps and charts, looking up Greek and Hebrew words, and more things I can’t even think of right now. Honestly, I’ve tired myself out just listing all of those things.

When you do all these things with paper books, it can be hard to keep track of where you put your highlighters and on which page of which book that helpful definition of agape was written. Bible software is supposed to make all of this easier for you, but sometimes it falls short of that. Sometimes apps can be hard to use: it can be hard to figure out how to view a note you’ve written or it can be tricky to get your settings just right. A lot of this has to do with how the app is designed, which is why our app’s design is something we’re always thinking about.

We want Bible+ to be an app that provides easy access to all the tools and resources you need in studying the Bible. We want the app to give you these things and then keep out of your way. Really, you should be able to focus so closely on God’s Word that you start to forget the app even exists.

Our team here at Olive Tree has worked really hard to make sure that this release is our easiest to use yet. Change can sometimes take a little getting used to, but we really believe that each and every change we’ve made makes the app better at getting out of your way and helping you connect with God’s Word. We wanted to write a couple of posts to help you understand a little better the thinking behind our new design.

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The Typography and Fonts

The text of your Bibles and books is by far what you’ll spend the most time looking at. Providing a good experience here is critical. We need to have sharp fonts, proper spacing, and work to ensure a natural flow. Believe it or not, optimizing how the text is displayed on the screen (this is called typography) can make a big difference in how fast you can read and how much you’ll understand and remember.

The last time we picked the font for our main window, digital screens looked a lot different. Apple released the first retina screen five years ago, and it become the standard for all of their iOS devices a few months ago. Retina screens are sharper and much better at rendering the subtle details in fonts that can guide your eye from one letter to the next. Our old font, Georgia, was designed specifically with older, less sharp and precise displays in mind. We decided to ditch Georgia, which was a great font for its purpose, and move to something that really takes advantage of new displays: Source Sans Pro.

Another big factor for reading is spacing between lines and around the edges of text blocks. When this is done well, it becomes easier to read; you can focus on what the words are saying and not on how you’re reading them. With the Bible Study App, we’re always trying to walk a balance between adding enough space to provide an optimum reading experience, but also fitting as much content as we reasonably can on the screen so that you can perform in-depth study without having to scroll or swipe too much. After some tweaking, research, testing, more tweaking, and more testing. We’re confident that the typography in the app is the best it has ever been.

As a note, we do recognize that casual reading and studying are two different things and we want to respect this in how we format the text. We’re working on even more updates for the app that will build on and improve the foundation we started in this release.

More to Come

The typography and fonts are important, but you’ve probably noticed there are a few other changes as well. Most of those are related to the verse chooser and the menu, which we’ll talk about in the next post.

17 Comments

  • Judy says:

    I’m excited by what you are doing! Carry on!

  • Troy Mullens says:

    You are preaching to the choir. Keep up the good work. If it wasn’t good, I wouldn’t have spent several thousand dollars on this great Bible app.

  • Dennis says:

    I find that the new formate is not as friendly to use as to the way it was. Disappointed

    Dennis

  • Bentley says:

    I noticed that in my iPad Air 2, text is right-justified in portrait orientation, but is kept left-justified in landscape orientation when the Olive Tree is in split screen mode. I think this is a great decision (i.e. to have left-justification in the said situation, and right-justification in all other situations).

  • StevieH says:

    Just started using the latest version 6. I’m missing the little “history” icon on the main screen already. I’m having to tap 3 times now to go to my previous passage. And it’s not as easy to find the ice n in the menu list (my eye has to scan for it).

    I know it’s a small thing but Bible + is such a good app and I don’t expect to be disappointed when you make it better.

    • LaRosa Johnson says:

      Stevie, to quickly access your history, we currently recommend setting up a gesture/shortcut. You can do this by going to Menu -> App Settings -> Gestures/Shortcuts. From there, you can select a gesture that will quickly open history. I personally have the “2 finger tap” setup to do this.

      • StevieH says:

        LaRosa,

        Thank you for the speedy reply. I have taken your advice about setting up a shortcut. I had forgotten about gestures beng user-definable. I’m delighted!

  • Casey says:

    I greatly miss the previous book style format, as well as the bookcase format for the library and the missing history button. I have downgraded back to version 5.9.18.4 and I hope these features are reinstated as user defined options on future upgrades. I find the new format actually more difficult to read and less friendly.

    • Don says:

      Casey, please let me know where I can get the 5.9.18.4 version. I can not use the 6 it is too unstable. I’ve looked everywhere but can not find it. Please help!

      • Casey says:

        You’ll need to have the old version ipa file still available on your computer. Mine was located here:
        C:UsersCaseyMusiciTunesMobile Applications. Check in there for the “Bible Study 5.9.17.ipa” file. Yours might be a different number, but it should be 5.9.something or in your case, 5.4.something. You may have a bunch of different numbered versions in the folder. If so, you can pick the one you like best (I recommend 5.9.18.4). If the file is not there, check your Recycle Bin and move it back to the “Mobile Applications” folder. If you see the 6.0 version ipa file in the Mobile Applications folder, delete it from your computer. Double click on the version you want to use, (5.x.xx.x) and it should open up in iTunes. In iTunes, go to the “Apps” page and right click on the “Bible + by Olive Tree” icon and select “Get Info” to check if it is the 5.x.xx version. MAKE SURE NOT TO CLICK ON THE UPDATE APP BUTTON or your computer will update to the 6.0 version. Then, on your iPhone, delete the “Bible +” app. Open iTunes on your computer and plug in your iPhone to the computer. In iTunes, click on the iPhone icon that appeared when you plugged in, select “Apps”, then scroll down to the “Bible + by Olive Tree” icon, click install, then click “Apply” in the lower RH corner. Your computer will now sync the selected version onto your iPhone and you should be all set. Of course, you’ll still need to re-set up your preferences in the app after it is reinstalled. I hope this was clear enough and that I was able to help. The main thing is finding the old version ipa file. after that it’s a piece of cake. God Bless.

  • Geoff says:

    My eyes are very light sensitive, especially when reading for long periods of time. The option to change the background colors of the main and split screens is critical for me. I’ve noticed that changing the background color doesn’t change the header color, however. The default header colors clash with my preferred background colors. Hopefully this can be addressed in an update.

    Despite subtle changes that I am still getting used to, the update has been a success in my view.

  • Troy Mullens says:

    The Olive Tree Blog link at the top of the e-mail doesn’t work.

  • Thanks for the upgrade – I use the Wheat colour scheme and split screen feature. Is there a way to also change the colour of the menu visor from the default? It looks clunky when used with this scheme. Please keep up the good work!

    Michael

  • Don says:

    Can someone please point me to where I can get an older version of Bible Study 6. This app is useless! It crashes ALL the time. I can’t search or highlight without it crashing. I loved the older app, (5.4 I believe) but this app is no good.

    • Casey says:

      Sorry for the 5 days wait Don. This notification just showed up in my inbox about an hour ago. See your previous post above for my solution to your problem. Cheers!

  • Dennis says:

    I am hoping they will fix the problems, when I scrol down the pages keep jerking getting fristrated. If I didn’t have so many notes in the program I would change to something else. You people need to answer our concerns.

    thanks,

    Dennis

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