I do not have any connection with any X-Plane project. This is not something you should expect to see coming to the app anytime soon. This is just a design exercise.

As an aviation nerd with a pilot's license, I love super-realistic simulators, and the only one left with Microsoft's unfortunate departure some years back is X-Plane. It's a wonderful product, but the interface has always been functional, at best, and never truly easy to use. The iOS apps, unfortunately, are no exception. For fun, I redesigned the app in both appearance and functionality to make it feel more at home on the iPhone AND be easier to use.

The first thing the user sees is the intro screen. This is clean, even more so than what exists now. I feel this artwork gives the user a sense of freedom and space that the previous attempt doesn't. On a practical side, by not showing an actual photo of an aircraft, it saves a headache on licensing.

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The pause screen has been further simplified by reducing the number of icons. You know see only 5 icons - Interior view, external view, map view, settings and help.

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The flight controls have been simplified. The throttle remains a slider, but the elevator trim, flaps, and spoilers have been changed to position indicators, as their interaction and control has changed.

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As stated, the throttle is a simple slider. One problem with such controls is that the user can cover the sliding mechanism with their finger or thumb, creating a imprecise control. Doubling the width of the slider when active makes it easier to see, while preventing clutter when idle.

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Currently, the elevator trim adjustment (nose up/down control which removes the need for constant elevator input) is a slider. This isn't necessarily realistic. Many aircraft use either a wheel which one spins up (or down), or a switch (with up/off/down) positions. A better interaction is to press the control to active it, then drag your finger up or down, without letting go. Until you let go, the trim control continues to move.

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Likewise, a slider is not necessarily the best model for flaps interaction. Most aircraft use either a up/off/down switch, or a slider with preset detents. Flight simulators have generally used a button based approach which moves the flaps up or down one notch at a time. A slider doesn't account for these because in the case of modern airliners, the initial detents may be at as little as 1 or 2 degrees. A better approach is to press on the control to activate it, then flick up or down to raise or lower the flaps a single notch. As long as the control stays active for a moment after releasing the flick, the user could easily raise or lower the flaps in a hurry.

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The spoilers have a similar control mechanism to flaps in real life, and can be controlled the same way here.

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In the current iPhone version of X-Plane, the user views the instrument panel by tapping an on-screen button which appears in the top-center of the screen. To reduce on-screen clutter, the user could simple swipe a finger to move the view down to view the instruments. To make the radios easier to manipulate, I have placed them on their own screen to allow room for larger controls.

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One of the issues I have is the difficulty in understanding what the different view buttons do. I went with text-based descriptions. I also set View Flight Model as a checkbox, since it should be visible with any of the external views.

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The options menu has been redesign to a more standard iPhone look. Tapping the Options tab will always return you to this screen. Tapping the Close button will close the Options screen and return you to the pause screen.

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I show a tabbed breadcrumb system to organize the options sub-menus. There's a definite advantage, particularly as you go through the multi-step process of choosing a new airport to fly too/from.

Here, you can swipe left or right to change your region.

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All tower controlled airports would be shown in the scrollable list - the user could also choose an airport by tapping it on the map. Right now, you can only choose from a couple airports in any given area.

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Here you can choose from any runway at your airport, and whether you want to take off from it, or land at it.

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You can select your aircraft in the same style as the region selection menu. In a significant addition to the current functionality, basic specs for the aircraft are listed, giving you a hint as to how individual aircraft will fly.

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Time can be selected visually, or set to your phone's clock.

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I combined the sky and the weather scrolling settings list with revised controls. This is both more familiar to iPhone users and gives more control. The option to download real-time weather has been available to iPhone users for several versions - and given the network connectivity of an iPhone, should be an option.

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The weight and fuel controls have been streamlined to match the rest of the interface, and the user is now warned when exceeding the maximum weight for an aircraft.

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The angle you hold your phone at can vary significantly depending on where you're using your phone. This functionality already exists in X-Plane (and most other games that rely on tilt controls), but I've made a point to streamline the appearance.

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The iPhone version of X-Plane is fairly simple. But the purpose of the flight controls may not be clear to people who aren't well versed in aviation.

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By tapping on a control, you can view a short description of what a control does, and how to control it, with animation. This is also generally educational - you can show a nervous seatmate what exactly is happening on landing when the flaps extend, and the wing appears to "come apart."

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