A long weekend is a good time to catch up on some reading of articles queued up in Instapaper. Here are several design related items that I found interesting.
A well argued essay on why it’s so difficult to innovate and create great design. And why it’s so important to break through those barriers to be successful.
Postage is a beautiful app for the iPhone. It is also very functional. I think the latter comes from Chris Parrish’s philosophy of “putting the user on rails”. Figure out what the main goal for a user of your app is, and make sure that goal can be accomplished as quickly and easily as possible. Great advice!
I agree with Josh Clark that Apple blew it with these new “system” gestures in iOS 5. It would have been much better if these gestures started off the edge of the screen to give the user the clear indication that this gesture is something that is going to have an affect outside the context of the app that currently fills the screen. The gesture for showing the Notification Center does this, for example.
I think I know why Apple made this decision: to use the same gestures in Lion. In a windowed environment like OS X for the Mac, the context of the screen does not have the same meaning. So starting a gesture outside the screen does not make as much sense. And also, beginning a gesture with your fingers outside the physical area of a Magic Trackpad is awkward.
In my opinion, Apple made the wrong trade-off in this case, resulting in a worse user experience for iOS.
This is a rather long article, but I’m not sure what it really says about the design philosophy of Android, if anything. My takeaway is that Matias Duarte is a very good and thoughtful designer who has strong opinions about design. I think this is good for Android. I think good design should convey and evoke opinions; an object should have a design personality.
Information design legend Edward Tufte comments that touch screens are dead flat and have no texture. Maybe this is the reason for Apple’s recent fascination with skeuomorphism. (A simpler explanation is that the “more texture” decree came from the top.) In any case, I hope that Apple already has touch screens in their lab with haptic feedback so that we soon can feel real texture in our apps.
Microsoft’s productivity future vision video made the rounds a while ago and was widely criticized for showing something that was not real, could never be made into a real product, and had many inconsistencies in the user interactions. While that may all be true, I think Bret Victor’s critique that is doesn’t go far enough is more spot on. His essay about our hands and how truly useful they could be in a future user interface is truly inspiring.
Finally, I can’t help but to link to yesterday’s Dilbert strip. I think this is how we all feel about smartphone interface design at times.