Creativity is just connecting things.
— Steve Jobs

Tag Archives: interface

iPhone 3.0 Nits

Some quick notes on what I think can be improved:

1. Why do we now have two separate applications for note taking? One is verbal (Voice Memos) and the other is textual (Notes). I could easily imagine a Notes interface button with the old style microphone as its icon that brings up the audio recording interface.

2. Why does SMS get renamed Messages and still stay separate from Mail?

3. The idea that swiping to the left to get to a simple search function is a sad solution. The ultra tiny magnifying glass icon tucked into the list of open windows blows that UI metaphor apart. Why not have the user pinch the screen? We do* have more than just left/right swipes at our disposal right? The pinch could use the same zoom+fade in motion as found on the desktop OS.

4. Why does the Contacts app support screen rotation and re-orientation but the Phone app doesn’t?

5. Because Mail is such a monstrous piece of shit, I’ll tackle that in a separate post when I have time to redesign the whole fucking thing. I’m tired of that app and wish it was more useful than it is.

6. Can we please have more information in the top status bar throughout the OS? Why do I have to back all the way out to the home screen to see if any Pushed emails are present? Why can’t I tap the battery icon in the top right and get a percentage? I know it’s there because it was shown to be so in a hack. Obviously, don’t repeat info shown when on the Springboard but that goes without saying.

7. Is YouTube still so fucking important that it needs to reside on the home screen? Why can’t this be on a second page of lame apps like Stocks or the Weather widget?

8. Why can’t we hide apps from the Springboard? Sorry Apple but not every app you make is something everyone wants. Let us decide please.

9. Why doesn’t the Calendar app icon on the Springboard display a badge when an appointment is nearing?

10. Why in the iPod app’s Artists and Songs screen do you hide the search field at the top? Same goes for Audiobooks, Composers, Genres.

11. If you don’t have a certain type of content on your iPhone, wouldn’t it make sense to provide a button to the iTunes store from the iPod’s Videos, Audiobooks, and Podcasts screens instead of just saying “You can download something from iTunes.” Guess you’re really not trying to sell content to users.

12. Why not share the same iconography from the iTunes store when browsing Genres in the iPod app? Reading text lists in the iPod app is not sexy or fun.

13. At what point in the future will you standardize the placement of the Edit and Create New Item buttons in your apps?

Messages: Create New is top right and is a Pencil icon in a button.
Calendar: Create New is top right and a Plus icon in a button.
Mail: Create New is lower right and a Pencil and “paper” shape – no button.
Notes: Create New is top right and a Plus icon in a button (but it’s brown!)
Contacts: Create New is top right and a Plus icon in a button.
Clock: Create New is top right and a Plus icon in a button.
Voice Memos. WTF

14. Photos. Why can’t I create a photo album on the phone and assign photos to it from the camera roll? And why is the “Photo Albums” header background transparent? What is the benefit of doing this?

15. Mail, can we please mark a message as read without having to literally tap into it? One would think that the Edit button would offer this option, but it doesn’t.

So how’s that for a 15 minute evaluation? ;-)

Designing for Tight Spaces

The first time I saw the iPhone’s home screen interface (the Springboard), I wondered how Apple would handle the iPhone’s lack of real estate when they’d add new apps down the line. Now that people are hacking it to add their own test apps, the issue is more relevant today.

As you can see from that image above, filling every row with an icon looks quite bad.

Traditional options to solve the problem could be any one of the following:

1. Scrolling
2. Categorized tabs
3. Smaller icons
4. Buttons that represented categories instead of individual apps

My guess is that they’ll go with #4 if and when they start to include more apps.

Scrolling would destroy the simplicity of the home screen by removing all remaining “white space”, or in the iPhone’s case, “black space.”

Categorized tabs at the top or bottom would have to be quite large and therefore, unsightly. It would also battle the bottom row of primary app buttons for importance.

Smaller icons could become problematic if each icon’s associated text scaled down as well. The truth is, you shouldn’t need to have text with successful icons. I think removing the text would be a real option if every app’s icon was required to be visible on the home screen.

Buttons that represent categories could be the easy way out for the UI designers. They could simply create an “office” category to file the notes, calculator, stocks and clock icons. Now that I think about it, having a “Clock” icon on the main Springboard is quite odd and could easily be refiled in a button category system.

One thing that still surprises me is how YouTube’s icon is still not their logo. In an age where brand identity is so 101, does anyone at YouTube not understand the power of their own brand?

Going back to the smaller icons w/no text idea, I think YouTube would benefit from that because they could swap the old TV icon with their own logo.

iPhone Tidbits

From an interview Steve Jobs did at D 2007 via Engadget:

12:42pm – But the iPhone doesn’t REALLY have the whole OS X operating system on there…

The answer is: yes it does! The entire Mac OS is gigs, a lot is data. Take out the data — every desktop pattern, sound sample — if you look at Safari it’s not that big. It’s REAL Safari, REAL OS X. We put a different user interface on it to work with a multi-touch screen… it’s an amazing amount of software.

and on 3rd party apps:

Q: All indications appear that the iPhone is closed, we’d love to develop apps…

This is an important tradeoff between security and openness. We want both. We’re working through a way… we’ll find a way to let 3rd parties write apps and still preserve security on the iPhone. But until we find that way we can’t compromise the security of the phone.

I’ve used 3rd party apps… the more you add, the more your phone crashes. No one’s perfect, and we’d sure like our phone not to crash once a day. If you can just be a little more patient with us I think everyone can get what they want.

Branding and UI Design

I have always been a fan of the Mac. The notion that a machine is there to help me be ultra creative is the kind of thing I will always gravitate toward.

What I don’t like is how too many applications for the Mac are slowly starting to look the same. Here’s what I mean:

The granddaddy of them all: Xcode – the developer tool most people use to create Mac apps:

Apple’s latest app that lets you create your own website—iWeb:

The coolest presentation building software on the market—Keynote:

The core of the Mac user experience—The Finder:

A pretty damn good browser—Safari:

The built-in and all-around quality email app—Mail:

The best personal photography cataloging and publishing tool—iPhoto:

And the top icon organization tool for the Mac—Pixadex:

Now I’m sure you’ve noticed a theme here. Why are they so similar and therefore boring? Apple goes to hideous lengths to incorporate brand into their marketing, their physical store designs, their packaging, their product design. Even developers outside of Apple are aping the whole source list on the left, big space on the right for content. It’s like the web design paradigms of 1996 have taken over Apple’s UI department.

Now I know it’s great to have consistency but that’s really only half of the job that’s being done here. Think about this:

You are buying iWork 06. In fact, it’s the first time you’re purchasing the sofware. You’ve seen the legendary Stevenotes and the online tour showcasing all the badass transitions. You’re ready to throw your crazy fonts in there and other multimedia elements like flash or quicktime movies right in the slide. You’re also dreaming of playing music behind the slides or even inserting a podcast that’s relevant to the subject.

And then you install iWork 06.

What happens next is the ultra-boring interface staring at you.

Where’s the drama? Where’s the sense that you’re about to build something that’ll actually make people ooh and aah at your slickness? It’s not there.

Every year Apple gives awards to the top developers for different categories. One of them is user experience. The last recipient was Delicious Monster for their app Delicious Library.

Now, would you be surprised that Apple went ahead and hired the guy who made that interface? I hope that’s a sign of things to come. That Apple will loosen up and really wow us with some incredibly inspiring UI ideas instead of more of the same.