Annoying Alerts

Nick Fletcher on the flaw in iOS’ Notification System:

Quite simply, the modal alerts that iOS currently uses are broken not because tech bloggers everywhere are struggling with notifications all the time, but because the iOS system fails to account for the contextual areas in which showing a notification is actually impeding your use of the device. For example: when you’re on the phone and an SMS comes in. I’ve never once been on a phonecall where, after concluding the call, knowing I got an SMS from my fiancée was more important than hanging up the call.

I’m looking forward to the next version of iOS where this is fixed. I know it’s something Apple is aware of and has every intention of fixing, but make no mistake, it’s a BIG fix. I would say it’s on par with copy-and-paste because it’s a core feature effecting every part of the operating system.
And like copy-and-paste, Apple is going to take it’s time to make sure the solution release is thought out, elegant and easy to use.

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Human Experience

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3D is not the future

Ben “Yahtzee” Croshaw on the the future of gaming consoles and the false promise from 3D:

3D is not the future. It’s not “immersive.” At best it makes everything look like a six-inch paper cut-out, and in order to create that effect it has to reduce the quality of the image. After years and years of the entertainment industry working towards making bigger and crisper images, suddenly they’re trying to make us forget about all that because, holy shit, a thing looks like it’s in front of another thing because of an exploitable quirk in binocular vision. Well, they can’t do it. You either need glasses or you need to keep your head still at all times, and no new technology has ever lasted that’s less convenient to use than what it’s supposed to replace.

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Human Experience

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Research In Motion, In Perspective

I’ve read articles in the tech news about RIM has a long history of creating great business software and devices – specifically the famous Blackberry messaging devices and smartphones.
The thing is, these last few years for RIM haven’t been good and they’ve just slashed their outlook for Q1 2011.
I’m not sure why RIM doing poorly should be the slightest bit surprising. From a user interface perspective there hasn’t been any breakthoughs. I’ve used my wife’s Blackberry enough to know how stiff and devoid elegance it really is. Yes, the home screen has some unique iconography, but once you get into the email program – the Blackberry’s bread and butter – it’s like taking a time warp back to the 90’s.
Just to put it in perspective, when RIM was winning, this was the smartphone competition:
Palm-Treo-600.jpg
Just sayin’.

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Human Experience

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The iPhone Tab Bar

Some good advice over at significantpixels on designing for the iPhone’s tab bar.

Over the last couple of years, the iPhone has greatly popularized the tab bar navigational model for mobile handsets. Apple has put together a design rationale for the tab bar in their Human Interface Guidelines (HIG) along with lots and lots of other information — they do however leave some question unanswered. Having worked with interaction and graphical design for iPhone applications during the last couple of years I’ve managed to pick up some lessons the hard way, and in this post I would like to share my thoughts on a couple of do’s and don’ts.

Some obvious points in the post, but good advice usually is obvious.

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Human Experience

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Why We Need Storytellers

UX Magazine: Why We Need Storytellers at the Heart of Product Development

This question reflects a painful problem that is common at both small startups and large corporate organizations. Far too often, teams focus on execution before defining the product opportunity and unique value proposition. The result is a familiar set of symptoms including scope creep, missed deadlines, overspent budgets, frustrated teams and, ultimately, confused users. The root cause of these symptoms is the fact that execution focuses on the how and what of a product. But in a world where consumers are inundated with choices, products that want to be noticed and adopted must be rooted in the why.

One of the most obvious places lacking the why is technology products. How often to do we read articles about a company “prepariing a new Product X to fend off Apple’s Product Y”?
So what it really comes down to many times is the why is focused on affecting competition when it should be focused on providing value to the consumer.
Thanks Jory

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Human Experience

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Da Format

A few weeks ago, I got back into gear and continued the process of redesigning this site. The redesign includes both cosmetic and structural changes. While dozens of changes need to be made, I’ve started with the most basic and most important – the individual entry format.
My primary goal is to make Daily Exhaust a great reading experience. Most sites don’t work this way. This applies to amateur blogs to professional blogs to news sites by multi-national corporations.
We’re all familar with layouts similar to this:
DE_ux_layout_wrong.jpg
You’ve got a entry body area that may or may not be at an optimal size for readability and then over on the righthand side, a bunch of shit having nothing to do with the entry you’re reading. If you’re lucky enough to scroll past these billboards during your reading journey, you inevitably encounter the eternal sidebar deadspace, the U.S. Route 50 of websites.
I need a better driving, excuse me, reading experience on Daily Exhaust. I want people to enjoy coming here, not merely endure a sub-optimal reading layout because they like the content.
So in my world, when you’re reading, it’s the only thing in your view:
DE_ux_layout_right.jpg
Look to the left, look to the right… it’s all related to the entry. In this case, when you look to the right, it’s the meta content related to the entry. Time stamp. Category. Keywords. No ads. No sub navigation. No dead space, just open space.
Yes, I’m not directly monetizing this site (aside from self-promotion) yet, so I have the luxury of creating any format I choose. Regardless, it’s possible to scale the current format in a way that still favors the reader while making me money. Down the road, if I do include ads on the page, I plan to do so either within designated space between posts, or in actual entries themselves. I look forward to having these types of problems.
Moving forward, there’ll be many more changes but won’t change is a focus on readability.

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Human Experience

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noting and flipping

My wife bought me a Kindle when it first came out. While I’m an early adopter of new technologies, gadgets and services (or at the very least, keeping a close eye on the more intriguing ones), I wasn’t anxious to get one. I had the same beef with DRM on books as I did with music. Information wants to be free, etc, etc… you know the deal. I thought it looked like a well thought out product (and product ecosystem), but it wasn’t for me. It would be another year before Apple would announce an end to copy-protection on their music, but it had also been a year since Steve Jobs posted his Thoughts On Music on Apple.com. So I was mentally primed for a DRM-free (music) future. Then the Kindle comes along with their copy-protected media and we’re back to square one. I wasn’t naive to think they’d use open file formats, but I was still bummed. Now let’s fast forward 2 years to today. I still have my first gen Kindle and I still use it somewhat often although I usually prefer to use the Kindle app on my iPhone, especially during my day-to-day commuting on the Manhattan subway. But my Kindle still can’t do two things that are important when I read – scribbling down notes and flipping pages. These actions were important while I read the new book by Steve Johnson, Where Good Ideas Come From.

On Noting

book_notes_WGICF.jpg Some might look disapprovingly at image above, with all those crude lines and chicken scratch writing, but for me, being able to underline chunks of text, scribble notes and circle words I want to look up later opens up a deeper level of comprehension into the book I’m reading. Of course this method can be adapted with an e-reader by simply pairing it with a physical notebook, but it’s a little more effort and not well-spent effort. I’m not a psychologist but something about physically interacting with a book takes reading beyond simple consumption. It becomes a form of creation. By the time you reach the end of your book you’re not left with the same pages you started with. No, no … these are my pages now. Sure, the author is making his points, but I’m deciding which ones are important. Once I’ve read through and made sufficient notes I can begin the fun game of flipping back and reading over the passages I marked up.

On Flipping

page_flip_WGICF.jpg This might seem like a minor point, but the fact that I can’t easily flip between pages on a Kindle is a huge frustration. No, this doesn’t mean I’m not able to remember what I’ve read, but sometimes I want to reread passages. Great books, like great movies, are meant to be read over and over (unless you’re satisfied watching a Kubrick movie once). I’m completely confident this technological limitation of e-books will be resolved but until then, my thumbs rule.

On Flying

This is more my beef with the airline industry than with e-books, but it’s relevant to this post. If we’re going to live comfortably/efficiently/normally in the 21st century, we need to start adapting our procedures to technologies and devices our generation is creating. Gadgets like iPods, iPads and Kindles are useless if I’m not allowed to use them during takeoff and landing. I’m waiting to hear of a plane that went down because 5 or 20 or 50 Kindles or iPhones were on during takeoff. It’s very likely many people never turn off their devices when they’re instructed anyway (not me of course). So to recap, I’m not giving up on technology. I love technology. I love tinkering, hacking and experimenting with new gadgets, but I encourage everyone to grab a printed version of the next great book you read. Don’t be afraid to get dirty and really make it yours.

Nissan GT-R display

Apparently I’m 3 years late on this, but I was watching an old episode of Top Gear on my DVR the other night and I found out that the touchscreen display for the Nissan GT-R was designed by Polyphony Digital, otherwise known as the folks who do a lot of the design for the Gran Turismo video game franchise.

Here’s some shots of the display graphics (video here):

Nissan_GT-R_display_graphics_01.jpg

Nissan_GT-R_display_graphics_02.jpg

Nissan_GT-R_display_graphics_03.jpg

We’ve talked for years about the influence of video games across various industries. Well, that influence is here and it’s here and it’s not going away.

From army training ‘tools’ to automobile display graphics, video games and real life are working on common ground.

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Human Experience

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Webmail UI Design Frustrations

It’s amazing how often we will silently live with things we know are built or designed wrong. Today I’m speaking about something that might seem trivial to some, but bugs the shit of out me – webmail message navigation.
Can we come to a agreement on what wording we use when navigating through email archives? I try to keep to my one ‘main’ email account for the majority of my email communicating, but occasionally I have to dip into my other ‘alternate’ accounts. Each one of these accounts has a different way of navigating back to older emails and forward to newer emails.
Below are screenshots from the 3 main applications I use – GMail, YahooGroups & SquirrelMail:

GMail

mail_google.gif
Newer & Older – there’s no sitting, blinking and pondering where these 2 links are taking me. Simple clear English for simple navigating. Thank you Google.

Yahoo Groups

mail_yahoogroups_main.gif
Newer & Older – Awesome, Google must have taken pointers from Yahoo. Too bad these 2 links are only on the Messages List page. 🙁
mail_yahoogroups.gif
Next and Prev – What happened to Older and Newer? Now what the f#ck to I pick? Turns out Next takes me to newer messages and Prev takes me to older ones. Too bad they’re in the reverse order as GMail.

SquirrelMail

mail_squirrel.gif
Previous & Next – Ahhh, only through using SquirrelMail for years to I know that Previous will actually take me to newer messages and Next will take me to older messages.

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Human Experience

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USPS – Another Broken Wheel

USPS logo
Like the elevator, the Unites States Post Office has to be reinvented because it sucks. Every single one of them.
I been to enough of them enough times to know something is very wrong with them. The constant long lines, the delays. As you sit and slowly come to a boil with the other customers in line you can start to see very clearly how both customers and postal employees can ‘go postal‘.
If you’re ever in the unfortunate situation where you have to go to the United States Post Office, do yourself a favor and bring a PSP, book or yo-yo for entertainment while you wait in postal purgatory for your turn.

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Human Experience

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