Monday, June 25, 2012

UXUiOS Rule 2: Simplify


  • Delete "Loading..." because a spinner will suffice



Facebook Is Officially Dead To Me

Nothing personal. Just realized though that Facebook is great for personal stuff, but for my business, completely useless. Account deleted. Twitter, you win by default.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Creative Ways to Display Version Numbers

It wrecks aesthetics but it's a necessary evil sometimes: The version number.

Oftentimes, it's fine to keep it out of the app entirely, or hide it in the Settings app. But sometimes, it's necessary for the user to access it, either to check the version he or she is using, or for QA or debugging.

Here are some creative ways I've put them into an app:

1. Shake the first screen to make it appear.
2. Show on the first screen, then fade it out after 10 seconds.
3. Show it on the first screen via an invisible button (or easter-egg-type touch gesture)

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Armor Series From OtterBox


I eagerly look forward to the Armor Series from OtterBox. A lot of my mobile design work centers on two target audiences: younger children and field service technicians and salespersons.

Both audiences require added protection for iPads and iPhones, and OtterBox has (mostly) offered the best cases I've ever used.

Monday, June 18, 2012

A Surface Impression of Microsoft Surface Tablet



Microsoft finally joins the tablet party with the Microsoft Surface. Click the link for the details.

I'll reserve judgment until a price and release date come out, but on the "surface" I'm actually pretty excited about its potential. Larger screen, USB port, dedicated keyboard: Put together, it hits a niche  between the MacBook Air and the iPad that Apple has no answer for yet. (Then again, all Apple has to do is release a MacBook Air with a touchscreen: If it can run Metro and OS X in dual-boot, it would destroy Surface.)

So some random musings as I soak in the first news on the tablet:

  • Thank goodness they didn't call it the "Zine"
  • Apple's industrial design team must be having a fit, with the blatant design rip-off
  • That trackpad offset to the left ... you know that shit would never fly with Apple's ID...
  • ... especially, since, um, it's a touchscreen display
  • Why it will succeed: Cover with integrated keypad, larger screen, integrated kickstand, Micro SD support
  • Why it will fail: Poor price point, release date slippage, no app store support, no retina display
  • For this to have a chance against the iPad, the entry model has to clock in at $500; anything higher is the retail kiss of death
  • Battery life has to be on par with the iPad to succeed
  • Actually, if you can dual-boot Metro and Android on this baby, THAT is the killer feature
  • I think the real keyboard will be better to use than the chiclet-style pressure pad; just a gut feeling
  • Surface Project Manager: "This thing looks way too much like an iPad ... I know! I'll put a little white Windows logo at the bottom and that'll make all the difference!"
  • That 22-degree-angled back camera better have some adjustability, because it'll suck to try and film someone without being able to hold the pad strictly vertical
  • If I make cheap netbooks and budget laptops for a living, I'd be worried
  • It'll be interesting to see how other PC manufacturers who sell tablets treat Microsoft as a result of the Surface
In the end, this could be a serious competitor to Apple in the enterprise space with all the companies that rely on Windows already. And Apple rip-offs aside, you have to admit that it's a very nice design.

Why "Responsive Web Design" Must Die: A Case Study



So in the last episode, I spelled out the alternative to "Responsive Web Design" which was basically to do the exact opposite, and issued a fatwa on RWD. But hey, don't take my word for it.

Here's a great case study: Visit www.apple.com and store.apple.com.

Make sure to do this on your desktop PC, desktop Mac, iPad, iPhone, Android phone and Android tablet.

Isn't that incredible! The UX masters at Apple have become so adept at RWD, it enables a virtually identical user experience regardless of platform!

Oh wait a sec ... I think it's just the same web site. I don't think Apple appreciates the benefits of RWD. I mean, especially on an iPhone ... why not a mobile-optimized web site? You'd think with so many phone owners they'd do that? You actually expect me to buy something from the Apple web site? What a sucky user experience!

And that is why Apple wins.

Apple's web site conveys a message, an experience, a structure that reflects the company. In their eyes, a memorable web site is more important than an accessible one.

Why would they want to water that down or make a "light" site to compensate?

Honey badger don't care about your device. Neither does Apple. Because at the end of the day, it's about

Focus.

And creating the best UX possible. But only on devices that make that user experience great.

So going back to the phone, Apple does employ one RWD thing on the iPhone that makes perfect sense. When you visit store.apple.com the first time, you get a pop-up to download the Apple Store app. Because Apple understands that if you indeed plan on shopping using your phone, you deserve the best user experience possible. That is the one exception to the anti-RWD rule.

So at the end of the day, try designing one great web site, with downloadable apps that cater to specialized experiences, rather than a one-size-fits-all RWD beast-of-code that may sound wonderful in theory but difficult to execute, because it'll be more complex, require more people to create, and most importantly, make you lose focus on what makes web sites truly great.

Why "Responsive Web Design" Must Die: Reloaded

So in my previous post, I went medieval on "Responsive Web Design" and basically said it promotes UX suckiness because it kills...

Focus.

So let me throw out a radical anti-RWD design pattern that quite literally will blow your mind.

Design one web site. For all platforms. For all browsers. Using THE SAME DESIGN.

Holy shit, Batman. I just made a bunch of web devs poop in their pants.

But look at the advantages of anti-RWD:

1. I focus more on the UX and content. Reduce it to what the content really should be at a minimum, and how that will translate effectively on different screen sizes and form factors. The resulting design decisions are simpler. I'm not going to give user X a different web site because he's on a mobile phone. I'm going to give him the same experience because that's what he or she deserves, dammit.

2. It enables you to have that "come to Jesus" moment when it comes to UX design, which is…

3. Don't compromise great UX and your great marketing message by dumbing it down for mass consumption. 

This is important. I want you to read #3 over and over again until you get it.

Do you get it yet? Go back, dude. Seriously, read it over.

OK, so now when I say: "You really should do a mobile-optimized RWD of your desktop e-commerce web site for BlackBerry screens, because a lot of your customers still use BlackBerrys" your answer would be....

a) Totally! RWD is great and good!
b) Let me talk to my BA and come up with some pros and cons for you on that
c) WTF didn't you just read what I just typed? Maybe your users SHOULD NOT VISIT THE WEB SITE using their BlackBerry phones.

I just blew your mind again, but it's really fucking common sense. 

Focus on ONE web site design. Make it GREAT on the devices you care about. And accept the fact that it may suck on some devices ... and EMBRACE that. Because your UX is focused and consistent.

And if that BlackBerry user has to jump to their PC to see your web site correctly so be it. Fact is, you made that person's user experience better by forcing them to do so. 

It pisses me off that more UX designers don't get on board with this concept. Death to RWD.

Why "Responsive Web Design" Must Die

Headline get your attention? Good. Because I'm about to go honey badger on the devil's incarnation that is "Responsive Web Design" and tell you why it is bad for your web site and for the future of UX in general.

RWD has its merits: Optimize for the form factor, widest net in terms of audience reach, ability to adapt  and adopt new and ever-changing technologies.

But the most important benefit to RWD is for web designers and developers: RWD lets them charge more money to create more web sites so they can stay in business.

There. I said it. Honey badger don't care.

Thanks to the magic of RWD, your current web site is not enough. You need a mobile phone web site. You will (soon) need a large-screen web site. And if the web dev really needs the cash, they'll talk you into a tablet-optimized web site as well. And a game console version just to make things fun.

Those multiple web sites need custom HTML and CSS, all in the name of making great "user experiences" for your visitors. Because if you don't, your web site will suck on a __(insert platform here)__.

Lets assume that your web dev + design team has the skills and manpower to actually optimize each platform to its best. And that they'll actually bother to really think about the UX rather than just plug in some common-code synthesizer that spits out a cookie-cutter mobile site.

But hey, you're reusing the same code. Mostly. Right? I'm achieving synergy! It's all about UX! And optimization! And these neat tools that detect user agents and screen sizes! I'm so clever.

And so wrong. Because for all the things you've gained with RWD, it doesn't compare to the one UX principle you lost. The most important principle of all.

Focus.

Why PaintCode May Equal PainCode


On the one hand, I say, pretty cool to convert any vector graphic into a graphic rendered in iOS.

On the other hand, I say, if I have to update a rasterized image, in Photoshop I just have to swap out the image and keep the same name. As long as the image size and name is the exact same as before, it updates in XCode without a hiccup.

But if I have to update a vector graphic, won't that have to go through QA again? Because you're messing with the code using a third-party tool that may or may not be reliable.

Don't get me wrong, I appreciate the concept of PaintCode. Actually, it's pretty damn cool.

It's just that from a programming standpoint, a graphics tool that creates more code for me to debug ... well, I see more downside than upside on this one. Feel free to comment and disagree.