Thursday, August 23, 2012

Why "Responsive Web Design" Must Die: Case Study #2

This case study is shorter and sweeter: the Drudge Report.


I know, I know. From a pure visual design standpoint, it's basic and boring. The Drudge Report does not support "responsive web design" -- and yet it remains one of the most read news aggregator sites on the planet.

The point here is not to endorse shitty web design. It's merely to point out that if your web site's content is compelling, timely and accessible, guess what: Users won't care about whether the site offers responsive web design.

Let's be honest: Have you ever heard someone say, "God, the Drudge Report looks so tiny on my iPhone screen ... well, that's the last time I visit that site!"

I'll even go a step further and say that traditional responsive web design would destroy a site like Drudge's, who embraces three columns of news. On a smartphone, your average "mobile optimized" template would force that into one column and make me scroll down like a banshee to read all the story links -- and take three times longer to read than if they stayed smaller and side by side.

So again, the point I want to leave here is if you have to choose between spending limited dollars on creating great content vs. responsive presentation, Drudge has 10 billion reasons in the past year why you should spend it on content.

My Two Cents on the New Microsoft Logo

Yes, in a previous life I was a "pure" graphic designer, and icon/logo design was (and is) one of my favorite exercises. So today's unveiling of Microsoft's new logo was an interesting "back to roots" story.
One of the things that I noticed is that the square boxes and the thin lines between are EXACT proportionally to the panels on a Windows Phone home screen. Furthermore, the white space between the right squares and the "M" in Microsoft is the EXACT same proportion to the empty black bar on a Windows Phone. You can see an example of the spacing below.

Assuming that was intentional, that's the kind of cool geeky stuff I like about logo design -- those "hidden" design cues that are subliminal but cool when you discover them. In addition the little "o" letters fit almost exactly inside a square, so there's a carryover of size and proportion as you read from left to right.

I never understood the whole "four colors" thing with Microsoft; but since it is a part of their brand DNA, I suppose killing it was not an option. (They'd probably be accused of what Apple did long ago when Steve Jobs killed the rainbow in its logo).

The connected "f" and "t" ... I'm a bit yucky on that. I know previous logos had that connection, but it just seems out of place when every other letter and shape has white space to separate them.

I know there are people out there who are crapping on the logo, but c'mon, people. Have a sense of proportion:

You're telling me that the company would've been better off keeping one of the older logos? You've got to be kidding. This new logo is a far better design than the last one. Kudos to Microsoft for trying to reinvent its image. That said, a logo is only as good as the products you stamp it on ... so get to work!

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Responsive Web Design Will Never Ever Die ... Just Like Flash

Ah, crap -- even my design co-workers are giving me grief about my anti-Responsive Web Design rants. So just to ease their worries (and not get fired) some clarifying points:

1. You were the same web designers who told me that in 2008 Flash was the future of web design. I did not agree, and you mocked and teased. So cut me a little slack when I have a little skepticism when you say that in 2012 RWD is the future of web design. Just saying...

2. I have no problem with the concept of RWD. I do have a problem with the reality of RWD. You show me a web site that does RWD awesomely right and I'll give you 10 that get it awesomely wrong. And you know I'm right about that -- don't make me name URLs...

3. If you are my client and want RWD, you're money's still good here. In fact, I'll make it f**king golden for you. But I'll still make you read this.

4. If your business is e-commerce to mobile phone users for products that require immediate delivery (mobile apps, subscription content, express delivery, food, etc.) ... then mea culpa. Retraction issued. Get your mobile checkout on!

Here's another great analysis on semi-anti-RWD -- so I don't feel like a lone wolf on this one.

iPhone 5 and Form Factor

I always laugh when people say the iPhone is a dated design because it has a smaller screen compared to newer phones. Here's a recent example from Henry Blodget -- and his analysis is so off-the-mark it's laughable.

What Blodget fails to realize is that one of the early design directives for Apple's phone is that you could use it with just one hand -- especially for making a call and listening to music -- QUICKLY.

The key to keeping that directive with a larger screen, as is rumored for the next iPhone, is that the screen width MUST stay the same.

In addition, users have already been "taught" to work with this form factor; if the screen gets wider, they'll have to "relearn" how to type, for instance. Not a big deal, but Apple sweats details like that.

More importantly, a wider screen means you need two hands to use it. It then becomes a tablet phone. Apple has decided that tablet phones are a poor form factor (too big for pockets, needs two hands to use, harder to hold, etc.)

Try it out for yourself if you don't believe me: Take any iPhone, hold it in one hand, and trace the screen border with your thumb. For the average-sized hand, this is easy to do.

Now try that same exercise on one of the new Samsung phones. It's impossible. And now that ICS puts that action overflow in the upper right, you need two hands to get to it. It can become a usability issue.

Don't get me wrong: The larger-screen Samsung phones are great. But to call the iPhone outdated because of its smaller screen size ignores Apple's focus on usability, consistency and form factor.