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Category Archives: Interface

Interactive design (IxD) is study the interaction between the user and the designed target. Nowadays, it is most about the computer user interface, device specific screen elements… In its broadest sense, it also includes the artificial environment in which human interacts with its compounds. 

However, people does not usually think data presentation is IxD. The reason is obvious that human readable data has been presented in tabular printed page or webpage. Yet, the presentation is fixed in time. It is not so much the case with computer power increases, computer applications or webpage. The very simple example is that a list of item sorted by its attributes by simply a click of its attribute name. The items can be viewed in terms of date created or alphabetical order or so on. Another example is visualizing data in map. It was very powerful presentation.


iPad is out. I have not touch the physical object yet. Any comment on its success or failure is premature. One thing really worry me is iPad lacks an open file system – some inherent from iPhone. At this moment, I’m think the phase “a compter is not an island”, used many years ago when ethernet as a standard feature in a Mac. How is a iPad going to be a truely useful computer when file (data) is only considered as a property of an app. It is marginally workable in iPhone or itouch. I am truely dubious it will work in iPad. I may ponder this problem a bit more and get back to you.

The talks of Apple upcoming Apple’s Tablet is everywhere and everyday. I enjoy their opinions. Here is a few good one:

Hours before, I like to have my part. One post interest me is that the fuse between multitouch mouse shell and iPhone. It suggested that the next iPhone’s back is a multitouch surface like that of a multitouch mouse. So some suggest the upcoming tablet should work like that. In fact, Apple patterned that back touching idea.

Here is my idea. the back area could act as the chording keyboard. That is, playing chords on the back of the tablet, you input text.

Recently, I came across a desktop replacement app for MacOS, called BumpTop. Using for a few days, I concluded that it is an good implementation of some existing ideas which has been around since early 90s. The good part is an almost flat learning curve. BumpTop takes the pile onto a 3D desktop which allows different sized document. Also the 3D environment allows 3 walls for pinning up files. It is a multiple desktops with animated transition. The best part is the installation, an excellent Mac experience, drag and drop to Application folder, no password required, easily quit the apps. I enjoy the free version but to pay for 30-US dollar  pro version is not what I want to do at this moment.

A few technologies is and will be interesting. Attention should be on them:

  • Augmented reality mobile apps
  • Multitouch/gesture device
  • New hardware using flexible OLED for content
  • New battery technology

These hardware will make a difference. How? I am not able put my finger on one PRODUCT that may make a big difference. Will it have the effect of iPod/iTunes/iPhone/AppStore software-hardware combination that transforms the status quo. Will see.

Simply, many people love to operate computer like those in Star Trek. May be, may be not. I have definitely love the regularity and expectedness of pressing buttons.

Until now, all voice recognition program is a great hobby. However, the only one useful use comes to iPhone voice recognition, “call John” – the only voice command I used when on the move – walking on a busy street – too busy doing something else.

Any Star Trek interface in the future ? may be, wait until the centennial of Personal Computer.

A billion iPhone apps download is approaching. People definitely downloading the apps (I have some freebies) and soon page after pages added to the home screen. Until one day, I found out the app I have downloaded didn’t show up. Gee, there is a limit on the number of apps I can install in my iPhone! 9 home screen pages or 148 apps.

Why did Apple care about that and a limits needs to be set? Does Apple consider about how messy the home screen would become once the App Store opened (especially with so many free apps)? Is this a flaw in the home screen design? Alternative? Dose a solution exist but Apple solve it for later updates? Is there a way to solve this mess? Certainly, my answer is “stack”. In this series of posts, I will explore how stack is the answer to current mess in light with other methods, I didn’t think it will work.

The cover flow view is like a virus spreading from iTunes to now Safari. Coverflow is a great way to waste time when you have plenty. This interface is analogous to flipping vinyl records in music store shelves of the good old day. It was a great experience to choose music when browsing nicely designed cover arts one by one. Apple is right trying to duplicate this experience (the idea was not Apple brain child, but invented by Andrew Coulter Enright) in iTunes or iPhone. It was fun to play with, waste time on and feel the concreteness of musics. But as interface (especially for small computer screen) is ineffective.

Coverflow does have one good use for people with bad memory. When you don’t remember the name of a document read or webpage visited, search is no use. Visually browse through the huge thumbnails one by one, slowly, could finally help you reach the target. A very slow and ineffective search method – a last resort.

What made the Coverflow so ineffective is the animation and limited viewing ability of number of files together. A previewed icons view – that is, the icons in a given windows show all their contents – far superior for visual searching. This view show all they have at once, you can go after the suspected target by Quick Look. Previewed icons plus Quick Look is 100 times greater then Coverflow. Apple is losing its edge on UI innovation.  

P.S. Coverflow does let people admire their own “creation” one by one. people need that – a space to think.

After a few days of use, I removed it from my shared computer. The major complaint is that the tag arrangement is so “unnatural”. When old things work for them (to certain degree), people loathe changes. Other than this habitual reason, is there any things prevent people from upgrade? First, upgrade has to be proved having advantages out rate the downside. Safari’s good speed is the good side. If you can feel a great improvement in speed, the downside is may be overcame sooner or later.

Speed vs Habit…. I would choose speed if the site I frequent can actually benefit from it. If I am an hotmail user, no, no, speed is not even an issue. The site just doesn’t work. The upgrade is to be blamed. If sites I frequent is simple HTML site, not much Javascript, the benefit is marginal. I should wait until I am forced to upgrade or stay where I am.

Software interface is still evolving. The great idea can still be possible, even change the course of this evolution. Think of a hammer, the handling interface is fixed and complete. Designers may make more complete by varying the length of the handle, play with the shape or the thickness. Software interface is a different story.

People has been commenting on the Google Chrome’s User Interface refreshing – a fresh start from sketch. Some says it is more like a runtimes or OS. Meanwhile, the iTunes 8 came out, with some two new features – new album view and genius. I observe one thing in common – the recycling of UI strategy with twists.

Google Chrome’s tab feature is just like any tab feature in Firefox, Opera or Safari. Yet, by isolated each tab in their protected space – the tab is not just a tab for different webpage but web-application container, you “launch” new app in the tab, and move it away, creating new windows – all these are Operation System strategies. Google recycled a UI and twist to make its own OS basic units – we get a Application manager and a Finder.

iTunes 8’s new album view is a grid arrangement by category: album, artists, genre… One can quickly skim through what is inside each picture. In Mac terminology, a picture is the representation of an event. In case of sorting by artists, the particular album cover will be presentaton of all ablums you have for artist in your music library. The Mac user will immediately spot the similarity with iPhotos event. You can resize the album Even the sizing bar is the same. The best of iTune 8 implementation involves the small cycle-number indication on the number of new heard downloads (when in Podcast). This cycle-number reminder is not new either, a direct take from the Mail (OS X’s dock or iPhone). Apple has essentially adopted the visual management strategy for the audio management. When the UI element or strategy is good, I don’t mind it appears again and again.

iTunes8 screencap

iTunes 8 screen capture

Background reading: Straight out of Compton.