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“Have nothing in your house that you do not know to be useful, or believe to be beautiful.” ― William Morris

"To Clarify, Add Detail" – Edward Tufte’s Review of the iPhone

Posted: February 1st, 2008 | Author: | Filed under: Interaction Design | Tags: , , , , , | No Comments »

Edward Tufte, information design master, has released an insightful and educational video review of the iPhone on his website. It’s a large movie shot in clear, Apple style black background with Tufte talking through his observations as he goes. Delivered in calm, soothing tones are such wonderful phrases such as “To clarify, add detail” and “Clutter and overload are not an attribute of information, they are a failure of design”.

Tufte has a high regard for the iPhone’s high resolution (163dpi) screen as well as how Apple have removed “computer administrative debris” to ensure “the information is the interface” with direct interactions by humans on the content, not via buttons – or at least with transparent controls where necessary. Where he’s not so impressed is with the “strong colours and zebra stripes, but not much information” on the stocks page – suggesting that instead of the “cartoon/Excel resolution” Apple could employ their “image level resolution” to let people zoom in and out of complex, informative displays. Similarly for the weather page shown above.

Aside from these few suggestions for information design improvement Tufte seems to like the iPhone – to quote; “If the information is in chaos don’t start throwing out information, instead fix the design – and that is exactly what the iPhone has done.” Go watch the video and learn from a master.


First iPhone Experience

Posted: July 28th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Interaction Design | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Yesterday I got my first chance to play with Apple’s new iPhone at their 5th Avenue Store. First impressions, it’s cute, feels great in the hand, has many genius ideas but some annoying niggles still came up even in a short time.

The first thing that strikes you is the quality and clarity of the display – the background is a really dark black, and the icons really pop out. The glass in front of the screen also feels very smooth and cool to the touch, and even with my greasy, sweaty fingers it didn’t seem to pick up any fingerprints – that alone is an amazing development that I wish all of my handheld devices had. The iPhone is a comfortable size in the hand, and surprisingly thing – akin to the latest generation of iPod but with rounded edges on the front.

Using the iPhone is relatively intuitive. The icons are obvious, bold & easily clickable – plus they have small text descriptions below to guide you. Though small, the text descriptions are incredibly clear and easy to read, another facet of the excellent display. There is a slight learning curve when you read a web page, using two fingers slide apart or together to either zoom in or out of the page, then using a single finger to drag the screen apart (as opposed to the MacBook’s two finger drag). Reading or viewing anything is aided by the in-built orientation sensor, that tells at what angle you have the screen and rotates the display accordingly, although in youTube mode it sensibly forces you into landscape orientation for best viewing. Yes, youTube is a front menu option, it’s just a shame that the download times are a little slow over the phone network, but not so slow that they are unusable.

Zooming in and out of web pages to read is not as easy as I’d thought it could be. My website rendered correctly, unsurprisingly given the Safari engine embedded in the iPhone, but having to zoom in/out to get posts to the correct scale to read was a bit frustrating. Once you’re at the best zoom level scrolling with your fingers is easy and fun. I wonder how many sites have already started iPhone optimisation looking at the iPhone’s user agent in the header?

For entering text Apple has plumped for an onscreen keyboard, as opposed to the defunct Newton’s ‘written’ text. The keys are much smaller than the average finger tip, but Apple has developed a method that works out which key you meant to press by looking at the center of your finger. This works pretty well, except at the edges of the keypad. I found myself pressing ‘P’ instead of ‘O’ regularly. Like most touch keypads it is most likely something you learn to do better with time, but that initial usage was mildly frustrating. I wonder if offering a larger button keypad as well would help, time will tell.

There are many other interesting features to look through, I didn’t get a chance to make an actual phone call for example! Nice little touches such as a one click, highly visible airplane mode, are present all through the device. That said I’m not convinced enough to splash out $500 for the cheapest model, with only 4Gig of unexpandable (what!) memory and a lock in to an AT&T contract. Roll on iPhone v2 – I’m sure that will be even more perfect.

Footnote: Originally I had hoped to do this blog post from the iPhone, spelling mistakes and all, but for some reason I could not log into Blogger. I’m sure that was just something I’d have to work out, but given it also took me a good three minutes to even get my username & password entered it was a task left for another day.


Hide In Plain Sight

Posted: June 8th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Interaction Design | Tags: , | No Comments »

Glasgow has decided to take on illegal fly-posting in a new way. Instead of scrapping off the posters from every inch of space they take up, a time consuming and messy process, they are simply sticking ‘cancelled’ notices of their own over gig posters! Then the venue owners have to deal with hordes of irate fans calling up to demand refunds. Clever indeed, so it will be interesting to see if more cities follow their lead. Or if venues start offering confirmation/cancellation info over text message instead – a new business venture for someone? [From BoingBoing].


Bright Lights, Quiet City (or Sun vs. Moon)

Posted: June 7th, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Interaction Design | Tags: | No Comments »

This morning’s Globe and Mail had an article about how Toronto police are using bright spotlights on rowdy club goers to help encourage them to go home, in much the same way as clubs themselves at the end of the night. The lights have been placed to cover key corners at which crowds normally gather, in their sunlight strong glare everyone tends to disperse and head home. Clever.

In related news back across the pond, Brighton police have found that incidents of violence increase around each full moon. This has led them to wonder whether werewolf myths are more linked to fact than at first thought, though only in people’s behaviour not their appearance.


Face the Search

Posted: June 3rd, 2007 | Author: | Filed under: Interaction Design | Tags: , , | No Comments »

Google have started integrating a behind the scenes feature that allows you to do an image search for faces. It’s pretty darn cool – first check out a normal search for the wonderful ‘Douglas Adams‘, now check out the same search for his face.

Of course this is now raising a lot of discussion about privacy and the amount of information Google holds, especially when combined with their new street view feature. They can now take pictures of your house, and recognise your face staring out the window. Ultimately someone is going to do pull all this data together, and personally I’d rather it was Google than Microsoft. Boing Boing raises the point that would we be more scared if the NSA or CIA were doing this, somehow I suspect they already are – as well as voice recognition on every phone call in the country for key words. Is complete public transparency better than Government sanctioned spying and private records of your movements/actions? It’ll be interesting to watch how this plays out. Google could get sued for privacy invasion but that’s a harder prospect for the current administration.