Rethinking Graphical User Interfaces

May 31, 2011

For Christmas last year, I offered myself an iPod, and I found that the interface, made for big fingers on a small screen, is surprisingly friendly and intuitive. OK, granted, some things are harder to find than other (like how to kill or group apps), but the overall experience is agreeable. You don’t feel the thing as a new device that breaks your work-flow, because you can’t have a work-flow on this thing.

Ubuntu 11.04 came out in April and it offered—well, kind of imposed, actually—their Unity desktop environment, and it does break your work-flow. Not because it is clunky (because it is), but because it does not offer ways of doing what you’re used to on a workstation, it tries to replace what you’ve always done by something “revolutionary.”

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Powers of Ten (so to speak)

June 29, 2009

I am not sure if you are old enough to remember the 1977 IBM movie Powers of Ten (trippy version, without narration) [also at the IMDB and wikipedia], but that’s a movie that sure put things in perspective. Thinking in terms of powers of ten helps me sort things out when I am considering a design problem. Thinking of the scale of a problem in terms of physical scale is a good way to assess its true importance for a project. Sometimes the problem is the one to solve, sometimes, it is not. It’s not because a problem is fun, enticing, or challenging, that it has to be solved optimally right away because, in the correct context, considering its true scale, it may not be as important as first thought.

atomic-cycle

Maybe comparing problems’ scales to powers of ten in the physical realm helps understanding where to put your efforts. So here are the different scales and what I think they should contain:

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