Android’s simple guidance rules for UI design

Google has released guidelines for Android UX and as part of this lays down some good rules and reasoning for any effective UI. Check it out at:

The Practical Take on Platforms

theFWA has a great set of quotes from leaders in the creative industry about what transitions like the one from Flash to other technologies really mean. Beyond the rhetoric, these are the tools of a community, and it is the creativity that is the real strength, not the platform. Also, a great Freudian slip in the use of the word “canvas” :

…”The relevancy of Flash and potential of HTML5 both lie in the hands of the creative community. More importantly, the future of the Internet remains a vast and exciting canvas so long as we seek to continually provide the most engaging and effective user experiences possible.”

Jared Kroff, Creative Director, RED Interactive Agency

Flash Optimization for iPhone

Flash’s strength has always been the write-once, deploy anywhere capability of the player. Fortunately this has carried over to the mobile realm reasonably well, although I personally don’t like using Flash (or any plugin, like HTML5/javascript) within a mobile browser since using a smaller screen works best with fullscreen interaction, and multitouch interfaces can present coupling and ambiguity problems.

That said, writing once and deploying as an app to multiple devices come with two prices – an incomplete API, and performance issues. The latter can be greatly affected by how code is written and what techniques are used or avoided, and any source of experimental results, like thie one below, are more than welcome. Still, Adobe has not only persevered but done an amazing job taking up the task of becoming not just browser independent, but mobile independent, leaving much of the quality risks and rewards to the programmers and designers:

S[t]imulating the scientific method

Curiosity is really at the heart of science and education, yet both these can suffer from ‘explanationism’: the description of a discovery process as complete and direct when in fact it was neither.

Curiosity demands exploration – a feedback cycle of trying and observing – of failure and success in increments and sometimes leasps. Game makers get it. Scientists get it. The best educators have mastered it because they know the best teacher is personal experience.

So why is ‘explanationism’ the default (and unsatisfactory way) that curiosity is satisfied? Partly because the tools to manage directed inquiry and exploration are just not there. Spaceref has a great article on a software package that aims to provide this management for student science; specifically, educating children on the scientific method. This method is usually listed as a set of bullet points in science class: hypothesis->experiment->revise hypothesis…. but the tools to conduct many interesting experiments are not practical in a classroom. Example? Billion dollar telescopes, timespans of decands or nanoseconds, powers of gigawatts. One approach is to provide a software-based science ┬ásimulation toolkit: flexible enough to allow creative thinking and many outcomes.

The experiments described…on experimenters demonstrated that, yes, there is a benefit to allowing kids to learn things the way learning is meant to be: through exploration, experimentation and feedback. Interestingly, the software did not limit experiments to simulation within the computer – it encouraged data gathering in the real world. ‘Getting’ the scientific method means using it, not learning the bullet points. Read the article here, and check out the free software at the nQuire site

Looking back: 1984 reviews the ‘desktop’ interface

An early review of the Macintosh in 1984 sounds almost alien now. The interviewer introduces us to concepts like the “Desktop” and tiny pictures called “icons” and that wily creature, the mouse.

One thing that does seem very familiar is praise for an intuitive interface that is common through all the applications on the Mac. The common toolbar up top, the WYSIWYG word processor was a revelation coming from blinking cursors and function keys, and the compact, elegant form factor.

These were all praised as part of the whole ‘Mac’ experience.

Seem familiar? The formula of consistent, intuitive, elegant interfaces, both software and physical, have always been what set Apple apart, and core values that have survived 27 years of computer evolution should be considered heavyweights in any interface project. The best aspects of “New” can themselves not be so new.

And the photo? It’s of my MacBookPro sitting on top of a 27 year old Apple IIc carrying case I found under some camping gear. The fit is perfect, and the case itself is a study in simple elegance, even if it is a product of its time!

Game Thinking for Drivers

A dirty secret of hybrid cars is that how they are driven matters as much as the massively complex systems under the hood – all your frugality can be undone by stomping on the gas pedal. But a slightly dirtier secret is that many people buy hybrids not to reduce fuel consumption, but to increase social status. Toyota has chosen to recognize and leverage these unspoken secrets in its favour.

In recent years a new class of telemetry-based games have mixed reality with the game itself. The player is you, and the game is what you do, where you are, and even how you get there.

Toyota paid close attention to this and came up with a method of making the vehicle itself part of a social game. Simply put, they took the ‘game’ that many hypermilers play against their fuel consumption gauges, and made it social, with a careful eye on the affluent demographic that uses their product. The more efficient you drive, the more money Toyota donates to a charity.
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