Design is not just what it looks like. It’s how it works.

Design. Is Apple losing focus on one of it’s most essential unique strengths?

For a big test we did for Belgian Cowboys recently some members on the editorial team including myself switched from iOS to Android for a while. Not just to see if we liked it or not but also to find out if that switch was so hard as we expected it to be. “What about all those apps I bought? Why start all over again? Will it be as easy to use as what I’m used to now?” A whole series of questions which I presume most of us will recognize come to mind when thinking of such a switch.

Since this article isn’t about that switch I can tell you quickly that that test went really well. I’m currently switching between the HTC One and the HTC One Mini for another test and I don’t miss my iPhone for a second. Actually I find it better on many levels. That made me wonder about a few things.

How come for instance that I find the notifications in Android really useful whereas I don’t even look at them on my iPhone? The set-up is kind of the same so why is that? Looking at both from a basic UI design point of view they are very similar indeed. It’s a drop down menu you pull from the top of your screen with several notifications pointing to apps that need your attention for whatever reason. On Android I will open that screen and either swipe the notifications away or take action. On iPhone I open that view once every month or so to delete these notifications, app by app.

Another example is the on-screen keyboard. On Android I’m using Swype, probably the most productive add-on for a touch screen devices in a long time. Whenever I need to use my iPhone or iPad again I cannot help but be annoyed by the fact that I have to type in the ‘traditional’ way. And that’s not even mentioning the re-design of iOS7.

So how come that on many levels the Android platform is outperforming iOS, whether it’s thanks to core Android development or because of the opportunity to personalise it with technology created by its eco-system? I’m thinking that Apple has actually forgot about the essence of design, a vision it shared openly and that many are taking as an example.

“Design is not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works” – Steve Jobs

When you think of that and the examples I mentioned before (and there are more) you can only come to the conclusion that the focus of Apple lately was on design as in ‘what it looks like’ and that Google has taken the lead on design as in ‘how it works’. In the last 12-18 months, Google and its eco-system have upgraded the better user experience, Apple has overhauled look & feel. And that’s a pity. Not just because it makes the iPhone a less interesting device but it’s a sign of Apple forgetting about it’s own very essence.

My 2 cents.

ID14. Observations on interactive design.

And not just any designer. Petra Sell is a well known UI/UX designer that has shared her own views on interactive design for a few years now and with success. The 2012 & 2013 editions of her design trends presentations have gathered close to half a million views on Slideshare alone so I don’t think I don’t need to give much more explanation why you should absolutely check out her latest edition: ID14.

You can check it out on here website or in the Slideshare below:

What the blog?!

Love/Hate. That’s the relationship I have with my blog these days. I still ‘write’ plenty of blogposts in my head, just don’t get to writing them down for real when I have the time to do it. And that annoys me a little to be honest. Although the blog is not the only part of my online presence anymore since there are also Posterous, Flickr, Twitter and numerous other initiatives it still is sort of central to all initiatives and I’m not ready to turn it off yet.

I still believe strongly in having a central landing page, for people and for brands, around which all the other initiatives gravitate so to say. I don’t agree with Steve Rubel’s view on the concept of the siteless web for that matter. It’s clear that sole focus on your own website is a bit short-sighted today, so extending one’s web presence in social for instance is crucial. What I don’t want to do is put the center of my presence on a service that gives me only limited control, that I don’t own 100%.  But hey that’s me.

So enough stuff to share, I’ll be making time again to write them down. Cheers.

The value of an infographic

Infographics are the new black. Well maybe not, bet they sure are popular these days. And that’s too bad. It’s too bad because today it seems that every JPG including some data and pictures is an infographic. Every day at least one of those pops up in my reader and I don’t know what the name for those JPGs should be but we sure shouldn’t refer to them as infographics.

“The purpose of visualization is insight, not pictures” Ben Shneiderman (1999)

So in case of infographics, if the visualization doesn’t enable you to have a clearer view on the information/data below, it’s pretty much worthless. Because if it doesn’t do that, it’s just another summation of data. Adding ‘clipart’ to it doesn’t change that fact. Manuel Lima did an interesting exercise to create an Information Visualization Manifesto which is worth reading.

“Form Follows Function. Form doesn’t follow data. Data is incongruent by nature. Form follows a purpose, and in the case of Information Visualization, Form follows Revelation. Take the simplest analogy of a wooden chair. Data represents all the different wooden components (seat, back, legs) that are then assembled according to an ultimate goal: to seat in the case of the chair, or to reveal and disclose in the case of Visualization. Form in both cases arises from the conjunction of the different building blocks, but it never conforms to them. It is only from the problem domain that we can ascertain if a layout may be better suited and easier to understand than others. Independently of the subject, the purpose should always be centered on explanation and unveiling, which in turn leads to discovery and insight.”

Keep on sharing those infographics, but stick to the real ones please. The ones that you can find on sites like +Datavisualization.ch. Everything else is a waste of time.

Design fail

Just a bit of Thursday morning fun, found this via someone on Facebook (forgot who – sorry for that). Did we ever notice how poorly designed the Star Wars universe really was? ;)

“Blasters. A tactical nightmare: They’re incredibly loud, especially for firing what are essentially light beams. The fire ordnance is so slow it can be dodged, and it comes out as a streak of light that reveals your position to your enemies. Let’s not even go near the idea of light beams being slow enough to dodge; that’s just something you have let go of, or risk insanity.”

More of the same on SciFi Scanner.

Awesome!

If I have one problem with SxSW it would be the noise this event generates. From weeks to months in advance people start chatting it up on where to go, what to do, how to survive, … and by the team SxSW is on there is so much live coverage it is hard to find the good stuff.

That is until you stumble on coverage like this. Forget about live blogging, live twittering… here is Mike Rohde live sketchnoting the festival. In a time where speed and quantity seem to drive the online conversation, in a time where it seems to matter more to say a lot and to say it before anyone else… this is just the break you need. Thanks Mike!

SXSWi 2009: Sketchnotes: Anderson/Kawasaki Spread

Check out the full set right here: SxSW Interactive 2009 – sketchnotes