Here is a little user interface venting I’ve been meaning to get off my chest. A few weeks ago iTunes 10 was released to a fanfare of ‘meh’s. It had some new-fangled social networking feature called Ping, or something. I’m not here to talk about that. Social networking is so 2009.
What was disconcerting were the weird vertical close, minimize, and zoom buttons seen here:
Windows are one of the primary system-level components of a desktop operating system. Key examples of this type of component are windows, check boxes, radio buttons, sliders, scroll bars, menus, preference panes, etc. Components at this level exist to enforce platform consistency. This yields familiarity and ease of use. User interface features are elevated to this level when they have a certain degree of importance. For instance, there probably wouldn’t be a standardized scroll bar if it would only be required by one application out of a thousand.
When Apple released the beta of Safari 4, some may remember that it featured tabs on top. Basically, there was no title bar. The space typically occupied by the title bar was now allocated for tabs and divided between them. Taking over the title bar space, common to all main application windows, suggested that the title bar wasn’t important. It’s useful to some applications, but isn’t really necessary for all of them. If something else is more suitable in that space for your application, then have at it.
However, in actuality, title bars are important. They make the window recognizable, contain a title to identify their content, and have a consistent click-able area to move and manage the window on your desktop. Those were all compromised in the beta version of Safari 4. There was an outcry from many users, and the feature was cut from the final release.
These window buttons in iTunes are no different. They are a consistent element in application and finder windows for a reason. iTunes has been Apple’s test bed for unique (read: bad) interfaces for quite a while. Is it any wonder it’s their most complained about and kludgy application?
One of the best utilities I have for my Mac (my apologies if you are a “PC”) is now on the iPhone. Droplr lets you shorten links, upload images, videos, and notes and quickly share them online. Frankly, it’s a bargain at $3.99. From how much use I’ve gotten out of the desktop version, it’s sure to be worth every penny. Aside from being a great utility, it is a beautifully designed app. Check it out.
Videogames often have some incredible music. Sometimes, it takes hearing it played classically by some talented musicians to realize how great it is.
This is the craziest precision driving I’ve ever seen.
Generally, I’m not afraid of heights. I love climbing things, I love flying, but this video of a guy climbing to the top of a transmission antenna on a skyscraper is crazy. It made me physically uncomfortable to watch. (via Daring Fireball)
Lately my “General News” folder in Google has been flooded with stories. Upon doing some digging, I’ve discovered that just a few days ago The New York Times started posting a huge number of stories as evidenced by this graph (edited for relevant information) from Google Reader. This is true of their World and U.S. news feeds both of which I’ve been following for the past year or two.
This looks like a huge increase of roughly 3-5 times as many stories per day. Even before this increase the feeds from NYT were pretty bloated, and I ended up doing more skimming than reading. Who finds all these stories to be relevant? Certainly I don’t. Neither do I have the time to skim the titles anymore. Unsubscribed.
This has gotten me thinking about the fact that most of the news I read is curated by the community of friends I keep on Twitter, Facebook, and the personal blogs that I follow. This represents a fundamental shift in acquiring news. In a sense, I’m using my friends as a relevance filter on the massive amount of data posted online everyday. More and more editorial content is coming from trusted friends, rather than some writer on a payroll. I feel that it’s a good shift, but I’m still trying to wrap my head around it.
My comments form was ugly. I never really designed it, it was just morphed from the default Expression Engine form. Comments have never been widely used on my site, and rather than spending time to tighten up the submit form, I’ve decided to scrap commenting altogether.
Twitter has become a better home for worthwhile commentary and exchange of ideas than any comment thread has ever been — ever — in the entire history of the Internet. And most people who would be inclined to make a long form response already have a blog of their own. Even if they don’t, they could start one in seconds by creating a tumblog or simply emailing posterous.
No existing comments are being removed. If you have some feedback for a post, let me know at @skoda on twitter.