Tawara-ya: Famous ryokan in Kyoto.
As it was our last day in Japan, we spent the day running around town. My wife got a massage at a place right near Tawara-ya, the ryokan that Steve used to stay at as mentioned in the Isaacson biography. I had a few minutes and a camera so I thought I would do a bit of light stalking. Can’t believe it took til my last day to stop by this place.
Lionize your Bookmark Icons with emoji
Using the UTF characters to save real estate in your Bookmarks Bar is an old trick, tried and true. Now, with emoji in Lion, you can spice up your Bookmarks Bar with some colorful characters. See the before/after below:
It also syncs perfectly to the iPhone as well:
Reading Gleick’s The Information, specifically his discussion about the telephone supplanting the telegraph, made me think of iOS devices and their relationship to general computers.
Gleick argues that one reason for the explosion in telephone adoption compared to the telegraph was that no new skills had to be learned. Forget learning to translate from Morse to the alphabet, forget learning how to tap out a message, forget having to draft a message and take it to a telegraph station. You just need to talk and listen. No special skills necessary. Sure, a telegraph can communicate a lot more in a smaller package compared to a conversation, but ease-of-use led to widespread adoption and a huge change in society.
Yes, general computers can do a lot more than iOS devices. However iOS devices abstract away a lot of the technical barriers necessary to operate a general computer. No file system, no saving, no DMGs. No wonder there have been over 200m iOS devices sold compared to the 54m Macs in use. The analogy is not quite perfect because general computers are still necessary to do much of the computing heavy lifting. However, with Apple finally cutting the cord I am sure we will see the adoption gap widen even further.
The HIG is undead
As a teacher, my gut reaction is to hate apps that do not follow the HIG.
I understand Tog's argument about GUI quote-unquote “bandwidth” which has expanded enormously over the past 25 years. However, it still isn't ubiquitous. There are still a lot of new users. We could generalize and say something terrible like “It's all just old people, so the problem solves itself” but that isn't true. It is estimated that only 2 billion people are using personal computers. UI patterns are important. I don't think anyone would deny that. I would further argue that it is still too early to abandon standardized UI elements. The “bandwidth” isn't there yet. There is still value in the HIG, at least in low-level, system-wide contexts.
That said, I think the iPhone and iPad might accelerate the abandonment of standardized UI elements. But first, I must digress.
Computers are not machines. I mean that in a mechanical sense. You cannot punch a few buttons and pull a lever and have the same output produced time after time. Computers are problem-solving devices. Everything depends on context. That is why step-by-step lists of instructions fail so often. Problem-solving tools and concepts are key (cf. Tog’s point of recognizing differently shaped houses). Every day computing is an exercise in problem-solving.
To return to iOS: when 3rd party apps were released I was appalled at all the crazy interaction metaphors that were being used. Every app is different! Talk about ignoring the HIG. However, limitations due to form factor and capability constrain the types of things that can be done. Even though iOS UI conventions are pretty loose people can make sense of it. And much quicker than they do on regular computers. This is brilliant because they can take these skills to their desktops and figure out what is going on there.
iOS devices are giving people the right problem-solving skills that will help navigate other UIs, hastening the demise of things like the HIG. Also, think about the future of mobile devices in markets overseas where traditional PCs are not accessible. That is class of new user that could benefit from not being saddled with HIG-encumbered historical expectations like we have.
In the end, the HIG is just a guide, shambling along. I agree with John’s argument that it is there to serve in situations where a better UI pattern cannot be executed. I think it should be adhered to for basic, system-wide functionality for the benefit of new users, but abandoned when a more effective alternative is possible.
Jony Ive on the 20th anniversary Mac… with hair!
Apple has been producing these long production videos long before the Unibody MacBooks.
Blast-from-The-Past Link Day
Joining neven and marco who took their cue from shawn I would like to highlight some of my favourite posts from the past of my blog (there are too many important posts from others to include here. Follow my Twitter, Instapaper and Google Reader):
My Blackberry Is Not Working! - The One Ronnie, Preview - BBC One
It’s interesting how a lot of companies try to copy Apple but never seem to get it right. This is yet another example of Apple’s obsessive attention to detail. …