June 12, 2011
I had a random thought about why Nintendo and Apple are both successful for a similar reason.  Namely, that reason is a focus on user interface.  Both companies have a strong focus on UI, although they don’t necessarily share the same UI philosophies.

There’s also a reason why both Nintendo and Apple started becoming very successful from 2005 onwards.  I think that reason is because technology reached an inflection point where the average consumer could no longer differentiate between the raw power of hardware products between products made one year versus the next.  If users can no longer intuitively tell the difference between technology products through general use, then specs become relatively less important.  Instead, user experience derived through a user interface begins to carry more weight.  If you are a company that spends resources towards thinking about UI, the benefits grow exponentially as the relative advantages of raw processing power become less noticeable.

Sony has historically favored raw technological superiority as their calling.  This served them well in the 80s and 90s when strong raw tech specs had easily discernible advantages to consumers.  The same goes for Microsoft based PCs which were stronger and cheaper than Apple computers for the same price points.   However as technology reaches a point where processing power differences between different companies reduce, so to does the relative importance.  If everyone’s computers feel as fast through praticial usage - if all games handle similar graphics, then UI takes greater importance.

An Apple computer with the same specs as a PC might be more expensive, but people are more willing to pay for those extra dollars in exchange for a more pleasant user experience.  I think this is going to be a general theme going forward in general though in the entire technology universe.

I had a random thought about why Nintendo and Apple are both successful for a similar reason. Namely, that reason is a focus on user interface. Both companies have a strong focus on UI, although they don’t necessarily share the same UI philosophies.

There’s also a reason why both Nintendo and Apple started becoming very successful from 2005 onwards. I think that reason is because technology reached an inflection point where the average consumer could no longer differentiate between the raw power of hardware products between products made one year versus the next. If users can no longer intuitively tell the difference between technology products through general use, then specs become relatively less important. Instead, user experience derived through a user interface begins to carry more weight. If you are a company that spends resources towards thinking about UI, the benefits grow exponentially as the relative advantages of raw processing power become less noticeable.

Sony has historically favored raw technological superiority as their calling. This served them well in the 80s and 90s when strong raw tech specs had easily discernible advantages to consumers. The same goes for Microsoft based PCs which were stronger and cheaper than Apple computers for the same price points. However as technology reaches a point where processing power differences between different companies reduce, so to does the relative importance. If everyone’s computers feel as fast through praticial usage - if all games handle similar graphics, then UI takes greater importance.

An Apple computer with the same specs as a PC might be more expensive, but people are more willing to pay for those extra dollars in exchange for a more pleasant user experience. I think this is going to be a general theme going forward in general though in the entire technology universe.

June 9, 2011
Hate the new Tumblr Sidebar?

jessicabbblixt:

Here are extensions you can use to put things back the way they were.

Chrome

Firefox 

This extension makes your dashboard look like this:

For people who don’t like the new UI of the tumblr dashboard.

(Source: jessicawearsfezes)

2:39am  |   URL: http://tmblr.co/ZlVyHy5wIXqg
  
Filed under: tumblr tumblr dashboard UI 
June 9, 2011
parislemon:

It’s like the “.com” button, which appears when typing in a URL field — perhaps my favorite current button.
The little things count.

The prominent placement of the @ and # buttons are examples of really good UI design.  Little things definitely add up.

parislemon:

It’s like the “.com” button, which appears when typing in a URL field — perhaps my favorite current button.

The little things count.

The prominent placement of the @ and # buttons are examples of really good UI design.  Little things definitely add up.

June 2, 2011
The key problems with Windows 8

I just read a great article on the fundamental problems associated with Windows 8 by John Gruber, below is an excerpt:

Microsoft’s demo video shows Excel — the full version of Excel for Windows — running alongside new touch-based apps. They can make buttons more “touch friendly” all they want, but they’ll never make Excel for Windows feel right on a touchscreen UI. Consider the differences between the iWork apps for the Mac and iPad. The iPad versions aren’t “touch friendly” versions of the Mac apps — they’re entirely new beasts designed and programmed from the ground up for the touchscreen and for the different rules and tradeoffs of the iOS interface (no explicit saving, no file system, ready to quit at a moment’s notice, no processing in the background, etc.).

The ability to run Mac OS X apps on the iPad, with full access to the file system, peripherals, etc., would make the iPad worse, not better. The iPad succeeds because it has eliminated complexity, not because it has covered up the complexity of the Mac with a touch-based “shell”. iOS’s lack of backward compatibility with any existing software means that all apps for iOS are written specifically for iOS.

There’s a cost for this elimination of complexity and compatibility, of course, which is that the iPad is also less capable than a Mac. That’s why Apple is developing iOS alongside Mac OS X. From a piece by yours truly, writing for Macworld back in January:

The existence and continuing growth of the Mac allows iOS to get away with doing less. The central conceit of the iPad is that it’s a portable computer that does less — and because it does less, what it does do, it does better, more simply, and more elegantly. Apple can only begin phasing out the Mac if and when iOS expands to allow us to do everything we can do on the Mac. It’s the heaviness of the Mac that allows iOS to remain light.

When I say that iOS has no baggage, that’s not because there is no baggage. It’s because the Mac is there to carry it. Long term — say, ten years out — well, all good things must come to an end. But in the short term, Mac OS X has an essential role in an iOS world: serving as the platform for complex, resource-intensive tasks.

Apple’s radical notion is that touchscreen personal computers should make severely different tradeoffs than traditional computers — and that you can’t design one system that does it all. Windows 8 is trying to have it all, and I don’t think that can be done. You can’t make something conceptually lightweight if it’s carrying 25 years of Windows baggage.

http://daringfireball.net/2011/06/windows_8_fundamentally_flawed

I assume the thought process by Microsoft’s management team for Windows 8 must be:

  1. The advantage of Windows is the plethora of Windows based software and applications.
  2. If Windows 8 adjusts its UI on top of previous versions of Windows sourcecode, then Microsoft can enter the tablet market easily with a host of programs that can be incorporated into the Windows 8 universe.

This however, ignores the following problems:

  • Windows 8 is flawed because it is a minor UI overhaul on top of the old Windows.  This means that software / applications for Windows 8 (and Windows 8 itself) is is still fundamentally resource intensive, just like its legacy desktop focused counterparts.  The key problem with this comes from battery life.  Apple is redesigning iOS with battery life, stability, and resource use in mind.  Windows 8 is neglecting that.
  • Additionally, all the bugs and problems of the prior Windows OSs are dragged along.  This disrupts the simplicity attraction associated with with tablet devices.  Bringing along old software will also bring a clumsy user experience carrying along all the frustrations associated with Windows desktop devices (but exacerbated because the interface isn’t customized for tablets).  That is why tablet applications should be designed from the ground up keeping in mind the touch screen interface.

On top of the problems mentioned by Gruber, I have a few concerns of my own.  Namely, this key quote:

Fully touch-optimized browsing, with all the power of hardware-accelerated Internet Explorer 10.

http://www.microsoft.com/presspass/features/2011/jun11/06-01corporatenews.aspx

I think I’m stating a commonly held belief when I say that Internet Explorer is traditionally prone to many security flaws.  The integration of Internet Explorer with Windows magnifies those security concerns.

Now imagine malware exploiting an Internet Explorer flaw.  If you think getting rid of viruses/malware on a PC is a pain, imagine how difficult it will be on a tablet device?  Not a pretty thought.

June 2, 2011
This is apparently the start screen of the new Windows OS.  Who is involved with UI planning at Microsoft?  The color selection, formatting and design is terrible.  It looks like it must be the same people that were involved with the monstrosity known as Zune.

This is apparently the start screen of the new Windows OS.  Who is involved with UI planning at Microsoft?  The color selection, formatting and design is terrible.  It looks like it must be the same people that were involved with the monstrosity known as Zune.

August 16, 2010
Social Media: Breaking down the Major players as of the Fall of 2010

I have some thoughts roaming in my mind tonight about the major players in the social media space that I want to get out of my head.  This is going to cover some thoughts I have about Facebook, Twitter, tumblr, yelp, Foursquare and Zynga.  There’s also going some corresponding thoughts on other blogging services (WordPress, blogspot).

It’s a post that will cover where I think the different major social networking players are at.  I’ll probably write something about smaller social networking platforms (on a relative basis) and social / online gaming later this week separately.

Who are the major platforms and how do consumers use them?

Facebook

  • Used as a method to keep in touch with friends and family
  • Used as a method to share images, videos and thoughts with friends and family (within the context of a private network, intended solely for friends and family)
  • Used as a contact method alternative: Asking someone to connect on facebook as opposed to asking for their phone number (a dating context)
  • Used as an online dating site: From the context of finding people (that you either briefly met or that may know a peer) within your social network and communicating with them
  • Instant Messaging (as a competitor to gchat, AIM and MSN)

Twitter

  • Used to share brief thoughts instantaneously.  Typically these thoughts are of a public nature.  Public not only in the sense that the tweets can usually be read publicly but also public in the sense that they are about current events that other people are also tweeting about.
  • Used to share brief details about life.  This encompasses everything from daily frustrations to minor moments of euphoria (for stance, meeting a member of a band you like on the street).
  • 15 minutes of fame: Andy Warhol would be proud.  This manifests itself in the form of collective thoughts: Many people writing about the same topic.  There is some mob behavior in the sense that if a user sees a topic on twitter’s trending topics, it might motivate them to write about it on twitter.  Why do they do this?  In one sense to express themselves, but I’ve noticed a voyeuristic thrill and excitement people have from seeing the tweets re-tweeted by other users.  Twitter adds to this by having a count of the number of times a post has been re-tweeted (the RT is synonymous with the twitter experience).

tumblr

  • Sharing images: If there is one thing that is strongly associated with tumblr, it’s the appeal of sharing images.  These images are likely to be a more artistic or public in nature.  People are not sharing pictures at party (like they would do on facebook).  These images are usually high quality or unique in nature.  Either that or they are customized or altered images of subjects the user is interested in (this could be anything from a favorite comic book, movie star to an obscure magazine advertisement from a 1940’s magazine).
  • Sharing other digital content (music videos, personal films, collections of favorite movies from youtube)
  • Sharing ideas: This post is a good example. 

Some key additional points of emphasis:

  1. tumblr and twitter are semi-similar in purpose and function.  Both exist to share content to the outside world.  tumblr has more of a visual focus.
  2. tumblr allows for more depth and versatility in sharing.  tumblr allows you to easily share images in conjunction with many long paragraphs.  It also allows you to share videos and songs and your thoughts on your those songs in a clear manner.  tumblr is essentially the first blogging platform that got down user interface correctly just like facebook was the first socialization/dating site that got user interface down correctly.  There is a big lesson here, simple user interface + visually appealing user interface without clutter wins.  I’ve used blogspot, it sucks compared to tumblr, that’s why I don’t use blogspot anymore.  Blogspot’s formatting and design is ugly (no offense).  tumblr is beautiful.  That’s why tumblr is so popular among artists and design professionals, that’s why people whose jobs revolve around aesthetics were the first early adopters of tumblr.  Quick note on WordPress, it’s a little more complicated and better for commercialization (ie making money off your blogging) / advertising purposes.  But for ease of use and social interaction, tumblr is better.  This is for another time, but when it comes to blogging, it’s a two horse race between tumblr and WordPress.  To the other blogging sites, keep watching the clock all you want, but your end is inevitable.  Sorry, it was nice knowing you.
  3. A big reason Myspace  lost to Facebook is because myspace had too much clutter. Kill the clutter, this goes for design, it also goes for life in general.  The other reason was privacy (not going to get into Facebook’s huge mistake about trying to force users to share more info they don’t want to).  However, I will leave with the note that a big reason people turned to Facebook was privacy.  A reason a new player might overtake Facebook could also be privacy.
  4. Facebook is not like tumblr and twitter.  Facebook is used in a closed end fashion (unless you don’t have any friends).  Tumblr and twitter are usually used for the purpose of sharing things publicly.  That’s why facebook’s efforts to turn themselves into a replacement for twitter was a failure.  People want to share only specific things in public, they want to share other things privately.
  5. twitter allows you share brief thoughts on anything to the outside world.  Twitter’s microblogging platform makes it more conducive to sharing because it is limited.  You can’t write too many characters, which is good if you don’t feel like writing a lot or if you don’t have a lot to say.  A huge part of of twitter’s appeal is that it’s users don’t feel stupid for sharing only a few words.  No one would read a blog where a teenage girl writes: “Justin Bieber is soooo cute” over and over again, yet millions of people do just that with twitter / micro-blogging because their simple thoughts feel bigger because other people have those same simple thoughts.  “Justin Bieber is soooo cute” sounds ignorant and it wouldn’t be worth visiting (as a blog).  Relatively un-interesting non-unique thoughts are only interesting from the perspective of getting a sense of what society as a whole is thinking.  twitter is a democratic form of that collective whole.  Unlike watching the news or reading letters to the magazine/paper to have people tell you what people are thinking, twitter is instantaneous.  twitter is essentially a better form of public opinion because it is real time and engaging.  People aren’t telling you what society is thinking, you can look at it for yourself.  You can also engage in it.  You get a chance to participate in the collective hive mind of society with twitter.  In a way, twitter is like a polling service that allows for a little more customization for results.  People participate in twitter to act as part of the collective judgment on different topics mostly.
  6. foursquare and Zynga are not included.  The reason they are not included is because I do not consider them to be major platforms.  To me, they are more tertiary sites.  There is limited interaction on these platforms.  You don’t really interact with other users the way you do on twitter, facebook or tumblr.  It is social in the sense that you can track other users to a certain degree, but you don’t interact.
  7. foursquare's has a tough battle ahead.  Twitter and Facebook can easily move in and add a similar offering in-house it wouldn't hurt their user experience (like when facebook tried to move in on twitter).  There is only benefit for moving into the location based sign-in market.  That's not even including dark-horse competitors like yelp, which has a lot going for it.
  8. Zynga is the myspace of low tech social gaming.  First major player.  However, it has bad UI, lots of clutter, and high dissatisfaction.  The users are there because they had first-mover advantage.  But they will leave when cleaner competitors arrive.  They better shape up quickly.