Tag Archives: critique

Maciej Ceglowski and the First 100 Years

Maciej Ceglowski (founder of Pinboard and overall Polish hero) says “Brevity is for the weak” – and he certainly has no problem producing very long and probably rather unread screeds. But they’re worth reading I think. I read this over the weekend. And because I believe in the power of précis, I’ll save you the trouble of his unedited fire-hose to make a point about design. If I may.

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Ubuntu’s Overlay Scrollbars

It’s not often you get a radical change in the WIMP model, but the mighty Christian Giordano has tried just that with the introduction of “overlay scrollbars” in Ubuntu 11.04.

Unfortunately, I think this is what might be called a “misfire”. The main problem is that in hiding the thumb of the scroll bar by default, you are immediately up against Fitts’s Law because the reduced size of the target will slow its acquisition. That’s an HCI fail – and one that will ensure you’re never going to work for Bruce Tognazzi.

The other problem I have with it, from a methodological point of view, is that Giordano is taking his cue for the design from current, mostly mobile, touch interfaces. These sometimes exhibit similar scroll bars in order to reduce clutter on the screen. Clutter is of course a good problem to solve for in the highly constricted world of mobile and tablet UI. But desktop interfaces are a completely different kettle of fish. For starters, the vast majority of people running Ubuntu will be geeks with high resolution screens with oodles of real-estate available. Indeed, even if they’re not geeks, it’s hard to find anyone with a screen of less than 19″ at 1280×1024 these days. So that’s a UCD fail in not considering your users. The aforementioned Fitts’s Law issue is also aggravated by large screens with high resolutions because of the large distances between pointers and targets.

So it’s a nice try. But no cigar. I’m turning them off, and so should Ubuntu, I’m afraid.

Empty Gesture

Ever since Minority Report brought gesture-based interfaces into the public eye, there are been periodic demonstrations of their evolution in the real world. Here’s where MIT’s John Underkoffler, one of the consultants who were used by the producers of Minority Report, has got to with his g-speak “spatial operating interface” (SOE):

As with most of the demonstrations of gesture-based and multi-touch interfaces, they are high on wow factor but rather low on suggestions for how such a UI would be useful. That’s not necessarily a problem of course – research is research. But it’s notable that whenever such interfaces are displayed, there are a large number of people who seem convinced of their utility.

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Is The Future Really Mystery Meat?

I’ve just been watching this video from Adaptive Path in response to Mozilla Lab’s call for participation. The video seems to be more of a PR play for Adaptive Path though, and not a serious attempt at design direction – which is a bit disappointing, but no matter.

There are a number of things that can be said about the concepts presented, but one thing in particular caught my attention: the appearance – stunningly – of mystery meat navigation. This time it was in the form of radial menus and clouds of anonymous icons that stay anonymous even after they achieve focus.

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