Pixel City

Oh look, another blog about design and technology

Predicting the future

I love old predictions of the future. This article, written in 1992 — the dawn of the PDA era — is remarkably prescient.

Once in the meeting, the executive could take notes on the device, and even order pizza for the group using a combination of custom electronic forms and wireless fax. After updating her schedule electronically and sending notes back to her office computer network, she could check restaurant and movie information, including critics' reviews. Back at the hotel, she could plug in the latest disk-based novel.

References to disks and "wireless fax" are quaint, but they pretty much nailed it. You could change a few words in that paragraph and have a script for a smartphone ad.

File this under “design has always mattered”

“Typographic design and type design was born out of forgery, because what Gutenberg was designing was born of the work of scribes,” says veteran typographer Allan Haley, who for 15 years was the director of words and letters at the Monotype type foundry. Haley says this partly in jest, but he explains that Gutenberg mimicked existing calligraphy used for bibles and other Church material to retain the authoritative nature of the previous text by adopting its form. [emphasis mine]

From https://www.wired.com/story/meet-the-font-detectives-who-ferret-out-fakery/

“Big Text” has gone too far

Seriously, this is bullcrap.

OK, some details: This is Apple’s new “Compare [iPhone] Models” page. This screenshot shows my browser set to 1280px wide, and as tall as it can be, on my 1920×1200px display. 95 pixels at the top of this image are used by the Mac OS* menu bar and Chrome’s title/tab bar, location bar, and bookmarks bar. The bottom 56 pixels are for my Dock. The remaining 1,049 vertical pixels are used for a grand total of SIX lines of text. The fact that it’s scaled down to less than half size here — but still readable — is a good indication that it’s not a particularly efficient use of space.

You know what would help me compare specs? Being able to see lots of info on the screen at once. Maybe I’m not just comparing it all item-by-item. Maybe I want to factor in several things at once. Maybe I’d like to see the weight and the battery life at the same time.

Here is the same info, coming in at 250 pixels tall on my desktop’s screen — just one quarter of the original height. Tell me, is this that hard to read?

iPhone X iPhone 8 Plus iPhone 8
5.8” Super Retina HD display2 5.5” Retina HD display 4.7” Retina HD display
12MP wide-angle and telephoto cameras 12MP wide-angle and telephoto cameras 12MP camera
Face ID Touch ID Touch ID
A11 Bionic chip A11 Bionic chip A11 Bionic chip
Wireless charging (works with Qi chargers3) Wireless charging (works with Qi chargers3) Wireless charging (works with Qi chargers3)

Also: that table shows up in its entirety on the 4" screen of my iPhone 5S. The Apple page? Just three rows of icons — and just two columns.

* Mac OS X 10.8, so yes, it’s Mac OS, not macOS.

Design Basics

There are a million articles online about design. Here are a couple of my favorites to get you started.

Great Design: What is Design? by Joel Spolsky

This contains my absolute favorite summary of what design really is:

Design, for my purposes, is about making tradeoffs. Let’s design a trashcan for a city street corner, shall we? Let me give you some design constraints. It has to be pretty light, because the dustboys, er, sanitation engineers come by and they have to pick it up to dump the trash in the garbage truck. Oh, and it has to be heavy, or it will blow away in the wind or get knocked over... It has to be really big. People throw away a lot of trash throughout the day and at a busy intersection if you don’t make it big enough, it overflows and garbage goes everywhere... Oh, also, it needs to be pretty small, because otherwise it’s going to take up room on the sidewalk... Ok, light, heavy, big, and small. What else. It should be closed on the top, so rubbish doesn’t fly away in the wind. It should be open on the top, so it’s easy to throw things away... Notice a trend? When you’re designing something, you often have a lot of conflicting constraints. In fact, that’s a key part of design: resolving all of these conflicting goals.

Affordances and Metaphors by Joel Spolsky

Starting in about 1992, these interfaces started to disappear, to be replaced with a new invention called tabbed dialogs:

Tabbed dialogs are a great affordance. It’s really obvious from this picture that you have six tabs; it’s really obvious which tab you’re on, and it’s really obvious how to switch to a different tab. When Microsoft first usability tested the tabbed dialog interface, usability went up from about 30% to 100%. Literally every single testee was able to figure out the tabbed dialogs.

The Opposite of Fitts' Law by Jeff Atwood

The interface design must assure that a user can never inadvertently fire the ejector seat when all he wants to do is make some minor adjustment to the program.

I can think of a half-dozen applications I regularly use where the ejector seat button is inexplicably placed right next to the cabin lights button. Let's take a look at our old friend GMail, for example:

Every few days I accidentally click Report Spam when I really meant to click Archive.

Vegas.com has a great logo.

That's all. I just love this. The stylized 'V' is also a downward-pointing arrow, indicating 'right here'. Perfect.

Happy 20th birthday!

$ whois pixelcity.com
Domain Name: PIXELCITY.COM
Registrar: ENOM, INC.
Sponsoring Registrar IANA ID: 48
Whois Server: whois.enom.com
Referral URL: http://www.enom.com
Name Server: H1.CORE-DNS.NET
Name Server: H2.CORE-DNS.NET
Creation Date: 27-jul-1997

Log in, log out, login, logout.

"Log in" and "log out" are verbs. "Use this form to log in. Click this icon to log out."

"Login" and "logout" are adjectives. "Visit the login screen. The logout process is complete."

They can also be nouns. "Login was successful. So was logout."

I'm just posting this because I'm tired of seeing things like "Click here to login" everywhere.

"Sign up" is the same way — you can sign up for a meeting on the signup page.

Random thing: logos

This is just a random thing that popped into my head while eating at a place where SportsCenter was on. If you are making a logo with two words, and the first word starts and ends with the same letter, you can use this trick:

Car Design

Well-known designer Peter Brock recounts designing the Daytona Coupe in the 1960s. (13 minutes)

Apple Ports: they come, they go.

This is a great piece and it's totally the kind of thing I would do. Now I feel bad that I didn't have the idea first. Great job, The Verge.

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