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June 11, 2012 1:58 AM   Subscribe

Can We Please Move Past Silly, Faux-Real UIs?
posted by Evilspork (154 comments total) 28 users marked this as a favorite

 
Ive apparently pretty much agrees with this:
That simplicity in the hardware has not always been matched in the software, which since the rise of iOS - the operating system for iPad, iPhone and iPod touch - has been marked by something known as skeuomorphism, a tendency for new designs to retain ornamental features of the old design. Thus the calendar in Apple's Macs and on iOS has fake leather texture and even fake stitching.

When I mention the fake stitching, Ive offers a wince but it's a gesture of sympathy rather than a suggestion that he dislikes such things. At least, that's how I read it. He refuses to be drawn on the matter, offering a diplomatic reply: "My focus is very much working with the other teams on the product ideas and then developing the hardware and so that's our focus and that's our responsibility. In terms of those elements you're talking about, I'm not really connected to that."

-- Jonathan Ive interview: simplicity isn't simple (from the Telegraph).

I feel sort of sorry for Ive with this; it's rather like they ignored the Human Interface Guidelines entirely for these apps and Ive is in a position where he can't express his distaste too openly. But I have to think that a man who (with Jobs) believed in Bauhaus design principles so much finds the move to twee crap dispiriting.
posted by jaduncan at 2:06 AM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


This clearly follows Dieter Rams’s “as little design as possible” principle professed by Dieter Rams.
Was this written by an ESL design student?
posted by jsturgill at 2:15 AM on June 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


The world's richest, most successful tech company is doing it all wrong! Everybody there should stop, listen to me and do what I say!

Skeuomorph! Did you hear me? I SAID SKEUOMORPH!

SKEUOMOOOOOOOOO
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:18 AM on June 11, 2012 [22 favorites]


The world's richest, most successful tech company is doing it all wrong! Everybody there should stop, listen to me and do what I say!

I was hoping to avoid this focusing on Apple and instead talk about UI trends in general.
posted by Evilspork at 2:24 AM on June 11, 2012 [20 favorites]


This might sound odd, but GNOME is pretty much the best environment for UI consistency right now. It turns out that having a standardised toolkit combined with developers without the desire to do a lot of customisation has really nice outcomes.
posted by jaduncan at 2:33 AM on June 11, 2012 [14 favorites]


I don't know about the general UI experience, but yeah: the faux-book approach makes me want to puke. I don't like losing a chunk of my screen to simulated page-edges; I don't want to see cute animations of turning pages; I don't want something that has the disadvantages of a book and none of the advantages of a sophisticated electronic device.
posted by Joe in Australia at 2:42 AM on June 11, 2012 [25 favorites]


Metro’s colored tiles, distinctively refined icons, and black backgrounds create a distinctive visual character that is much more aesthetically vibrant. While this is not quite ”less is more,” it’s certainly nothing to be scoffed at.

Does this mean that Microsoft now actually has cred with design-geeks?

And I do have Windows 8 installed on a test machine just for fun, and that OS strangely does feel more like the future than anything that's going on on my mac.
posted by tempythethird at 2:44 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


(Xbox and the forthcoming Windows are successful attempts to create interfaces that leverage the unique characteristics of screens and their graphic capabilities)

My xbox interface now consists of having, large and in the center, an ad playing that I have to clumsily dpad through/around to get what I want. Oh yeah, if you pass over an ad it can start playing a little movie and blaring out sound.

Metro is ugly and shit. The xbox interface is not a successful anything.
posted by fleacircus at 2:45 AM on June 11, 2012 [14 favorites]


You can only make so much progress during a set amount of time. Of course Jonathan Ive knows it's crap. But getting rid of things like this takes time. You wouldn't believe how long it took the dutch language to get rid of "draai een nummer" - which literally translates as something like rotate a number, which was a correct description for old rotary dial phones, long, long, LONG after all available phones had numeric pads.
posted by DreamerFi at 2:46 AM on June 11, 2012


You wouldn't believe how long it took the dutch language to get rid of "draai een nummer" - which literally translates as something like rotate a number

Or "dial a number", which, unless I've been living outside an English-speaking country for way too long, still has no convincing alternative: "punch a number" perhaps?
posted by Omission at 2:54 AM on June 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Or "dial a number", which, unless I've been living outside an English-speaking country for way too long, still has no convincing alternative: "punch a number" perhaps?

"Phone this number", "call this number", or more likely "call Bob".
posted by jaduncan at 2:56 AM on June 11, 2012


Fair enough. As you were.
posted by Omission at 2:57 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


But getting rid of things like this takes time.

In the case of iCal, though, the faux leather look was only recently added (as part if Lion, I believe). Previous versions had the standard OS X flat grey look.
posted by good in a vacuum at 3:03 AM on June 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I detest how Lion's Address book requires "flipping pages" when changing categories vs. viewing cards, moronic.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:05 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metro’s colored tiles, distinctively refined icons, and black backgrounds create a distinctive visual character that is much more aesthetically vibrant.

Oh yeah, totally!
posted by Jimbob at 3:18 AM on June 11, 2012 [40 favorites]


I've should experiment with xmonad one day.
posted by jeffburdges at 3:34 AM on June 11, 2012


I thought we were finally getting somewhere when they retired brushed metal, but 10.7's faux-real UIs was a whole leap into a much deeper level of hideousness.

Bring back Platinum.
posted by fightorflight at 3:35 AM on June 11, 2012


"Phone this number", "call this number", or more likely "call Bob".

Even the word "call" sort of hearkens back to yelling at someone, doesn't it? It's just as skeumorphic as the word "dial", just older.
posted by oulipian at 3:39 AM on June 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Even the word "call" sort of hearkens back to yelling at someone, doesn't it? It's just as skeumorphic as the word "dial", just older.

In fairness, the voice over extended distance is the only element that never really changes. Dial refers to a very specific technology.
posted by jaduncan at 3:40 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm relatively new to Apple products, having never even held one in my hand until last year. And while the technology of my iPad is wonderful and in most respects very well thought-out, certain things started to jump out at me, design-wise, the most prominent of which is the weird grey brushed metal/fabric texture that gets used in various places. It's like someone at Apple was looking through a CD of texture bitmaps that they bought in the late 90s and thought 'Aha! A slick-looking brushed-metal/fabric sort of texture! That'll fit perfectly with the iPad aesthetic'. Also, the bar thing at the bottom of the screen (whose utility seems marginal anyway) - why the awful Web-2.0 reflections and the faux-3D 'shelf'? People were complaining that that stuff was getting old nearly a decade ago, at least in web design.
posted by pipeski at 3:43 AM on June 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


This might sound odd, but GNOME is pretty much the best environment for UI consistency right now. It turns out that having a standardised toolkit combined with developers without the desire to do a lot of customisation has really nice outcomes.

Sadly, our beloved and functional Gnome is currently lying on the floor in a pool of blood, gasping its life out, riddled with bullets that came from all directions.
posted by Slithy_Tove at 3:47 AM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


The world's richest, most successful tech company is doing it all wrong! Everybody there should stop, listen to me and do what I say!

Can't be said enough
posted by DU at 3:58 AM on June 11, 2012 [13 favorites]


While its true that someone born after 1990 might not appreciate the irony of using a mock rotary dial to make a call on their iphone, I think there will always be people who are turned on by retro devices. Look at the whole steampunk movement.
posted by crunchland at 3:58 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


"Phone this number", "call this number", or more likely "call Bob".

Actually "call" is almost accurate if you consider voice dialing. (thank you, Siri!)
posted by HuronBob at 4:04 AM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I was hoping to avoid this focusing on Apple and instead talk about UI trends in general.

Probably shouldn't have used an article which is specifically a critique of Apple and which lauds Metro as the alternative, then. Bad springboard for the kind of discussion you we hoping for.
posted by hippybear at 4:04 AM on June 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


The first thing that I thought of when I saw a screenshot of the iBooks bookshelf interface was the bookshelves in Microsoft Bob.
posted by octothorpe at 4:06 AM on June 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


My xbox interface now consists of having, large and in the center, an ad playing that I have to clumsily dpad through/around to get what I want. Oh yeah, if you pass over an ad it can start playing a little movie and blaring out sound.

The new Xbox interface is what convinced me to finally track down the option to boot directly to disc.

I can kind of see what the article's getting at when it describes Xbox as "simply [a] contemporary expression of the Bauhaus (modernist) philosophy", though. The philosophy of Bauhaus was in part for the form of a thing to reflect its underlying functional structure, and the new interface reflects Microsoft's current approach to the Xbox perfectly: the game-related icons form a little frame around the giant animated ads in the middle of the screen, most of the dashboard is full of social/app/media crud that has nothing to do with the reason most people own an Xbox, and there is a whole top-level menu entry devoted to bing.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 4:10 AM on June 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm torn on this one. I remember when CD-Rom was happening in the 90s and you often loaded one up to find that the menu was a realistic looking pinboard with little notes and photos stuck on it.

I hated it then, but one of the reasons was because my Mac's grinding hard drive and CPU just couldn't keep up, there were always lags, and therefore these real world menu metaphors were an experience that looked like a pinboard but was actually far far worse than using a real one.

Now with the super fast iPad etc, these faux-real interfaces have no problem keeping up, and I don't find them annoying. It's Metro that does indeed look old-fashioned, now that we have an abundance of processing power and we might as well do something with it.
posted by colie at 4:11 AM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Bad springboard for the kind of discussion you we hoping for.

It's curious how other hobbyists can love their favored objects and still recognize there are some total shit aspects to them (and even laugh about it), but that doesn't seem to extend to computers.

As a decent designer but mediocre illustrator, I used to love making stuff like pseudo-diary pages to house an online diary (for example). It's the lowest common denominator approach, is totally mindless to produce, and very likely to be approved by bored, conservative product managers.
posted by maxwelton at 4:14 AM on June 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


The first thing that I thought of when I saw a screenshot of the iBooks bookshelf interface was the bookshelves in Microsoft Bob.

First thing I think of is Delicious Library, the well-liked Mac application they almost certainly directly copied.
posted by jaduncan at 4:16 AM on June 11, 2012 [9 favorites]


Apple definitely went off-the-rails visually with Lion. Just the login screen, with that horrid linen background and the portholes for user accounts, was enough of a hint that I wouldn't like what's inside.
posted by Thorzdad at 4:17 AM on June 11, 2012


Skeumorphism is the new "GUI vs. CLI" nerd debate. While I've turned off the "leather look" to iCalendar, it has not vastly increased my productivity.

It's entirely an aesthetic choice at this point, and likely has been since the late '80s, after everyone got used to the original Mac's GUI. Remember, unless you can detect voltage levels with your mind or something, everything on a computer is a metaphor for something else, and I mean everything, from assembly language on up to the play button on a Youtube video.

Apple generally puts a lot of thought and effort into their user interface metaphors. The cutesy touches, the wastebasket with crumpled paper in it, the calendar that looks like a desk blotter, the contact manager that looks like a notebook, are for user entertainment, and to be honest, most users are suitably entertained. An entertained user is an engaged user, which means they'll be more likely to explore the system and utilize more of its features.

This drives power-users right up the wall, as they believe the cutesy interface is "hiding" the power of the computer from them or some such bullshit. Gurus just turn it off, or change it into something that amuses them.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:17 AM on June 11, 2012 [29 favorites]


Y'all know that there is a full-screen option in iBooks, right?
posted by Rock Steady at 4:24 AM on June 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'd agree that bookshelf interfaces are moronic, titles naturally flows sideways. It's dumb that finder icons place the text underneath by default too, again filenames belong beside the icon, not below.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:30 AM on June 11, 2012


I don't mind how Apple does skeumorphism, though by adhering to "real" designs they often miss out on a chance to innovate. I'm a total app design junkie, and when it comes to basic apps, the really cool ones are asking what a computer does that paper cannot.

One prime example for me is the glorious Agenda calendar, which offers a number of views that mix scrolling with screen size-based organization. So you can see today's events, or scroll through a non-stop list of days, or see four months clustered together with little dots suggesting what things are happening when. On the iPad Agenda uses a seven-day view that's so useful it actually makes me use a calendar.

The other interesting non-skeu category is calculator apps. Get rid of the fake calculator interface and you can do things like real-time variable calculations and even word-based crunches. I had Soulver set up with a function like "I worked XX hours this week and made ( ) an hour" and every week I'd type in the hours and immediately get my wages. You can do the same thing for metric conversions, tip calculators, whatever. I love it. Of course, there are also specialized calculator apps for doing those specific things like ConvertBot. So while skeumorphic design doesn't bother me, it does often limit an app's potential.
posted by Rory Marinich at 4:33 AM on June 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


I detest how Lion's Address book requires "flipping pages" when changing categories vs. viewing cards, moronic.

I absolutely despise the Address Book in 10.7. Not only is the analogue wholly unnecessary, the application itself is not as usable as it was in previous versions. The actually removed functionality in favor of visual cruft.

I console myself with the thought that at least they finally did away with the brushed metal Finder & iTunes, so perhaps reason will prevail in 10.8.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:39 AM on June 11, 2012


All this new tech made to look like old tech is for us old farts forced to use the new tech. I still dial my phone, even though I do it by pushing buttons. My dad, at age ninety, hated push button phones. He kept wanting to spin something.

And a button, after all, at one time was something to keep your fly closed.
posted by tommyD at 4:45 AM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I detest how Lion's Address book requires "flipping pages" when changing categories vs. viewing cards, moronic.

I absolutely despise the Address Book in 10.7. Not only is the analogue wholly unnecessary, the application itself is not as usable as it was in previous versions. The actually removed functionality in favor of visual cruft.

I console myself with the thought that at least they finally did away with the brushed metal Finder & iTunes, so perhaps reason will prevail in 10.8.


How dare you criticize the world's richest and most successful tech company?
posted by kmz at 4:47 AM on June 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


I'm going to predict that the new meme when discussing Apple is going to be "If Steve was still alive, this would never have happened"
posted by Mcable at 4:53 AM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


oulipian: ""Phone this number", "call this number", or more likely "call Bob".

Even the word "call" sort of hearkens back to yelling at someone, doesn't it? It's just as skeumorphic as the word "dial", just older
"

I always assumed that "calling someone" was a derivation of "calling on someone", meaning to pay a visit.
posted by barnacles at 4:56 AM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I'm going to predict that the new meme when discussing Apple is going to be "If Steve was still alive, this would never have happened"

You know, if Steve was still alive the meme being "If Steve was still alive, this would never have happened" would never have happened.
posted by jaduncan at 4:57 AM on June 11, 2012 [25 favorites]


I realize how stupid this sounds, but I blame capitalism. My immediate thought upon reading the article and seeing the declaration that our cultural philosophies haven't changed in 20 years was "well, no, new cultural philosophies probably wouldn't sell."
posted by koucha at 5:02 AM on June 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


The world's richest, most successful tech company is doing it all wrong! Everybody there should stop, listen to me and do what I say!


Yeah, too right. I would also same of any criticism of the worlds largest bank, defence contractor, petrochemical company, pharmaceutical company, media company. No fair I say.
posted by the noob at 5:03 AM on June 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


The world's richest, most successful tech company is doing it all wrong! Everybody there should stop, listen to me and do what I say!

I guess it's only OK to challenge the likes of ExxonMobil and General Motors?
posted by punkfloyd at 5:04 AM on June 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I'm pretty much with Slap*Happy, skeuomorphic design elements may frequently seem ludicrous, but let's not forget that they're primarily ludic. People like to play with their devices. Sometimes this is useful, for example I find pretending that my notebook apps are actual scrapbooks useful for stimulating creative thought. Currently, most of the time ludic design is irrelevant to function, but it doesn't stop people liking it.

The design challenge here isn't to produce to reflect an underlying philosophical purity, but to create means of play that help and encourage users to achieve the practical results they want. Skeuomorphism works in some contexts, but there must be myriad other means of implementing a principle of play to actually get stuff done.
posted by howfar at 5:08 AM on June 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


The article's best point is about the Kindle; it doesn't pretend to be a book, it's designed to leverage the hardware to re-create the experience of reading a book as closely as possible. And since we don't view real books through a glass screen with switch controls, that meant it had to be something different than a real book for the screen and switches to let us do what paper and pages do on a real book.
posted by localroger at 5:20 AM on June 11, 2012 [10 favorites]


“$45 for dinner + 15% tip” is certainly a lot more intuitive than figuring out the right series of buttons to press to calculate: ((45/100)*15)+45

Even if one can't calculate 15% of 45, surely one just type 45 * .15 and then add that to 45 in one's head, right? Or use a calculator for the whole thing, but I feel like most people should not be totally flummoxed by the concept of percentages.

Also, I use a Mac and don't normally see the most egregious examples of this phenomenon. I don't use Contacts or Calendar or Calculator, since all this stuff is online. Maybe they have some kind of system for determining which apps get this treatment.

Console, of course, would be much better if it actually did show log data in orange on black as it is styled on the Console icon.
posted by snofoam at 5:28 AM on June 11, 2012


“$45 for dinner + 15% tip” is certainly a lot more intuitive than figuring out the right series of buttons to press to calculate: ((45/100)*15)+45

45 * 1.15?
posted by nobody at 5:33 AM on June 11, 2012 [44 favorites]


The floppy disc icon seems like it will survive as long as we're "manually" saving data, though it's time it the physical world was brief.
posted by bendybendy at 5:35 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


And I do have Windows 8 installed on a test machine just for fun, and that OS strangely does feel more like the future than anything that's going on on my mac.

Lion is definatly going in the direction of converging with the iPad, but is far more timid and uninaginative about it than Win8. Say what you like about MS, they are going all in with this stuff.

Oh yes, and death to faux leather bollocks. They'll be bringing back the Mai's Power Tools UI wankery next.
posted by Artw at 5:38 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Kai's was the absolute worst. I installed it because it did things I wanted to do to my files, then I absolutely never used it even once because it was just so awful to actually use. What a waste of money.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:57 AM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Even if one can't calculate 15% of 45, surely one just type 45 * .15 and then add that to 45 in one's head, right? Or use a calculator for the whole thing, but I feel like most people should not be totally flummoxed by the concept of percentages.

Except, people are flummoxed by percentages. And, honestly, in the situation the tool is intended for use in (i.e. settling the dinner bill and getting out of there) "quick-n-simple" wins over "Make them do a bit of math, no matter how tiny" every time.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:58 AM on June 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Simple technique to get rid of the leather in iCal (no functional improvements, just changes the look)
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:02 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yeah, if you're already comfortable with percentages, there's a good chance you could do the calculations in your head anyway. At least if you're not a stickler for exact tipping percentages. I generally just go by "somewhere between 20% and 30%" and that's pretty easy to calculate.
posted by kmz at 6:03 AM on June 11, 2012


Pure anecdote here, but... What brought me around to the virtues of imitative design was watching my mother buy an e-reader. My mom is maybe your archetypal tech consumer: a woman between 50 and 70, who likes what computers do but is still a little wigged out by the technology (tech-savvy men ages 25-40 make a lot of online noise, but advertiser studies have shown that appealing to late middle aged women with light-to-moderate tech experience is where the money's at). She wanted an e-reader, and was deciding between an iPad and a Kindle. She chose the iPad, despite it being way more expensive, and why? Because she was totally alienated by the blackout when turning pages on a Kindle, and liked the page-flipping animation on the iPad.

Engineers and design purists hate that shit---why waste processor cycles on something completely phony? But users like it! And users who aren't super-comfortable with technology love it---they love to feel like there's been an attempt made to bridge the gap between the technology they grew up with an what they're using now.

Decoration that's purely decorative, like the late, unlamented Kai applications, appeals to no one. But decoration that lets users create a mental connection with things they know and love is incredibly appealing, though not necessarily to the people posting on message boards. Personally, I'm more enraged than is probably sensible by the fake leather in Apple's calendar, but a lot more consumers find it makes them comfortable, so I guess I'll just have to suck it up. Oh, if only I could still ResEdit!
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 6:05 AM on June 11, 2012 [21 favorites]


Who brings their laptop to dinner? If you're on your phone, it's faster to type 45*1.15 (especially if you're using the derided calculator interface) than to enter "15% tip on $45".
posted by Pyry at 6:06 AM on June 11, 2012


Is this where I complain about the new iCal interface? Because, my god.
posted by odinsdream at 6:09 AM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


The floppy disc icon seems like it will survive as long as we're "manually" saving data, though it's time it the physical world was brief.

I wouldn't call 30 years brief for computer tech. Floppies lasted longer than core memory did.
posted by localroger at 6:10 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


People find it hard to add $4.50 + $2.25 in their heads?

*consults bone abacus*
posted by Wolof at 6:17 AM on June 11, 2012


Oh, if only I could still ResEdit!

It's too bad that the Mac theming community is utterly stone dead. There were people still doing cool stuff on up through about OS 10.3, but Apple has made it progressively harder to change resources system-wide, and every point release has broken theming.

At least we'll always have icons, right? Right? (Curses 10.7's grey sidebar icons)
posted by Devils Rancher at 6:17 AM on June 11, 2012


To calculate a tip in your head. (using $45 as an example): Move the decimal point to get 10% - $4.50, then add half of that for 15% $4.50 + $2.25= $6.75, or double it for 20% - $9.00
Rounding up to the nearest dollar will never cause you to overestimate by more than a dollar, and since I like cash tips (even when paying the bill with a credit card), I round to the nearest dollar total anyway.
posted by 445supermag at 6:20 AM on June 11, 2012 [10 favorites]


Interesting (semi-related) tidbit from the article:
" Like the 27 film sequels that made 2011 the record year for such things..."

27 film sequels in one year? That's...yuck.
posted by ShutterBun at 6:22 AM on June 11, 2012


I just came to say 45 * 1.15 but nobody beat me to it. After I hit that example I thought the rest would be beanplating, and then it started to sound like the author thought that Metro was good ...
posted by achrise at 6:32 AM on June 11, 2012


Wait, what?

Rather than entering equations using a grid of buttons, calculations are done by entering phrases: “$45 for dinner + 15% tip” is certainly a lot more intuitive than figuring out the right series of buttons to press to calculate: ((45/100)*15)+45.

Is that how he calculates 15% tip? Somebody needs to teach him how to add percents. 45*1.15... DONE!
posted by symbioid at 6:33 AM on June 11, 2012


achrise: "I just came to say 45 * 1.15 but nobody beat me to it. After I hit that example I thought the rest would be beanplating, and then it started to sound like the author thought that Metro was good ..."

DAMN YOU!
posted by symbioid at 6:33 AM on June 11, 2012


At least we'll always have icons, right? Right? (Curses 10.7's grey sidebar icons)
There are ways to correct this...
posted by Thorzdad at 6:40 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Lion is definatly going in the direction of converging with the iPad, but is far more timid and uninaginative about it than Win8. Say what you like about MS, they are going all in with this stuff.

Apple may standardize some UI stuff across their platforms, but they consider tablets and computers very different beasts. Microsoft is trying to elide the difference. I think Apple has it right—there's a reason tablets didn't take off 'til the iPad—but I'm curious to see where MS ends up.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:44 AM on June 11, 2012


jaduncan: "This might sound odd, but GNOME is pretty much the best environment for UI consistency right now. It turns out that having a standardised toolkit combined with developers without the desire to do a lot of customisation has really nice outcomes."

I don't disagree, but FWIW: it's a helluva lot easier to have that latter part when you have a smaller marketshare not driven by a thousand different marketing departments, each attempting to push their distinctive brand "look".
posted by IAmBroom at 6:45 AM on June 11, 2012


Hmm, I always just doubled the tax line since the restaurant tax. So here in the Twin Cities it floats somewhere around 7-8% so doubling and then rounding up always gets me at least 15%. When I travel even if the restaurant tax is 10% it is usually in line with the circumstances and cost of the situation.
posted by jadepearl at 6:48 AM on June 11, 2012


Drat, I type badly: "I just doubled the tax line since the restaurant tax is usually 7-10%"
posted by jadepearl at 6:49 AM on June 11, 2012


no need to tip in Oregon
posted by idiopath at 6:59 AM on June 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Floppies lasted longer

Floppies the technology lasted a long time, but the UI metaphor for saving data to a 3.5 inch floppy was only relevant to the user from the time they first encountered a GUI (late 80s, probably) to the time that hard drives became the dominant form of storage (mid-90s or so).

Son, when you hit a floppy icon to write to the "C drive", you must first understand that there were "A" and "B" drives at one time.

On a similar note, the way OSX has consistently shown a bare hard disk icon for the primary drive is weirdly literal given the way the rest of the OS abstracts things. For consistency, they could have made the dock resemble sticks of RAM.
posted by bendybendy at 6:59 AM on June 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


In restaurants I just use a credit/debit machine thingy that asks what tip I want to add in either: dollar amount ($) or percent (%).

In stores I just dig out all my cash and put it on the counter. They count it out and usually give me something back.
posted by mazola at 7:01 AM on June 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


The car of the future will only "run" while the driver runs, in order to duplicate a more intuitive experience. At retaurants you will have to chase your tacos around and throw things at them before you get to eat. And chairs will be designed to emulate logs and boulders.
posted by idiopath at 7:04 AM on June 11, 2012 [12 favorites]


At retaurants you will have to chase your tacos around and throw things at them before you get to eat. And chairs will be designed to emulate logs and boulders.

iEat
posted by xorry at 7:08 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


People find it hard to add $4.50 + $2.25 in their heads? *consults bone abacus*

I just tried and somehow managed to set my kitchen on fire. Before I perish in the blaze though, is that a real bone abacus or a bone abacus UI for a calculator app?
posted by Panjandrum at 7:11 AM on June 11, 2012 [8 favorites]


Sadly, our beloved and functional Gnome is currently lying on the floor in a pool of blood, gasping its life out, riddled with bullets that came from all directions.

Yeah, this is what MATE is for.

For my part, I'm a little miffed that Linux Mint chose to drop support for LXDE - by far the fastest, stablest DE I've ever used - in favor of MATE, Cinnamon (Mint's own pet project DE, based on Gnome 3 and other crap, and not at all stable) and friggin' XFCE. Sure, XFCE is fast and all but it's not real sturdy. Why was LXDE dropped? Because they conducted an online poll and XFCE came out on top. On the one hand, I applaud the Mint developers for listening to the community and all that flowery libre jive, but on the other hand the elitist DE nerd in me is railing against the tyranny of the mob.

So now I'm downloading the MATE and Cinnamon versions of Mint 13 to put onto Live USBs and see which one sucks less. Pah.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:15 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


I have to agree with the author that those UIs that try to emulate a real-life calendar or book are profoundly annoying but it mystifies me that he would actually think that Microsoft's Metro is a decent UI.

As far as OS-level UI's for launching apps go, the Windows 7 Start Menu is the greatest thing since Quicksilver for OSX.
posted by Gev at 7:18 AM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Rather than entering equations using a grid of buttons, calculations are done by entering phrases: “$45 for dinner + 15% tip” is certainly a lot more intuitive than figuring out the right series of buttons to press to calculate: ((45/100)*15)+45.

No wonder nobody understands percentages if this is how they think of them.

And if simplifying the calculator is the goal, why would someone have to tell the calculator why they want to know the percentage? Wouldn't "$45 + 15%" be sufficient?

As for UI improvements, I don't mind keeping the "real life" metaphor if it is convenient or familiar. What I do mind is ADDING metaphors that have already been shed, especially if they are meaningless. Like the "spine curve" they put into the ereader software to emulate a book that won't lie flat. They have gone and wasted time to put in something that is annoying in real life and has no benefit. It would be like forgoing passwords in favor of a system where you have to take a picture of a real key.
posted by gjc at 7:28 AM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


from the time they first encountered a GUI (late 80s, probably) to the time that hard drives became the dominant form of storage (mid-90s or so).

In the 1970's floppy disks were the only form of random access mass storage most people had ever seen, and while GUI's weren't there to iconize them there's a reason that when the GUI came along the floppy disk became the symbol for "commit to mass storage."

And long after hard disks were cheap, floppies were still familiar as the most common standard for portable data storage; it was really only when support for USB mass storage was rolled into Windows with XP and USB flash drives got cheap enough that computers started shipping without floppy drives and you started to have users who had never seen a floppy.

So for 30 years if you wanted a simple picture that says "commit to permanent storage" the floppy was pretty much your default. After all, unless you've taken one apart or seen pictures of the inside, what does a hard disk "look like?" Or flash? Whereas everyone who used a computer from 1977 through 2005 knew what a floppy disk looked like and what it was for.
posted by localroger at 7:47 AM on June 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


It's the lowest common denominator approach, is totally mindless to produce

You say this like it's a bad thing. "Lowest common denominator" means "least barrier to entry." The old person or non-techie who's never seen the device before still knows at least approximately what they're trying to accomplish. What works for 22 year old techies isn't always going to work for their Mom. What a 26 year old designer thinks is hot their Grandfather may not like at all. They need to not simply design for themselves. Elegance in design and UI's is nice, but ease of function beats it out in the marketplace.

And "totally mindless to produce" says to me "lower development cost."

Why exactly should a company pay more to produce a product that fewer of its customers can easily use? Because it's prettier?
posted by tyllwin at 7:48 AM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Like the "spine curve" they put into the ereader software to emulate a book that won't lie flat.

Likewise, I am half expecting Apple's new maps app to include fold lines and worn holes where the corners are. They could even make it so that the fold lines become more prominent the more you use the app! With a complex touch gesture that simulates folding up a large paper map, used to exit the app! How familiar and comforting!
posted by oulipian at 8:01 AM on June 11, 2012 [18 favorites]


Someone should come up with an animated paperclip to help me with word processing, or a dog to help me find files. Those would be helpful.
posted by MtDewd at 8:10 AM on June 11, 2012 [17 favorites]


The problem with the dog and the paper clip is that they're neither slick and cool, NOR intuitively familiar based on past experience.

Of course, now I've been trained that if an animated paperclip jumped up and tried to talk to me in real life, I'd automatically try to kill it. Hope the aliens pick another contact method.
posted by tyllwin at 8:17 AM on June 11, 2012 [5 favorites]


For my part, I'm a little miffed that Linux Mint chose to drop support for LXDE

There's a simple solution for this:
sudo apt-get install lxde

I never understand rage for DE choices by major distros; you're always just a few keystrokes from being where you want to be.
posted by kaibutsu at 8:25 AM on June 11, 2012


Like the "spine curve" they put into the ereader software to emulate a book that won't lie flat.

What? What?! This exists?! It makes me so angry this exists! RARG! [Turns in to The Hulk].
posted by fuq at 8:26 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Engineers and design purists hate that shit---why waste processor cycles on something completely phony? But users like it! And users who aren't super-comfortable with technology love it---they love to feel like there's been an attempt made to bridge the gap between the technology they grew up with an what they're using now.


Ok... But why not both? Why can I not (as an "expert", "engineering" user) turn off those features in iBooks?

This is "software" after all. That is what makes us bleat with noise. The wonderful, shiny "UX" should not be forced on people who don't want it. Let me toggle it, let me choose - after all, it will be me who is using the application for hundreds, or thousands of hours...
posted by jkaczor at 8:31 AM on June 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Metro is the first time I've looked at an MS operating system and thought, "fuck, that's cool". I agree with the general thrust of the negative consequences of Apple's recent "innovations" in UI design, and it's no surprise to me that Jonny Ive is making it as clear as he can that it's nothing to do with him. I'm currently using a Macbook Air and Lion, and there's a 95% chance my next purchase will still be Apple and Mountain Lion, but I'm not locked in forever. I jumped from PCs to Macs after OS X came around because it was clear how much BETTER it was than Windows 95, but there's no law says that that state of affairs will hold forever.
posted by modernnomad at 8:34 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


At retaurants you will have to chase your tacos around and throw things at them before you get to eat. And chairs will be designed to emulate logs and boulders.

That sounds AWESOME!
posted by ThatFuzzyBastard at 8:35 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Even if there weren't an enormous group of users who fall somewhere between heartless design fascists and hopelessly ignorant grandparents -- including many casual users of all ages and backgrounds capable of understanding, using and benefiting from powerful, thoughtful design -- it would still be tiresome the way every criticism of Apple's software gets brushed aside as if only the HIGs were real people who deserved to be considered.
posted by two or three cars parked under the stars at 8:58 AM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I don't want something that has the disadvantages of a book and none of the advantages of a sophisticated electronic device.

I want something I can spill coffee on, read in the bath, drop on the floor repeatedly, use to level the bed in the guest bedroom, lend to somebody and not really care that much if I get it back, as long as they value it and maybe pass it on to somebody else who will do the same.

But seriously great IT companies of the world -- less focus on aesthetic indulgences please and more on something vitally f***ing important like simple waterproofing of keyboards.

The world's richest, most successful tech company is doing it all wrong! Everybody there should stop, listen to me and do what I say!

Not unlike the world's richest, most powerful country. They shouldn't listen to everyone but they should listen to someone.
posted by philip-random at 9:02 AM on June 11, 2012


I'm a non-designer but find the topic interesting, so please excuse me if there's an actual name and philosophy behind what I'm about to talk about ...

Reading this made me think of something regarding UI that I like to call 'interface stamina.' That is, how long can I interact with something before I become balls-out sick of seeing and interacting with it?

Two examples: in the PS2 game Kingdom Hearts, a game that I played to 95% completion, there was a little dancing sprite that guides player through menus. I never tired of navigating menus or seeing that little guy shimmer when I selected something.

I have used iTunes for as long as I can remember and I hate just about everything about it. I dread looking for music. I dread creating new playlists. God forbid if I actually have to navigate the mess that is the store. Everything about it wore out is welcome ages ago.

What I mean to say is, Apple is really good at designing UI that's 'entertaining' and delightful up front, but does not have endurance beyond a certain point. I'm not going to pretend to know enough about UI to be to explain why this is, exactly, but this article skirted around it in a way that made me think it has something to do with organizing in a skeuomorphic way.

Does that make sense? I wish I had the vocabulary to talk about this more intelligently ...
posted by Tevin at 9:07 AM on June 11, 2012 [14 favorites]


Two related tumblrs:

http://skeuit.tumblr.com/


http://yourshitlookslikeeveryoneelses.tumblr.com/
posted by kurumi at 9:15 AM on June 11, 2012 [9 favorites]


I'm all for UI experimentation, but this latest crop of interfaces (Metro, Unity, some of Lion) feels really unambitious, like they're just dumbing down existing interfaces for touchscreens. Where are my search-based filesystems, or software agents that try to predict what I'll need next? Where are my smart window managers that try to automatically optimize my window arrangements? Where are my visual programming tools to let me automate GUI interactions? Where are my 3d VR-goggles, augmented-reality, kinect-controlled interfaces? Instead, I get a bunch of big buttons that are easier to hit with a finger, and an abandonment of multitasking in favor of huge information sparse fullscreen applications.
posted by Pyry at 9:20 AM on June 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


http://yourshitlookslikeeveryoneelses.tumblr.com/

I'm not super impressed by what they're posting, but I LOVE their unique and distinctive tumblr theme.
posted by snofoam at 9:38 AM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


I never understand rage for DE choices by major distros; you're always just a few keystrokes from being where you want to be.

There's always the persistent fear of abandonware - software that's no longer actively developed, or that keeps pace with the other free software alternatives out there. If killerapp 0.1.1 is no longer the default of UberPop Distro, the concern is that all of the cool kids working on killerapp 0.1.1 will switch their energies to awesomeapp 0.0.1.

Plus, this causes distro shifts - Mint is essentially an Ubuntu user revolt. Pick the wrong set of default software, and your whole distro could go up in flame and fury. Integrating features into the OS is non-trivial. I actually purchased a boxed copy of Red Hat for Sun way back innaday - and of all of the awesome features present in the DE, maybe half of them worked. This horseshit continues to this day - without the co-operation of the distro devs and the userbase, feature-completeness of any given DE wanes.
posted by Slap*Happy at 9:46 AM on June 11, 2012


> While its true that someone born after 1990 might not appreciate the irony of using a mock
> rotary dial to make a call on their iphone, I think there will always be people who are
> turned on by retro devices.

My job makes me carry a blackberry. It displays my MS Exchange mail, which includes internal email as well as internet mail. Since I work for a hospital, lots of that internal mail contains HIPAA-protected patient health information. So there's an 8 character must-include-letters-and-numbers password. Since I might log in and then lose the phone out in the world somewhere, the device logs me out automatically and often. Lastly, the keypad keys on a blackberry stick out where they can easily be pressed by accident, and it has no front-of-case hard cover as it ought to.

Now, IT is only a semi-whitecollar job. I do quite a lot of squeezing into and out of narrow switch closets, and a further lot of rolling around under people's desks having meet'n'greet time with the dust bunnies while I'm trying to read the port ID faintly scratched onto that wall port I can't... quite... get... a... torch... on.... When I crawl out from wherever I was, my phone has usually interpreted my rolling around on top of it as attempted input. "Do you want to put the L key on speed dial?" What it says most often is "Incorrect password!" but after this has happened three times it starts saying "Type "Blackberry" to continue."

Well, no. I'd cheerfully key in an even more complex phrase than that, such as "Blackberry sucks rocks" or "Fuck Blackberry, eh?" But just "Blackberry" unadorned, nope. The last time this happened I just kept entering kitten on the keys until it warned me it was about to wipe all its data, and then did so. It's a dumb no-features phone now.

An expensive one, but I ain't paying for it, and... lovely, lovely no-features. It's black, it's plastic, and it places and receives calls. Period. If there were an aftermarket rotary-dial attachment I could mount in place of the keyboard and display I'd have one in a heartbeat.
posted by jfuller at 9:48 AM on June 11, 2012 [6 favorites]


no need to tip in Oregon

Can you explain this please?

Oregon has a relatively high minimum wage ($8.89/hr) and does not allow tip income to be figured into wages so servers earn minimum wage for the hours worked... But are you really saying that a tip should NOT bE given to someone providing a quality table service in OR simply because they might be being paid something closer to, yet not actually equal to, a living wage on an hourly basis by their employer?

The crime nationwide is that tipping is not a gratuity given for good service, but is in fact required so a server can make enough money to exist in our country because of bullshit wage laws. The subcrime is believing that a server doesn't deserve a tip if they live in a state which pays them shitty minimum wage because they somehow suddenly don't need the money with the huge wage they are pulling in.

Tip your servers, no matter where you live. Minimum 10%, preferably 15-20%. Bartenders $1/drink, minimum. Your karma will thank you, your server will thank you, and you will find your food and beverages suddenly stop tasting like spittle.
posted by hippybear at 9:56 AM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's no sales tax in Oregon, so "doubling the tax to figure out the tip" would mean not tipping. That was the joke. It was, almost certainly, not a sincere suggestion to not tip in Oregon.
posted by Casuistry at 10:01 AM on June 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


And if simplifying the calculator is the goal, why would someone have to tell the calculator why they want to know the percentage? Wouldn't "$45 + 15%" be sufficient?

It's for the user. Yes, this is the formula you're looking for.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 10:11 AM on June 11, 2012


jfuller, your Blackberry doesn't let you lock the keyboard? Mine did, but that was a couple of years ago, so things may have changed.
posted by Triplanetary at 10:16 AM on June 11, 2012


Sometimes its nice to look at things that arent blank walls. Maybe I'll always be skeptical of anyone calling on a revival of the Bauhaus and Modernism since that mid-century design philosophy was responsible for destroying countless architectural masterpieces, but it seems to me that calling on it in the technological arena as some kind of cure all for problems seems foolish. Yes, it is absolutely silly to have a leather bound calendar; I don't know anyone who owns such an item. But, a wooden bookshelf? Tiled windows that cue you to their position by appearing to have the dimensions of a piece of paper, and overlay on each other to demonstrate that? these things mimic real experience in a way I absolutely do not see as problematic. Why should skeuomorphism be seen as a dirty word? Sometimes the most important point of a thing is to look nice.

In the end, Modernism is just another style of representation. Sure, Windows 8 is proud of its stripped down and "new" look which demands pixels look like pixels. in the 60's and 70's, designers were similarly excited by new steel and glass structures which were supposed to "revolutionize" the experience of living and working. Modernist thinking of half a century ago, in my opinion, provides an important case study which designers working today could stand to learn a few lessons from.
posted by DeltaZ113 at 10:26 AM on June 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


Apple's original iPhone UI work was great because though everything was very physical and intuitive it wasn't really metaphorically locked to anything - unless the metaphor is that your website is inscribed into an infinite plane of glass that slides around frictionlessly and somehow expands and contracts.

Likewise Siri did a good job looking at the agent concept, breaking it down to basics - a thing you give commands that works for you within a context - and stripping out the unnescessary - cutesy dogs and paperclips or what-the-fuck-ever.

This is all great stuff that will alter the software landscape forever.

But the iPad is loaded with visual cruft that has now migrated to the desktop, every new version of anything seems to have more bevels or shadows or stitchlines. I think they do seem to have a problem knowing what it is that is good about what they have done.
posted by Artw at 10:28 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Engineers and design purists hate that shit---why waste processor cycles on something completely phony?
No I hate that shit because it gets in the way and adds visual clutter than removes usability for the sake of a pretty demo. That's the road to the UIs of late 90s microsoft.

Personal hate: computer uis that use knobs. Fuck you designers who keep adding them. Knobs work great in the real world, and they work for shit with a mouse or touchscreen. Rotating a dot just doesn't work.
posted by aspo at 10:38 AM on June 11, 2012 [4 favorites]


Seriously.

iPod touch/iPhone users should be thankfull to whoever killed reproducing the wheel or didn't think to do it in the first place.

Of course, coverflow is a thing, so there's a tradeoff.
posted by Artw at 10:42 AM on June 11, 2012


Is this where I can express my shock at just how awful Unity is? I normally like to keep an open mind about UI design and the "direction" of Linux, because the people who design this stuff usually really do know what's best.

However, Unity was the first UI that I've ever declared to be completely and totally unusable and incomprehensible for anything more than a curiosity. I just cannot see why or how it would ever benefit a desktop user.

Also, Apple's on the verge of killing itself. They've got plenty of momentum to ride on, but if their sole strategy for OS X is to backport features from iOS, they're going to be screwed in the long-run. I'm not sold on Win8, but Win7 was pretty good, and Microsoft at least seem to be trying.

I'm a pretty big Apple evangelist, but I'm likely going to make a strong recommendation to my employers to steer clear of Apple products for the next few years. The quality's been shaky, and I'm very concerned about the platform's future, as Apple's secretive business model is completely untenable for business customers. The Final Cut Pro debacle and XServe discontinuation were completely inexcusable. (Also, the App Store is about 50x more evil and anticompetitive than anything Microsoft ever did)
posted by schmod at 11:05 AM on June 11, 2012


feel strongly about it both ways.

Can't stand stuff like phony stitching. Once did NOT buy a Honda in the '80s because the dashboards at the time had stitching MOLDED into the plastic. Would cheerfully edit the iPad notepad app pixel by pixel if I were allowed to, if only to get rid of the TORN SCRAPS OF PAPER at the top. I pull my paper off in a way that it doesn't do that, dammit! But that kind of stuff tends to fade into the background once I start actually using the app for what it's made for.

I tend to think of GUIs as the cartoon that runs in the foreground while the computer does its thing in the background. Oddly, that may make me a bit more forgiving about this kind of stuff. I think there's lots to criticize in Apple's mobile GUIs - it's multiple-clicky-and-scrolly, and not in a good, simple are-you-sure way, to delete something, for example. That dialogue box where you do that is minimalist and looks like a million bucks, but it's still clunky.

p.s. I don't want a scrollwheel on my iPhone or iPad music/podcast player, but COULD IT PLEASE TELL ME THE REMAINING/TOTAL TIME ON THE TRACKS?!?

But you know what - the worst shit Apple can think of in the mobile device market is still better than 99% of what I've seen elsewhere. I've got a LG basic phone for personal use, and an iPhone for work. Trying to do anything other than open the flip and manually dial a number on the LG is painful, and it's probably as good or better than most companies.

TL;DR - I'm sensitive to aesthetics, but what I wish more attention were paid to is usability. Jobs' philosophy about how users didn't know what they wanted until he told them was a double-edged sword. It only sorta worked if you were a genius, and even then I think it would have benefited from some usability studies. But so would the rest of the computer industry.
posted by randomkeystrike at 11:09 AM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hmm. I know I very much dislike the VST and other plug-ins that mimic an analog desk or piece of outboard gear, especially the frickin' knobs that a user is supposed to somehow turn with a mouse.
posted by bz at 12:44 PM on June 11, 2012


I just divide by six.

$45/6 = $7.50.
posted by otherthings_ at 1:08 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


No I hate that shit because it gets in the way and adds visual clutter than removes usability for the sake of a pretty demo. That's the road to the UIs of late 90s microsoft. -- Truth is, productivity software -- word processing, spreadsheets, db, etc. -- hasn't improved at all since then. PC software hasn't evolved much in the past 15 years. All we've gained is cheaper storage, cheaper memory, faster processors, and better graphics cards, which allow us to see more on the screen at once. The stuff we do on them hasn't really changed in a generation.
posted by crunchland at 1:08 PM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Uh oh. I'm hearing rumblings that this fancy new map Apple is ditching Google for doesn't do transit - that I'm really going to be pissed off about, no matter how 3D it is.
posted by Artw at 1:14 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Or "dial a number", which, unless I've been living outside an English-speaking country for way too long, still has no convincing alternative: "punch a number" perhaps?

"Phone this number", "call this number", or more likely "call Bob".


Yeah, but when you don't reach Bob the first time, what do you call what you do then? I still "redial," which is shorter than any good alternative I can think of.

But then, I noticed today that I referred to "video-taping" something when I was actually creating a digital video recording. Old habits die hard.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 2:45 PM on June 11, 2012


Wow, given all the hate for skeuomorphism, some of you guys will hate Ita, a new-ish list making app for iOS. ("To make Ita feel more like a paper notebook, we decided it should act like one. As you use lists, they’ll show signs of wear, just like a piece of paper. ") But sometimes there's a point to it...
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:49 PM on June 11, 2012


Surely unused lists getting dusty old and cobwebbed would be more useful? And really, just having them gracefully fade would be better than that.
posted by Artw at 2:55 PM on June 11, 2012


You know, all of this sudden concern over "skeumorphing", a word which I did not hear until the last few weeks, just as Microsoft is preparing to roll out a non-skeumorphed interface, makes me wonder how much of this is astroturfed. I'm not accusing any MeFites of consciously doing this, but I'm seeing a certain amount of disconnect between various minor petty grievances with Lion or the iOS and the general notion that there's something deeply, intrinsically wrong with skeumorphism. They took away your favorite feature or added one that you don't want or need or just made something inexplicably ugly--hey, I can dig it, I used to mess around with ResEdit back in the day, too. But I've had a preview of Metro courtesy of the XBox interface (which I would change back to the old one in a heartbeat if I could), and not only has it not sold me on the general idea but I'm seriously considering not renewing my XBox Live account when the time card expires because of those fucking ads. When someone pulls that shit on you, you learn not to trust them, and all I can think when someone pipes up with "Well, the desktop OS won't have ads on it!" is "Yet."
posted by Halloween Jack at 3:11 PM on June 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


How do we know you're not astroturfing?
posted by Artw at 3:28 PM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


they're just dumbing down existing interfaces for touchscreens.

Well, in a way, that is exactly what's going on right now: UI designers are trying to figure out [a] how touchscreens work effectively, and [b] what elements work equally well with a mouse and with a touchscreen. Some of [a] is determined by "try what works with a mouse and if it works with a touchscreen, we'll go with that", but some of [a] is determined by "well, the mouse way doesn't work on a touchscreen, so let's find something that works on a touchscreen and see if it works with a mouse". In the former case, the list of [b] elements grows without anyone suffering, but in the latter case, mouse users have to suffer through some stuff that definitely does not work with a mouse, until that's been proven and the idea discarded.

Arguably, that latter case is the sole reason that Lion has the Launchpad.

The good news, of course, is that things will re-stabilize soon; the only question is, will it re-stabilize because we all push back on the bad stuff (yay!) or because we all get used to the bad stuff (Windows--er, I mean boo!)

So keep on complaining, because I'd rather we not acclimate to the bad.
posted by davejay at 3:40 PM on June 11, 2012


You know, all of this sudden concern over "skeumorphing", a word which I did not hear until the last few weeks, just as Microsoft is preparing to roll out a non-skeumorphed interface, makes me wonder how much of this is astroturfed. I'm not accusing any MeFites of consciously doing this, but I'm seeing a certain amount of disconnect between various minor petty grievances with Lion or the iOS and the general notion that there's something deeply, intrinsically wrong with skeumorphism.
It's not uncommon to feel like right after you learn about a new subject/term that it is EVERYWHERE all of the sudden. Skeuomorph is far from a new term.
posted by aspo at 4:05 PM on June 11, 2012 [3 favorites]


I don't think it's all about "HIG's." For one thing, I'm not really comfortable with the formulation that older = more ignorant. I'd much rather talk in terms of the least sophisticated quarter of users. And no, I don't think their issues trump everything. But it's sort of a trivially true that a skeuomorphic interface that they can intuitively handle will never prevent a top-quarter user from operating it. While a sleek interface that's a joy to a top-quarter may be utterly unusable to a bottom quarter. So, in that case, you're choosing between "100% of users can manage to use it" vs "75% can manage."

I mean, a button that looks like a light switch on the wall with a label that says "shut down" is going to be easier for some amount of the populace than finding the W8 charms bar, and going into power settings. It's just a question of what your tolerance is for those numbers.
posted by tyllwin at 4:07 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not uncommon to feel like right after you learn about a new subject/term that it is EVERYWHERE all of the sudden.

I think the point is the reason a relatively obscure term is suddenly everywhere is due to astroturfing.
posted by Slap*Happy at 4:28 PM on June 11, 2012


Sure. In crazy person land.
posted by Artw at 4:37 PM on June 11, 2012



How do we know you're not astroturfing?


Look, Artw, I'm just a brain in a jar, OK? If Bill Gates won't pay for a new cloned body for me, fuck 'im. (And I don't think that it's unreasonable to ask for the new corpus to be genderswitched, either.)
posted by Halloween Jack at 5:00 PM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


There's a simple solution for this:
sudo apt-get install lxde

I never understand rage for DE choices by major distros; you're always just a few keystrokes from being where you want to be.


It's not entirely that simple, as a lot of packages are dependent on certain DEs, not to mention a lot of directories in /home causing conflicts if you switch over and so on.

Although I'm happy with MATE right now. It's an actual improvement of Gnome 2.x, as opposed to the fail whale which is Gnome 3.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 5:31 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


or a dog to help me find files.

The problem with the dog is that it's the wrong type of dog. You could have: a hound to "track" files; a pointer to "spot" files; a St. Bernard to "rescue" files; a shepherd to "round up" the files; or a lab to "retrieve" files. What'd we get? Generic cartoon dog. Maybe, there's a metaphor buried under layers of focus groups, maybe they just decided to go with generic cutesy animal. Who knows?
posted by Gygesringtone at 5:44 PM on June 11, 2012


Sure. In crazy person land.

Plate of shrimp.
posted by Slap*Happy at 6:16 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fuck you anti-skeuomorph people.

Video games and movies LOOK FUCKING REAL. You gotta problem with those also?

SIMULACRUM VS.SIMULACRA.

This sounds like freshmen design students trying to wage a non existent war on total bullshit.

Study the Bauhaus, get over the silly ass era of the manifesto (that shit is DONE!!!!), study your market and back your shit up with DATA. Opinions are worthless.

As an aging recovered modern artist this shit just drives me up the goddamn wall.
posted by roboton666 at 7:44 PM on June 11, 2012 [2 favorites]


Damn. I'm making a manifesto. Maybe I'm not as recovered as I think I am?
posted by roboton666 at 7:54 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


What'd we get? Generic cartoon dog. Maybe, there's a metaphor buried under layers of focus groups, maybe they just decided to go with generic cutesy animal. Who knows?

The dog actually has a bit of a history. It came from Microsoft Bob, where it was a Clippy-style general assistant, and then it got a bubbly 3D redesign to fit in with the visual style of Microsoft Agent.
posted by reprise the theme song and roll the credits at 8:19 PM on June 11, 2012


Except, people are flummoxed by percentages. And, honestly, in the situation the tool is intended for use in (i.e. settling the dinner bill and getting out of there) "quick-n-simple" wins over "Make them do a bit of math, no matter how tiny" every time.

After working with someone who could look at the bill and just tell everyone exactly how much they owed, I disagree. I asked him how he did it, and he said 1) practice, and 2) tricks like doubling the tax and knowing the times table for common tax percentages. Plus he genuinely enjoyed finding the answer, and never once complained that we used him as a calculator. He has built that app inside his head - it doesn't get quicker and easier.
posted by sneebler at 9:16 PM on June 11, 2012


Apple [...] was able to slim down the laptop by eliminating its DVD drive and getting rid of its hard drive in favor of a faster kind of storage called flash. [NyTimes]

That is the fucking future, but you guys are all "The've got fake stitching and fake wood grain. It's CLUTTERING MY VISUAL FIELD!!!1!"

Your myopia is appalling. You should be embarrassed for yourselves. Jesus get a clue. Look at what cellphones were before the iPhone. Pay attention to the real substantive changes in the underlying technology. Siri doesn't have a faux-suede background - because people aren't looking at it, they're talking to it!
posted by newdaddy at 10:16 PM on June 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


newdaddy, you seem... a little worked up. It's OK if people don't agree with you on design matters.

Have some cake?
posted by IAmBroom at 12:46 AM on June 12, 2012


But does it look like cake?
posted by inpHilltr8r at 1:59 AM on June 12, 2012 [2 favorites]


Not unlike the world's richest, most powerful country. They shouldn't listen to everyone but they should listen to someone.

Someone who does something they do better than they do? Sure. But if you want to claim you can out-design Apple, you'd better back that up with something better than 'that bookcase looks like a bookcase, and I don't like it, because skeuomorphism. Look, Windows 8 pretty!'
posted by obiwanwasabi at 2:34 AM on June 12, 2012


But if you want to claim you can out-design Apple, you'd better back that up with something better than...

Man, I hope you're around for the next George Lucas thread.
posted by howfar at 2:43 AM on June 12, 2012


Perhaps I wouldn't mind them so much if they weren't aping such hideous real-world objects. I wouldn't own physical versions of the Notes, iCal or Reminders apps because they're ugly and unappealing.
posted by fightorflight at 4:30 AM on June 12, 2012


There are important applications that should emulate real world objects though.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:40 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


Wow, given all the hate for skeuomorphism, some of you guys will hate Ita, a new-ish list making app for iOS. ("To make Ita feel more like a paper notebook, we decided it should act like one. As you use lists, they’ll show signs of wear, just like a piece of paper. ") But sometimes there's a point to it...

I thought wear showing up was a little odd. The wear on your lists syncing over iCloud is taking things a little further than I would like. But then I saw that this app was 30MB. 30MB to make lists of things.
The other day I wanted a compass app for my ipad - I looked at compass after compass, wondering why all of these compass apps were 30-40MB before finally settling on one that was 5MB, and thinking that was still absurd. What is going on that simple apps have to have over 9000 themes and take up half of the non upgradeable flash on my ipad?
My phone is Android, I am struggling to think of any utility type apps I have that are over 1MB - what is it about the iDevices that makes developers just go all out and use resources like they are unlimited?
posted by netd at 5:01 AM on June 12, 2012


That is the fucking future, but you guys are all "The've got fake stitching and fake wood grain. It's CLUTTERING MY VISUAL FIELD!!!1!"

Eliminating optical drives and using SSDs, wow! That really is innovative!
posted by kmz at 5:23 AM on June 12, 2012


What is going on that simple apps have to have over 9000 themes and take up half of the non upgradeable flash on my ipad?

That's fairly easy to answer - it's mostly because the graphics used by the apps are bitmaps, not vector-based and therefore take-up huge amounts of space since the iPad 3 w/ retina display was released. Because, even if you own an iPad 1 or 2, most apps are being updated since the release of 3 to take advantage of all those pixels... Which means much bigger graphics, bigger apps...

(I am curious as to what the rendering speed of highly complex vector graphics would be like on an iPad 3...)
posted by jkaczor at 5:55 AM on June 12, 2012


I'm wondering if retina displays may mean we eventually have to rethinking this whole bitmap thing.
posted by Artw at 6:02 AM on June 12, 2012


That really is innovative! -- Well, in that no one had done it yet, yes, it was innovative. It was really more timing than anything. Doing away with the CD drives couldn't have happened until then without broad access to high speed internet, because otherwise, how would people get new programs? Using the SSDs before then couldn't happen because they were prohibitively expensive. And only Apple could get away with doing it sooner than other PC manufacturers with the Macbook Air because their userbase was already conditioned to pay more money for their product. Because while SSDs were getting cheaper, they still weren't that cheap. Sometimes innovation isn't just a bold of lightning out of the blue. As Apple has proven time and time again, packaging existing technologies in a new way is sometimes all it takes.
posted by crunchland at 6:03 AM on June 12, 2012


It's an article talking about yesterday's hardware announcements, not the original Air.
posted by kmz at 6:05 AM on June 12, 2012


2008 MacBook Air was kind of a joke, TBH.
posted by Artw at 6:06 AM on June 12, 2012


Well, like many mac products, it was coveted for its form over its function.
posted by crunchland at 6:37 AM on June 12, 2012


It certainly wasn't coveted for its single USB port.
posted by Marisa Stole the Precious Thing at 7:01 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm sorry, I apologize for overreacting last night. But it does kind of seem weird to me that these kinds of discussions seem to occur in the absence of consideration of the real underlying technology. The vector vs. bitmap discussion is a good counter example though.
posted by newdaddy at 8:37 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


p.s. I don't want a scrollwheel on my iPhone or iPad music/podcast player, but COULD IT PLEASE TELL ME THE REMAINING/TOTAL TIME ON THE TRACKS?!?

Tap the album art.
posted by EmGeeJay at 8:59 AM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


In the Ironman movies, Tony Stark has flat tablet computers-- swirls his hands in the air, and the computer generates 3-D models, which he manipulates like a Theremin.

That's a cool design interface. I vote for comic books, science fiction movies and TV shows as inspiration.

Not flat dull things like calendars and address books.

Some of the digital libraries have really nice UIs. It's funny to read manuscripts written before the invention of the printing press, using scroll bars and directional arrows, zooming in to see the tail of a single letter. The UI exists in abstract space, not referring back to the legacy technology.
posted by ohshenandoah at 1:34 PM on June 12, 2012


crunchland: All of those advances in the original Air were actually already in the eee pc, which came out first. In fact, the Air was, iirc, seen as an attempt by Apple to stake out some ground for itself in the netbook arena.
posted by kaibutsu at 4:03 PM on June 12, 2012 [1 favorite]


I didn't know that. Was the eee pc also a 0.16" thick? That's still a pretty amazing thing. An Ipad is twice that.
posted by crunchland at 5:41 PM on June 12, 2012


In the beginning, there was only the ultraportables, ruled by the Sony Viao. All children born of mortal credit limit were forbidden from gazing upon the ultraportables.

Negroponte snuck a baby ultraportable out behind the lawgiver Moore because he foresaw a world with ultraportables for all. Yet, Negroponte became lost upon reentering the mortal world.

A woodsman named Asus found Negroponte and guided him back into the wold, but Asus betrayed Negroponte by taking the ultraportables to the people while Negroponte slept, and claiming credit for himself, naming it the Eee.

The jealous Titan Jobs sought the best Eee for himself, but once he dress it in fine metallic armor everyone recognized it as an ultraportable.

Jobs ordered his men to return all the ultraportables to the gods, but even his finest hunters could not capture more than a handful of the Eee.
posted by jeffburdges at 7:25 PM on June 12, 2012 [8 favorites]


Maybe this will give some of youfoaming-at-the-mouth and rage-with-no-known-parallel, but the idea seems now buried under Google's IP.
posted by youhavetoreadthistwice at 9:51 PM on June 12, 2012


Tap the album art.

Well, I'll be damned. Thanks, EmGeeJay!
posted by randomkeystrike at 6:41 AM on June 13, 2012


Oh god...
posted by Artw at 5:54 AM on July 2, 2012


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