GUI Olympics!
April 23, 2004 8:48 AM   Subscribe

GUI Olympics! several corporate sponsors (ATI, nVidia, and others) are offering up $15,000 in prize money for the best GUI skin any designer can come up with for a few applications. while i think it's great to push for newer and better user interfaces, who do so many of the designs seem to be pushing complexity over useability? wouldn't a better use of a GUI design prize be to encourage people to improve on a design rather than make it unintelligible? maybe the people pushing the designs need to take this quiz.
posted by caution live frogs (18 comments total)
They should start by redesigning the GUI for their awful web site. I haven't seen that many animated GIFs on a single page since 1996.
posted by gwint at 8:53 AM on April 23, 2004

I'm very interested in new winamp designs, but those are all just terrible. It's not impossible to make a winamp skin that looks cool and actually makes winamp easier to use. Larger play and pause buttons, high contrast buttons in relation to the background, and an easy to read information area would do wonders for winamp.
posted by mathowie at 9:00 AM on April 23, 2004

wh[y] do so many of the designs seem to be pushing complexity over useability?

For the same reason car seats are optimized to be comfortable for a few minutes: the customer doesn't make the decision based on how good the product is, he makes it based on how much he likes it for the first 10 minutes.
posted by callmejay at 9:02 AM on April 23, 2004

In answer to the question in the post, why complexity over usability? It's because usability is boring and uninteresting to look at.

Example: my favourite feature of the Opera are mouse gestures. I can whip around web pages like a demon on speed, they are intuitive and useful. If I have to go back to IE for some reason, it feels like my fingers have been broken, taped up and put in mittens.

Mouse gestures are, from a fancy-pants screenshots contest point of view, invisible.
posted by Capn at 9:03 AM on April 23, 2004

Oh, and their horrible page's CSS seems to be totally broken in Opera. IRONY!
posted by Capn at 9:06 AM on April 23, 2004

I've got a prize-winning gooey skin, if you know what I'm sayin', heh heh heh . . .

Wait, what are we talking about?
posted by mikrophon at 9:18 AM on April 23, 2004

i just recently discovered windowblinds, stardock, and so on. stardock is pretty useful to me, but most of the windowblinds skins are pretty awful, and the ones that aren't are just ripoffs of professional designs (mac osx, windows blackcomb).

however, last night i discovered a set of thunderbird/firefox skins called leBreeze that are just awesome. minimal, grey, pixellated classiness all around. i wish i could make my entire GUI look this way:
posted by dvdgee at 9:40 AM on April 23, 2004

mikrophon, you my friend, are a freak. I like that about you.

As to the contest, we've got some pretty amazing designers that hang around the blue...let's see some action from y'all. Go, Do, make it better!
posted by dejah420 at 9:56 AM on April 23, 2004

mathowie - i do love a good winamp skin. but like you i'm not finding anything new i really like. seems that a lot of them were better before people got obsessed with free-form.

i wouldn't mind some person sitting down with the folks behind the default winXP windows media player skin and explaining to them why the old classic skin was better. the limited number of times i've needed to use media player 9 to view something with the weird default skin applied, it's been impossible to use intuitively. the buttons for "close", "minimize" etc. are on the bottom left - how far from the windows default top right can you go? fullscreen and volume options are only accessible via right-click on the vis screen, but i can switch visualizations with a button? insane.

capn - does opera have an option to kill animations? i limit them to one cycle through in mozilla. saves me some sanity.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:20 AM on April 23, 2004

oops sorry capn, got your post and gwint's confused. need to learn to preview better.

so, uh, gwint, your browser have a "kill animations" button?
posted by caution live frogs at 10:22 AM on April 23, 2004

capn, what version of opera are you using? i've got it in beta 7.5, and it looks fine for me.

i run a site called Winamp Unlimited, which has covered this contest before. we also have a pretty good resource section with some suggestions on where to look for skins, if you scroll down.

i personally think in terms of Modern skins, that the Default that comes with Winamp 5 (which was made by the same guy who put out the mythic MMD3), is pretty sweet, and quite usable IMO. the hundreds of color themes for it gives you a lot of choice with how you want winamp to look, which is better than what most players give you with their default skins. in fact, you can make your own color theme with modern skins, with this add on. right now, i'm waiting for rpeterclark's avitronic skin to be finally finished.

there are tons of usable/attractive skins out there, as long as you know where to look. these two have been my favorites lately.

if anyone ever wants to talk winamp, feel free to approach me. :o)
posted by lotsofno at 11:18 AM on April 23, 2004

btw, in case you missed it, though they start judging in may, they won't go through all the categories at once, so depending no what category you'd like to enter, you might have an extra month to work with.
posted by lotsofno at 11:20 AM on April 23, 2004

"Skinning" seems to come from the impulse all teenage boys have to make their surroundings look more like they live in the Death Star. Skinning has very little to do with real GUI design, which involves building an interface from the ground up depending on a particular feature set. See the recent Open Source GUI thread.
posted by gwint at 11:44 AM on April 23, 2004

caution live frogs, Opera has a neat "Quick Preferences" menu you activate with the F-12 key, that contains all sorts of things you might want to enable/disable for the page you're currently looking at, including GIF animations.

lotsofno, maybe "totally broken" was a bit extreme, but I've got 7.10, and whenever I mouse over any text, it turns bight blue. I checked it in IE and the mouse-over only happens on links, so I assume the behaviour I'm seeing is unintentional rather than a tragic tragic mistake.
posted by Capn at 12:06 PM on April 23, 2004

Capn: For IE, try the unfortunately named StrokeIt.
posted by punilux at 12:32 PM on April 23, 2004

Qwint, you took the words right out of my mouth.
posted by tomplus2 at 12:43 PM on April 23, 2004

Winamp 5's default skin is actually pretty attractive and functional, enough so that I haven't gone looking for a replacement.

The best mp3 player skin EVAR, though, is still the Sunset theme for Zinf. The important buttons are (mostly) clearly marked, the two unmarked buttons show their functions on mouseover, and it actually looks attractive rather than looking like some horrible sci-fi mutation. Needs volume and seek controls, though.
posted by arto at 12:16 AM on April 24, 2004

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