Brian Edmond, president and co-founder of Crank Software Inc., will be at TI TECH Days Detroit, MI, September 26. Come by the exhibit hall to meet Brian and see a demo of the latest Storyboard Suite features and learn how Storyboard can solve your new and existing GUI challenges. Additionally, Brian is speaking on “Accelerated Graphics in Virtualized and Non-Virtualized Environmenst on Jacinto6 and OMAP™ 5 SoC,” during Track 1, Session 5, from 3:30 – 4:30 p.m. Come hear him present on how Storyboard Suite takes advantage of the underlying accelerated hardware to present rich and powerful UIs. We hope to see you at TI Tech Days, you can follow our updates on Twitter via #TItechday.
Earlier this month Crank Software was at the Telematics Update conference in Detroit and got stopped for this quick interview :
It was a great event and brought together most of the auto ecosystem all under one roof. I had no idea that ere were so many parking apps.
Also in the centre of the show floor was the QNX Bentley which is always a great demonstration of Storyboard in action.
I was reading some articles concerning the up and coming release of Windows 8.1 and the much heralded return of the start menu button. It would appear that Microsoft has heard the complaints of it’s users and now wants to backtrack on the decision to remove the button, and push that functionality back in to the next release of Windows. This got me thinking, why did they remove the button in the first place? Why did they feel this was a good decision at all?
The line of thinking when they released Windows 8 was that you would work in the environment that you developed for, if you developed for Windows 8 mobile, and that by offering only one product across the board that it would allow for them to make a better product as they only had to test one instance. The biggest reason though was that users would be accustomed to everything Windows 8. If you used it on a desktop it would be the same on a tablet or on the phone. You only had to learn one UI and you were good to go across a multitude of devices.
Those reasons do make sense but where they fall a part is that a mouse/keyboard driven UI is inherently different from one that is driven by touch. By trying to accommodate both, you are going to limit that device that is rooted purely in only one input model, and that is the majority of the devices out there. I see very few tablet users using a mouse. They may hook up a keyboard, but that is usually only when they are writing an email, or taking a note. Most of the time they are in a purely touch driven environment. Conversely there are very few laptops and desktops out there that offer a touch screen as a standard offering.
An example of this difference in work flow would be launching an application in Windows 8 that you don’t have an icon for. You first have to move the mouse pointer to the upper right corner. Then you have to click on the all applications button. Then you have to search through the apps by scrolling sideways until you find the one you are looking for and then finally click on the correct icon. You could search for the app, but that is still a navigate to the upper right corner, click in the search box, switch to typing on the keyboard, and then click on the result. Also, while you are doing this, you don’t have a full view of your desktop, so you may lose sight of the information that prompted the application switch in the first place. However, this process works in the touch environment. Tap the upper right corner, tap a button, and then swipe through the list until the app is found and tap on it. It works for a touch screen, but for a mouse, a simple menu that you click on that presents a list of options is the better way to go as moving a mouse is more of an impediment than touching a screen. You want to limit the distance that a mouse pointer has to move, and also limit the context switches between keyboard and mouse.
So really it isn’t surprising that there was an outcry from the mouse/keyboard users about the disappearance of the start menu as it is a better workflow for them. Also, Windows 8 isn’t the only OS that has tried to update it’s UI to make it more touch friendly. Ubuntu has been releasing Unity for a couple of years now, and people are still having a hard time getting used to it. So much so that people revert to using gnome-shell, which is better but still not ideal, or they install something like Linux Mint which offers an underlying Ubuntu OS with the previous panel style of the UI. In the end it would seem that if you have a UI that works, that allows for a good work flow, you should tweak it, but not overhaul it, and then offer a separate interface for devices that have a different input model.
Wired has posted an article concerning a recent shift in UI design. Most of the UI’s that are designed for devices nowadays are flat. The 3D effect, shadows, and gradients that used to commonplace in most of the UI’s beforehand have now disappeared for a cleaner minimalist design.
They cite a couple of reasons for this shift. The first reason is that as screens get smaller, the minimalist approach allows you to do more with less screen real estate. I’m not sure sure I agree that screens are getting smaller, but I do agree with the logic that the less cluttered a UI is, the more information you are able to display.
The second reason the article gives is that because of the wide adoption of portable devices, the need for extra information in the design of the UI is no longer needed as a majority of users are now familiar with these types of devices, and therefore can navigate them without a bunch of guidance through the UI. This actually makes a lot of sense to me. As we become more and more accustomed to what a device can do, we tend to move towards functionality as opposed to look in terms of rating a device a success. If the device can do what we want it to do, well then we are going to be happy with that device.
That doesn’t mean that a devices UI can be a mess. People will still want things to look nice. They just won’t be clamoring for over the top effects to get to the information that they want. I wonder if summer blockbusters will ever take the same approach?