Scott Forstall and The Skeuomorphic Design

Scott Forstall

     Three weeks ago, Scott Forstall, the Senior Vice President of Apple Software was fired from the company.  And, Sir Jonathan Ive, who was taking care of Apple’s Hardware Design will take over his position.  In his new position at Apple, Jonny Ive will be the head of ‘Human Interface’ in which he will be taking care of both Hardware and Software Design which was formerly headed by the legendary Steve Jobs.  That’s Good News.  But the Bad News is that Scott Forstall had been fired.  Rumours say that Forstall had been fired from the company because he refused to sign the apology letter for the failure of Apple Maps.

   As far as I have seen in the news articles that I have read, many have been talking in the sense Scott Forstall leaving Apple as a ‘Good Thing’.  But, I would say ‘No’.  They wrote that they did not like ‘Skeuomorphic Designs’ that Mr. Forstall had been creating in the iOS.  I will come what Skeuomorphic Design later.  They all have been writing like that they never ever liked or loved the Softwares that Apple had been creating under Scott Forstall’s Lead. He created the world’s best mobile operating system, iOS.  It’s not just iOS, it’s ‘The iOS’.

   Did not they like it and praising Apple for the same ?  Did not they use Calendar feature of iOS which was using ‘Skeuomorphic Design’ ?  Apple’s iPhone has been the best because of its Software and not just the hardware.  I am not getting any philosophical here but it is a good thing to see the best side in everybody.  If one product fails, does your reviews have to be so stinging  ?  It is a question that I am posing for the entire Interface Enthusiasts and Technology Appreciators.

   So coming to ‘Skeuomorphic Design’, what is ‘Skeuomorph’ ? According to Wikipedia, A skeuomorph or skeuomorphism is a design element of a product that imitates design elements that were functionally necessary in the original product design, but which have become ornamental in the new design.  We  have read earlier in one of our class readings of CGT 512 (Once upon a time, remember ???), by Donald A. Norman about using age-old  traditional representation for the new products.  In Skeuomorph, it is simply the part of the design itself.

For example, Artificial Leather Grain on the Calendar Icon of iOS and in many other applications.  I tried to research more on the question that whether a Skeuomorphic Design a Good thing or Bad.  After hours of Google search, I can just say that it just depends on the context that we are using the design and the current mind set of the people.  It’s not a question of ‘Why ?’ but ‘Who ?’.  Being in this industry of creating software for people, we can never ignore the question – Who we are dealing with ?  Like most of the answers, the answer is ‘It Depends …’. :).

Thanks. :).

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Cool Resources for UI Sketching & Wireframing

Friends, after this week’s reading about Sketching, Wire framing and Prototyping, I decided to post some cool resources which I have been using for a while now.  I am just going to post the 5 best resources according to me.  But,  this time according to the creams of every platform.  :).

01. Windows App (Sketching and Prototyping Tool):

Microsoft Sketchflow – http://www.microsoft.com/expression/products/Sketchflow_Overview.aspx

Adobe Fireworks CS4 – http://www.adobe.com/products/fireworks.html?xNav=WPFW

02. iPad App :

UI Sketcher App – http://uisketcher.com/

03. Web App :

DENIM (By University of Washington) – http://dub.washington.edu:2007/denim/

04. Apps for Mobile Prototyping :

DesignerVista – http://www.designervista.com

Proto.io – http://proto.io/

05. Resources – Wireframing & Sketching :

GUI Prototyping Tools –http://c2.com/cgi/wiki?GuiPrototypingTools

Smashing Magazine    – http://www.smashingmagazine.com/2010/02/05/50-free-ui-and-web-design-wireframing-kits-resources-and-source-files/

Konigi Wireframing    – http://konigi.com/tools/tags/wireframing

Konigi Sketching          – http://konigi.com/tools/tags/sketching

RAA #2 – Reality Based Interaction

1. APA Citation :

Robert J.K. Jacob, Audrey Girouard, Leanne M. Hirshfield, Michael S. Horn, Orit Shaer, Erin Treacy Solovey, and Jamie Zigelbaum. (2008). Reality-based interaction: a framework for post-WIMP interfaces. In Proceedings of the twenty-sixth annual SIGCHI conference on Human factors in computing systems (CHI ’08). ACM, New York, NY, USA, 201-210. DOI=10.1145/1357054.1357089 http://doi.acm.org/10.1145/1357054.1357089

2. Purpose : 

     In this paper, the authors propose the theme of ‘Reality-Based Interaction (RBI)’ for unifying and tie together the emerging interaction styles for easier user understanding and testing them.  Also, the authors suggest the following purposes of RBI in this paper :

a. How ‘Reality Based Interaction’ is different and diverse from ‘WIMP’ (Window, Icon, Menu and Pointing Device) or  Direct Manipulation Interaction Styles such as not depending on interactions with 2-D Widgets like Menus and Icons etc.,

b. Presenting the existing concepts of ‘Reality Based Interaction’ in the current interaction styles by presenting their case studies.

c. This would provide insights for new design and clear pathways to provide opportunities for future research direction in the field of Human Computer Interaction.

3. Methods : 

This paper’s scholars use 4 main reality based interaction themes with a set of conditions in which one of the RBI concept can be given up.  The main RBI concepts are derived from day-to-day to life that completely defines the whole concept of ‘Reality Based Interaction’.  If the Interaction Concept mimics those themes without any trade-offs, they are categorized under ‘Reality-Based Interaction’ conceptualization.  Those Interaction Themes are as follows :

a. Naïve Physics : People have the general common sense about their current physical environment.

b. Body Awareness & Skills : People have the general awareness of their own body and ability for controlling them.

c. Environment Awareness & Skills : The skills of people for negotiating, manipulating, and navigating within their environment.

d. Social Awareness & Skills : The knowledge of others present in the environment and the ability to interact with them.

The following are the set of conditions in which one of the RBI principles can be sacrificed.  They have also explained how the following can be sacrificed in reality for more gain and user experience.  Like one of their examples in which they did explain of how walking can be more efficient at certain situation rather than driving a car or riding a bike. :

a. Expressive Power

b. Efficiency

c. Versatility

d. Ergonomics

e. Accessibility

f. Practicality

     They applied their concept in the following innovative and upcoming interfaces to prove the validity of their claim through case studies.  Their respective interaction type is given after the arrows following them. :

Case Study 1 : Urban Resource Planning (URP) -> Tangible Environment 

Case Study 2 : Apple iPhone -> Touch Based Interaction

Case Study 3 : Electronic Tourist Guide Application -> Location and Orientation Aware Interactive GPS based Application

Case Study 4 : Visual-Cliff Virtual Environment -> Virtual Reality Environment 

4. Main Findings : 

     The researchers found that every interaction system that they analyzed tethered to the concepts of RBI but sometimes sacrificed the rule for improved user experience.  The main findings of the case studies were the following :

a. Each system that they analyzed and studied had inspiration from the real world which made them more innovative but also gave up a few concepts of reality when necessary to obtain additional design goals and enriched User Experience.  For example,

     i. Case Study 1 : For example, URP system gave up reality for making users to touch the virtual building to change their color which in reality is not possible.

ii. Case Study 2 : Trade-off of Reality for Improved Accessibility in its several inbuilt applications like the Safari browser displaying the full web page sacrificing the readability.

iii. Case Study 3 : Trade-off of Reality for User’s Expressive Power by the reduced press of Buttons for interacting with the system .

iv. Case Study 4 : For walking in the virtual world, the real world distance is sacrificed by increasing navigational direction with reduced steps by the human controller of the system.  Here, it is a practicality trade-off.

b. Each system strongly mainly oriented itself with the concepts proposed by the Authors.

c.  The 4 main defining terms seemed more practical to analyze the emerging interfaces.

5. Analysis : 

     In the lines of Research, I liked the way on how they connected the emerging Human-Computer Interaction trends with the Reality Based Interaction (RBI) concept.  But, it would have been nicer if there is a software framework for analyzing the capability of RBI methodologies for solving the case study along with the case study.  It can also have been a good industry standard reference in the development of future standards and improvement for future interaction trends.  This paper was published way back in 2008 and there are huge improvements in trends of all the HCI types analyzed in the case studies.  I am interested to read other journals that are based on this.

   Personally, I am much interested in HCI devices in general, since the blisters in fingers because of playing games all day long.  All these days, Natural User Interface (NUI) would grab my interests where ever or when ever I read them.  But, since now, I would also be looking for RBI.  I would analyze each and every current interaction trends applying these principles.

The Flow

Reading Materials covered :

1. The UX Book – Chapters 4 and 6

2. About Face 3 – Chapters 5 and 6

     After reading the chapters for today, I clearly understood what User Personas and how they work in UX context.  I particularly liked the way how the chapters from both the book explained them.  Cooper has explained the concepts with nice illustrations but no clear real world example on how it would unlike the last week’s reading.  The UX book chapter was entirely based on process.  However, both served their purpose on defining the logic, terminologies and their context of use.  I prepared the following flow chart for serving as addendum for the readings this week.  The first flow diagram is the purpose of User Persona Creation and its use.  The second flow diagram is about Task Analysis.  Kindly, mention your thoughts and suggestions about them in the comments section.

User Persona Creation & its purpose :

Task Analysis :

Thanks. :).

News Articles – Cascading Problems of Poor Documentation & iOS 6 Flaws

     I read the following article in Mashable and thought I can share.   You can read it by clicking here – The Real Reason Silicon Valley Coders write Bad Softwares.  The article generally talks about self-taught engineers, their poor english, documentations and unorganized code which causes the problems to cascade in a product’s life cycle with good explanations and examples.  The other aritcle takes down iOS 6 by explaining its problems of usability – Say, the colors used, search results, inconsistent design etc.,  You can read it here – iOS 6 Problems.  I sometimes have this question over my mind – Does Apple make these mistakes because Steve Jobs is no more :(.  Take a dig if you are interested.

Thanks. :).

Photoshop – The Best User Interface !

     Greetings, Pals.  :).  I had some time to spare for studies apart from relaxing this fall break and so this post ( 😉 ).  When I was playing with Photoshop today with its presets for color balancing a few of my pictures, I was actually enjoying working with its new interface (CS 6 Upgrade) and thought I can share the fun with everyone.  I know there are some people out there to argue, but this is completely my personal view.  I can feel that this new Interface is much easier to work with and I can pretty much confidently say that this is the best User Interface in the Photoshop history.  I’ll now explain why.  It satisfies both Gestalt’s Theory and Cooper’s Principles on Interfaces.  At times, I also do think that these guys have actually broken the rules from the theories to satisfy user needs delivering the best User Experience.  If you really need to understand the fun that I am talking about, try to get your hands on this version of the Photoshop.

Image Courtesy – http://adobe-photoshop-cs6-beta.en.softonic.com/

0. Frequently used tool at the top of the tool box and its sub-category in its sub menu for easy identification and access. (Law of Proximity) (Law of Similarity)

1. Brush Designs appear in a order, beginning from a simple style (Law of Unity / Harmony) (Cooper’s Selection Law).

2. Ample use of White Space (Oops, Grey Space ;).)

3. Wise use of Simple Icon Sets (Law of Prägnanz (Good Form)).

4. Current selection and history state indicated by fading other actions.

5. Working over a set of images indicated by showing the current working image with other images.

6. Previewing  the Sample style of a selected brush.

7. Unlike, the previous iterations the current default interface is very simple for novice users including a lot of customization for more technical users.  (Law of Simplicity).

   Also, notice the double edged interface providing a closed and solidified feel.  (Law of Closure).  Please don’t forget to comment your thoughts and suggestions  on the comments section.  Thanks. :).

The Important ‘5’

     Greetings again, Friends.  I have tried to post this for a long time but today at last I found the time to compile everything.  Here is my list of best in everything of HCI, Interaction Design and Usability.  This compilation is completely my own views and the numbers next to the items just represent the order and not their ranking.

The ‘5’ Best UX Blogs to follow :

EverydayUX

UserInterfaceEngineering

bokardo (Social UX Design)

Putting people first

GraphPaper

The ‘5’ Best UX Websites to Learn :

Boxes & Arrows

UXMagazine

Smashing Magazine UX Design

UXMatters

A List Apart

The ‘5’ Best Books to learn the Rules of Web Usability :

1. Don’t Make Me Think By Steve Krug

2. Letting Go of the Words By Janice Redish

3. Information Architecture for the World Wide Web By Morville and Rosenfeld

4. Prioritizing Web Usability By Nielson + Horanger

5. The Big Red Fez By Seth Godin

The ‘5’ Tweeters to follow for Usability :

1. @jmspool

2. @ixda

3. @bokardo

4. @janepyle

5. @usabilitycounts

The Important persons in UX to learn the rules from :

1. Jakob Nielsen

2. Donald Norman

3. Jared Spool

4. Alan Cooper.

The best labs for Innovation in HCI :

1. MIT Media Lab

2. Human Computer Interaction Institute in CMU

3. Human Computer Interaction Lab in University of Maryland

The upcoming products in HCI that will change everything :

1. Google’s Project Glass

2. Oculus Rift VR Headset

Thanks, :-).  I sometimes wonder why I find it tough to navigate in Jakob Nielsen’s website even after being the best in the field.  Is it only for me or is it a Food for thought ?  Kindly, post your views in the comments, Friends.