UI Design

Multi-touch vs. multi-touch: the new iPod nano

Posted on Sep 7, 2010 in iPhone, Opinions, UI Design

Apple recently introduced their 6th generation iPod nano, the first non-clickwheel nano. Instead, the new nano uses a multi-touch interface that’s similar to the interface found on the iPhone, iPod touch and iPad.

But just how similar is the nano’s multi-touch interface when compared with the real deal? Let’s look at some of the typical actions you might want to do:

As you can see, some of the most important actions use different multi-touch gestures on the iPod nano then they do on real iOS devices. If Apple sees the nano as the device that will introduce people to multi-touch, it seems like a curious decision to not unify the gestures across all multi-touch platforms.

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Transmit 4 Review

Posted on Apr 27, 2010 in Mac, Opinions, Reviews, UI Design

For years, one of the most popular OS X FTP applications has been Transmit. Panic’s FTP workhorse is so well regarded and robust, it’s engine was even chosen by Apple to power the FTP upload feature built-in to iWeb.

But OS X has gone through a lot of changes since Transmit 3 was first introduced and the app is starting to show its age. Enter Transmit 4!

This latest update adds a completely new user interface, innovative new features like Transmit Disk as well as a slew of customisation options. I was fortunate enough to be a beta tester for version 4, so I’ve had a few weeks to play with the new version – here are some of my thoughts.

New UI

Panic is know for their sleek user interface design and attention to detail and Transmit 4 is no exception. First off, the biggest change of them all: A NEW TRUCK!

But the logo isn’t all that has been refreshed: The entire app feels brand new. Most UI elements have been given a 2010 update and the interface feels a lot tidier.

You start off with a list of your configured servers that uses a sleek black look that was made popular by apps such as PixelmatorCoverScout 3 and SongGenie (disclaimer – I work for equinux).

You can choose an icon for your servers, or use the server favicon

Selecting a server puts you into a familiar file browsing mode – more on that below:

Buttons and features are usually exactly where you would expect to find them and unobtrusive animations and pretty icons round out the package and give the app a nice touch of Panic personality. Here are a few bits of eye candy I noticed during testing:

Progress indicator

Breadcrumb navigation

Nice use of icons in the replace dialog makes it clear which file you need to replace

File Browsing, Places & Quick Look

An FTP client fundamentally has two jobs: show me my remote files and allow me to move files between my local and remote storage. To accomplish that, an FTP application has to replicate a lot of the functionality of a regular file browser, so users can browser their local files as well as their remote files.

Transmit 4 offers single and dual file-browser layouts, (rearrangable!) tabs and the icon, llist, column and cover flow viewing styles you are familiar with from the Finder. But it also has a few additional tricks up its sleeve, that you won’t find in the Finder.

Here are some of the more interesting file browsing options:

  • Folders above Files changes the sort order, so that folders are always displayed before your files in a view
  • Quick Look makes it easy to see a file’s content and even works with remote files stored on your FTP server
  • Places can store shortcuts to your most frequently used folders, so they are just a click away. You can also drag files to a Place shortcut.

Places give you quick access to commonly used folders.

Places is really useful, but the way you add locations by dragging them to the breadcrumb area is a bit unconventional. Once you’ve figured it out though, it quickly became one of my favourite Transmit 4 features.

Transmit 4 offers enough view options to suit almost anyone’s preferred file browsing style. Whether you perfer to work with multiple windows, tabs, split layouts, column view etc – Transmit 4 has got you covered. While it’s debatable whether most users need so many options, file browsing habits are usually so ingrained that it was probably a good idea for Panic to include as many options as they could.

DockSend, Droplets, TransmitDisk and more…

Most of the time, I find myself uploading files to the same place over and over again. Transmit has a number of ways that give you an easy way to send a file to your FTP server straight from the finder:

  • Drag it to a custom droplet you can create in Transmit 4
  • Enable Docksend and you can drag it directly to the Transmit 4 icon in your Dock
  • Turn on TransmitDisk…

TransmitDisk is a nifty new feature, that uses MacFUSE to allow you to mount your FTP server as a volume that the Finder can see. Once mounted, you can interact with your FTP folders like you would with a drive on your local network.

In my experience this worked fairly well, but occasionally felt a little bit more sluggish than using Transmit’s own file browser – but your mileage may vary.

Conclusion

Overall this is a great upgrade to an already very useful application. The new features are well thought out and make working with your FTP server a lot easier and faster. While this isn’t a revolutionary upgrade, it is solid enough to make it worth your while.

You can buy or upgrade to Transmit 4 in the Panic Online Store.

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Three things on the iPad that feel rushed

Posted on Apr 19, 2010 in iPad, Opinions, UI Design

Most people would agree that the iPad is a fantastic 1.0 device. This is of course partly due to the shared iPhone OS heritage, but the overall experience is nonetheless is extremely well-rounded and polished.

But there are a few areas that feel a bit crummy, when compared with the rest of the experience. Considering how many apps Apple had to completely overhaul for the iPad’s presentation in January, it’s no surprise to find a few rough edges, on the otherwise fantastic device.

File syncing

I understand why Apple is hesitant to add any kind of file system to the iPhone OS, but considering how much emphasis was placed on the iPad apps at launch, you would think that they would have come up with an elegant way to get documents on and off your iPad.

Unfortunately, in reality it’s a huge pain. Ted Landau took the time to document all the steps it takes to actually get a document into iWork on your iPad, none of which are particularly intuitive. Plus you then have the hassle of managing revisions and tracking multiple copies of the same file.

The iPhone app SimpleNote and Notational Velocity on the mac show how document sync can be done right. Some apps are also adding Dropbox support, which gives you an idea how file sync in general could be improved. Given the fact that Apple has already done a lot of the hard work by creating the MobileMe and iWork online services, one can only hope that we’ll see seamless, cloud-based file syncing added sooner rather than later.

Safari caching

If you open multiple tabs in safari on your Mac, switching between them is instantaneous. In mobile safari, you can never be sure whether the tab will open immediately, or whether it will need to be reloaded over your wifi or 3G connection. On the wifi-only iPad, where users can’t be sure they’ll always have access to an internet connection, webpage persistance is particularly an issue. The fact that Offline Pages (iTunes link) is currently one of the top free iPad apps in the App Store would seem to underline this point.

Mobile Safari’s limiting caching abilities are most likely due to the limited amount of RAM in the iPad, which has just 256MB, however as Rentzsch has pointed out, it should be possible to offload pages to the solid state drive as a workaround, although it’s not a trivial problem.

Calendar event creation

Making event creation in calendars difficult seems to be one of Apple’s favorite UI slip-ups. The calendar app on the iPad is gorgeously designed and it makes browsing through calendar entries a visual pleasure.

But the interface for adding entries seems to have been cut & paste directly from the iPhone version and doesn’t make any use of the additional screen real estate the iPad offers. You get the impression the designers spent all their time working on the rest of the UI and simply stuck the editing controls in there at the last minute.

Consistency between the two platforms is of course a good thing, provided it doesn’t slow the user down unnecessarily. I would argue that you could better use the iPad’s screen real estate to make a much more efficient and intuitive event creation UI.

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Grassroots UI Innovation

Posted on Apr 6, 2010 in Featured, iPad, iPhone, UI Design

When Apple introduced the iPhone and later the iPhone SDK, they established a series of UI metaphors, interaction models and conventions, that have served as a template for nearly all third party apps. Gestures such as swipe to delete, or UI elements such as springy lists are simply expected.

Apple has done such a great job of establishing best practices for nearly all types of UI interactions that it’s not often you see news kinds of UI interaction introduced by third party developers.

But when Atebits introduced Tweetie 2, it also introduced so-called “spring reloading”. Basically if you pull down past the end of a list, causing it to spring back, you can refresh the current list of tweets.

Many reviewers noted the ingenuity of this design, as it effectively turned a habit of many users (namely playing with the springy lists) into a useful feature. This design has since been adopted by several other applications and seems as though it may become a de facto UI convention on the iPhone OS.

Here is the original Tweetie 2 design:

Foursquare is basically a straight up copy:

This is Gowalla’s take on it – the logo appears to let you know you’ve pulled down far enough:

And the Wikipedia app Articles uses the design to lock or unlock your screen orientation:

It’ll be interesting to see if this convention is adopted by more applications going forward – or if Apple will even perhaps add it to their own apps. But at any rate, it’s nice to see good UI innovations from a third party developer being adopted by others. I can’t wait to see what Atebits and others come up with for the iPad.

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3 Mac apps with perfect UIs for the iPad

Posted on Jan 31, 2010 in Featured, iPad, Opinions, UI Design

For the first time ever, the iPad gives developers the chance to design desktop-class applications for a multi-touch based user interface.
Here are 3 Mac applications with user interfaces that I think would work really well on the iPad:

1. Times

This fantastic RSS reader is already multi-touch aware and is a dream to use on MacBooks with multi-touch trackpads. You tap to read full articles, 3-finger swipe up to return to the overview or 3-finger swipe left and right to switch between sections. The gorgeous UI is the closest thing to reading a real newspaper on your Mac and Times could be a perfect match for the iPad.

Times RSS.png

2. CoverScout

The coverflow-esque UI in CoverScout is a perfect fit for the iPad: You can swipe through your albums, double-tap to start a search and then drag a cover from your search results to an album to apply it.
The search results bubble introduced in CoverScout 3 is also very reminiscent of the new popover list UI element introduced for the iPad.

Whilst you can certainly argue whether this is the type of application you would use on the iPad, the interaction style seems as though it would be an ideal match.

3. Djay

If there’s one application that would really work well with a touch-screen UI, it’s Djay. Being able to use a MacBook multi-touch trackpad as your DJ controller is nice, but a 9.7 inch touchscreen control would offer a much better, hands-on experience. Currently it looks as though access to the music on your iPad will be restricted though, making a real port of Djay unfeasible.

DJay.png

2010

It’ll be interesting to see which Mac applications will be turned into iPad versions and what level of sophistication iPad apps have. Will they stay simple and iPhone-esque? Or will we see Mac application developers come out with truely desktop-challenging versions of their products? 2010 should be an exciting year for developers…

If you like this article, shop at amazon.com and support Jetplane Journal.

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Jetlinked: iPad UI Roundup

Posted on Jan 28, 2010 in JetLinks, UI Design

Sebastiaan de With has posted a very comprehensive analysis of some of the new UI elements introduced on the iPad:

As usual with a large Apple product launch, I’ve written up this post to round up the good, the bad, and the ugly of all the new interface and interaction designs that were set loose on the world by the company that’s regarded as the most influential and skilled when it comes to designing experiences.

Man, where do I begin.

He’s done a terrific job of scrutinizing all the videos and screenshots on various websites as well: Cocoia Blog


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