19 July 2016

Screenestate: Site redesigns... (Part 3)


So, today (or maybe last night depending on your time zone) Ars Technica finally revealed their revamped 'new' design. The above is not 'it'. Above, you can gaze upon the wonder that is the updated 'white-on-black' theme (which is much easier on my eyes than typical 'black-on-white' themes of websites and windows programmes). 

This is gorgeous to my eyes:

  • It's relatively information dense
  • Makes use of the horizontal space available quite well with a dual column design
  • Minimises the menu bar and empty space between posts
  • Is chronological in posting order
This is everything that is good in website design!

Let's take a look at the 'real' website:

Well, you can't win 'em all...
Okay, this obviously isn't my preference. I think this would look great on a touch screen mobile device like a tablet or mobile phone. However, on the desktop it looks pretty terrible:

  • Information sparse; not enough posts and too much picture per post
  • Minimises the menu bar and empty space between posts
  • Makes use of the available width of the screen
I don't really have anything else to say about it. I guess it's functional in the loosest sense of the term... The fact that I can only really see two posts is really a useless site design and makes no sense: reducing usability.

To my sensibilities and my design understanding, it's clear that the first picture shows a site that allows its users to understand what is going on and to navigate effectively. I think it's also clear to whoever designed the Ars Technica website too because they are using something very similar for the mobile site design... counter to what I would expect considering the second image.

Like I said in part 1: It's pretty damming that your mobile site, designed to be read on a 5-7 inch vertically-orientated rectangular screen, is more readable than your default website design for expansive 19-30 inch horizontally-orientated desktop screens. Even worse when you provide a 'hidden' (or at best, not promoted) option to view it similarly on your own website...

I wish there was a thumbs up/down option for the available website designs like there is for the user posts on Ars' site. I think it might be quite telling (either way!).

15 July 2016

The rise and rise of AR...

So Pokemon Go is a thing. It's such a big thing that the servers are overloaded, people in un-recognised regions and people on non-supported platforms are trying workarounds in order to play the game!

Not only is the game an unqualified success in terms of user numbers, news coverage, IP capitalisation and implementation but part-owner of the brand, Nintendo, has seen its stock shoot up in the wake of the game's release.

For me this isn't a particularly surprising result - I mean, Pokemon is a multi-generational IP that has had strong societal mindshare and very strong repeat user support; The developers who made the game have already proven the technology through Ingress (which works on mobile phones) and, finally, the fact that the game is more inclusive and open by being an AR implementation is the coup de grĂ¢ce - the trifecta of perfection. 

If anything, I think Nintendo, Niantic and co. have been too reserved on the release of Pokemon Go and I think that, aside from having microtransactions (which seems to be working really well for them!) they could have also charged a small fee to purchase the app in the first place (maybe $2-5) - so strong is the Pokemon fan base that they would have generated the word-of-mouth that it has seen anyway.

I've long been (and I hate to use this word but it fits in this instance) 'bullish' about AR in comparison to VR and this is, for me, further proof that AR will only go from strength to strength. There are so many more implementations and opportunities out there for AR in comparison to VR that I just can't see the ground swell of support (both user and hardware numbers) for it to really get off the ground.

I can see many more Pokemon Gos in the future of AR. I can't see a Pokemon Go in VR's future.

9 July 2016

Installation probation...

My PC has been a bit slow for the longest time. Let me correct that - my DESKTOP PC has been slow for a long time despite me not using it. Why wasn't I using it? Well, that's mostly because I didn't have a desk or desk area to use it in or on. As a consequence I've not been playing many PC games since my laptop is pretty under-powered, nor have I been recording music or creating graphical art. 

So, slowly, over a period of a few months (because of a combination of work, laziness and lack of focus) I have set up the area for these endeavours and now it is almost complete; the PC was still slow - slower than when I had assembled it. 

Of course, I decided to give it a fresh install.

30 June 2016

Sci-fi Tropes: Hologrammatical sense...

The theory that we are holograms projected into three dimensional spacetime from a two dimensional surface is an intriguing possibility. It's a great thought experiment but one that I find hard to believe. This is mostly because the supposed surface whose information we are projected from is the CMB (cosmic microwave background).

This is the two dimensional representation of the inner wall of a sphere of photons we can observe from just after the reionisation event when the observable universe first became translucent to electromagnetic radiation.

While this, in itself, is not a reason for the theory to break down, the intervening time and light generated by other matter is. If we were a hologram from the surface of the CMB then information from the progression of stars over time would not be simultaneously observable. i.e. We can view the light from the CMB at the same time as viewing light from Alpha Centauri or our own star. This is essentially our ability to see multiple snapshots in time all superimposed on top of one another.

Hologrammatic information does not work this way.

8 June 2016

Screenestate: Site redesigns... (Part 2)

So in Part 1, i discussed what I thought sites were/are doing wrong with UX. I may have levelled the charge that a lot of those sites would be better to navigate and consume on a mobile, vertically-orientated device. So lets see what browsing those same websites on a mobile, vertically-orientated device is.

Knowing where you are:

Like I pointed out last time, humans read across a bit and then down and across again. It works. Whether it's left to right or right to left, that's our thing. Developers of mobile interfaces understand this. It's why we have lots of scrolling on these devices because the viewing space is really limited (maybe 4-7 diagonal inches on average).

Even more telling are the design principles that went into the ergonomics of the iPhone (which was quite innovative at the time) compared to the more common horizontal orientation of the then-competing nascent smart phones. Now, all smart phones and tablets have that primarily vertical orientation for nominal usage, with the option to switch to a horizontal output for more media-friendly viewing. It works really well!

However, just as just before the revolution in interface design that was pushed forward by the iPhone (there were others, but Apple popularised it), we're in an interim period where interface designers have grown up with two familiar systems but are now contending with an explosion in pixel count and screen estate* and it is increasingly apparent that many designers out there do not know how to handle that effectively.

Worse still, there's a not-so-uncommon crossover between different orientations and resolutions when browsing the internet which is terrible. When this occurs, the website is displayed in its entirety on a mobile (small screen, touch) device or takes up a tiny portion of the large 1080p+ resolution display. This is supposed to be 'fixed' in the newer standards to come to the browsing world whereby devices, orientations, resolutions and bandwidth are all detected and adapted to. Unfortunately, much as with the history of the internet, complete adherence to standards can be slow to occur.