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.

5 June 2016

Sci-fi Tropes: Expanding possibilities...

By NASA / WMAP Science Team - http://map.gsfc.nasa.gov/media/121238/ilc_9yr_moll4096.png, Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=23285693
By NASA / WMAP Science Team - Public Domain

I've had a pet theory for a long time now. Actually, it's more of a questioning observation:

Is the universe really expanding?

Now, don't get me wrong! I understand that we are observing the expansion of our visible universe as the physical objects in that visible sphere* are moving further apart. I just see that there is another scenario where that same local 'viewing' of our universe would result in the same or very similar understanding.

There is a recent article on New Scientist that has prompted this line of thinking to come to the fore in my mind, wherein a discrepancy between measurements of the rate of expansion of the universe means that there might be a 9% increase. It's important to note that it may be an error in our accuracy so it's still too early to get overly excited about this observation - much like the faster than light neutrinos!

2 June 2016

Screenestate: Site redesigns... (Part 1)

A week ago I awoke and immediately went to one of my favourite websites on the internet: Ars Technica. I received quite a shock when seeing that the site had been redesigned. The change has since been reconsidered and reverted to the old site design in the face of huge user backlash.

There are several problems with the redesign but let me first talk about the apparently modern/current website design trends and why current UX designers (and UX designers in training) should be shaking their heads at such implementations on desktop.

Regarding this topic specifically, I feel the need to point out that the points I'm making here are from my own personal preferences and biases, except where I'm making an empirical statement - though that doesn't happen often in opinion pieces like this! Normally, I assume people understand this when reading content - however, it seems that few people remember this when reading opinion pieces. I'm making these points in support of my argument and preferences. Other people may have different preferences and so might find these arguments unpersuasive. 

11 May 2016

Screenestate...Ansel and Greatel!

I read on RPS the other day about Nvidia's Ancel tech and, wow... I'm seriously impressed!

I won't reinvent the wheel so here's the short of it as described by RPS:

Games supporting Ansel will let players pop open a camera mode, which pauses the action, turns off the game’s user interface, and lets them compose a shot. Along with moving the camera freely, folks will get to fiddle with the field-of-view, tweak colours, and apply a few simple filters for that Instagram effect. It’ll also offer some fancy image formats, including colossal 8-gigapixel screenshots for mega-high detail, the high dynamic range EXR format, and 360-degree panoramas intended for virtual reality.

This is basically an enhanced version of the screenshot modes available in a number of different games. Want filters like Shadow of Mordor and Dying Light? You got it. Want to be able to turn off the UI and get a clean shot then they have that too. Want to move around the level freely like Shadow of Mordor (and apparently The Order 1886 - though somehow I missed that when playing!) then you can...

What's more interesting are the other features but I do wonder how far from the player character the camera can roam. Either way, no matter how limited, I think this is only a good thing.

The only reason I'm not more excited by this is that it's Nvidia cards only. That's a shame because it's a cool tech and takes a lot of the hassle out of coding these sorts of screen-cap features into each and every title to be released. I think I'd be more interested/excited if this was Valve announcing this feature for Steam... or Microsoft announcing it for Windows. As it stands, I'm looking at the new generation of graphics cards and, depending on the price points of AMD's cards, I'm likely heading towards one of their mid-high range cards as I usually never spend €350+ on a graphics card as, in my experience, most cards perform well for the same number of years at the same settings and you're ready to buy a new card (or couple) at about the same time anyway...

I also don't game on anything anywhere near a 4K resolution so there's no need for me to push that many pixels as it is. What I do want is something that is power efficient, quiet and not too hot (for my non-air conditioned hot spot); A card to go in my planned new rig towards the end of the year that will suffice for the next 4-5 years on Win 10 (even though I don't really want that OS but, hey, I can't stick with Win 7 if I want to play new games!) and even though the new Nvidia cards look tempting I doubt they will be very affordable in my little corner of the international market.

5 May 2016

Dubious backseat designing...

So, I've been a following the indubitable Bill Harris for a number of years now. I was put on his tail by the folks from GamersWithJobs and was hooked from the start. He has a very specific and personal writing style which I would liken to David Gemmell... who could make even the most mundane items and events seem revelatory and exciting.

Bill's a great guy. He also released a game virtually by himself and now he has a follow-up idea.

I think it's a great idea but I think I also have a modification of this idea that would make it more fun and interesting to potential players. The backseat designer in me just couldn't stay quiet. The concept is a half-minute hero version of American football...