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.

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.