A couple of quick notes on Googles new profiles

Google just revamped their profiles:

We think this new design helps highlight the information that’s most important to you, making it easier for people who visit your profile to get to know you. As the new layout gradually rolls out, current users of Google Profiles will notice that their existing profile will automatically update to the new style. To update and add to your profile, simply click on the new “Edit Profile” button.

Here’s my revamped profile, and here are my thoughts about it:

  • It’s good. It’s easy to scan, it’s very easy to create and edit, and it’s a nice overall upgrade to the old style profiles.
  • It’s not very pretty. The cleanliness of Googles white color hasn’t bled through and while I’m all for making it easier on the eyes by muting down a bright white, the odd result of gradients, drop shadows and baby blues muddies it all quite a bit.
  • Just the other day, I used “truth to materials” as a subtle criticism of a drop shadow that didn’t blend realistically considering the z-index of layers if one considered a website to be physical. It’s worse here; the the white sheet’s left shadow breaks the physics for me. Go on, point at me and laugh for pointing out something so nitpicky. But it gets to me, subconsciously, and my eyes can’t rest knowing the visuals are off like this.
  • I wonder what a filled-out profile means for search results.
  • Hey, it looks like Google finally got the message, and separated Google Buzz out from Gmail! Maybe it’s useful now!
  • Click the “Buzz” tab. Now click the “About” tab again. Fast isn’t it? Must be AJAX. Nerds: notice that the URL doensn’t contain the infamous #! slug. This is HTML5 boys and girls.
  • It comforts me that profile items you don’t fill out, don’t show up at all on your profile. There’s nothing worse than an item that says “Gender: Won’t say”.

I’d like a redesign, but everything else about this, I kinda like. That said, it’s no-where near replacing my about.me/joen profile in my email signature yet.

Gawker failed to kill the scrollbar

Gawkers 2.0.1 redesign:

We had mistakenly thought mouse scrolling (via scrollwheels or trackpads) and keyboard shortcuts were enough for story navigation—an overly optimistic expectation to say the least. News web sites may indeed become more application-like and readers may grow accustomed to swiping instead of scrolling. But they’re not there yet, as the extensive criticism of the sidebar made clear.

Back when the now almost universally panned redesign was first unveiled, the usual posse and myself had a discussion on Gawkers rather non-traditional new layout. The scrollbar is a good first step, but the real challenge for Gawker will be to get their fancy AJAX layout to load in a reasonable, fast, predictable way and ensuring the back button works properly.

The impending demise of the URL

TechCrunch writes that Google is in the process of killing the URL bar from its Chrome browser. To be fair, this is not recent news. Google has been exploring various UI configurations to its Chrome browser for for most of the last year, and the information looks to have come from the Window UI page from the Chromium documentation project.

It’s also worth noting that the proposed UI change appears to have found its way to the Android Honeycomb browser:


Either way, the direction for Chrome is interesting, and for a number of reasons, it makes sense.

Apple has demonstrated that there’s a great economy in apps, but “app” is an increasingly diffuse term, considering you can create quite complex create apps in HTML and a number of new non-platform-native technologies.

If Google can change the public understanding from an app being something you download and install to rather being a place you visit, the change can help inventorize the web. The result could be easier to make discoverable to users but most importantly, it could be monetized. On the old web, you’d visit The New York Times and throw up in your mouth at the paywall. On the new web, you’d visit The New York Times and get all the free content, but have an option to buy a premium web-app which stores your access credentials while it serves as a bookmark.

The URL bar is the commandline, and like iOS doesn’t need a commandline for you to launch Angry Birds, Chrome doesn’t need a URL bar for you to launch Facebook.


A few weeks ago, I created a Chrome web-app to see how the Chrome web-store works. That app has now been installed a couple of hundred times a week, even though the app is merely a glorified bookmark for a Google service. If we can learn anything from this, it is that pointing at a large fingerfriendly icon on your new tab page is quicker than typing in a URL or clicking a small navigation bar bookmark.

But what about search? Search is the core of Googles business, and Google won’t revamp a proven UI without good reasons. While putting apps front and center makes a lot of sense, there’s a UI challenge in having both search and apps front and center.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Internet Explorer 9s new UI which disconnects the URL bar from the tab:

But with the emergence of Chrome Web-Apps, which are just around the corner, there’s a new, albeit not super strong, argument for disconnecting the addressbar from the tab, and that is that it’s still, despite web-apps, a place people use to launch new webpages. In the case of the omnibar, it’s also where people start searching. In Chrome Web-Apps […], the omnibar is hidden when you’re inside, say, the Google Maps web-app. How do you launch a new page or search? You have to click “new tab” in order to get the omnibar back.

The solution could be putting the omnibar on the new tab page. Clicking “new tab” would then set text focus on the search field:


It’ll be interesting to see where Google goes with this.

Quick thoughts on Googles new redesigned topbar

Google has just rolled out a redesigned topbar for all users. Visit Google.com to see it:


Google is notorious for non-design, though clearly times are changing. Buttons are styled, drop shadows are added. More importantly, links are no longer underlined. For me, that’s the big one.

Certainly the web is transforming, and usability rules are transforming from “don’t style form elements” to “if you style a form elements, make sure they look like form elements”. Are we seeing a similar trend in hyperlink usability? Is the color blue at least sacred?

Firefox 4 gets custom alertboxes

Look, Firefox 4 is getting custom UI for JavaScript alert boxes:


My first impression is that while that’s pretty, it seems to be pretty for the sake of pretty. My gut feeling is, however, that with the XUL-based interface Firefox has, they need to make custom UI if they want to make JavaScript alerts tab-modal — and why wouldn’t they? So they might as well run with it. Tab-modal, if that is in fact what they’re doing: thumbs up. Pretty for the sake of pretty: mullet.

On Apples new OSX interface ideas



It’s about as near a maximize feature — something I’ve been clamoring for for years — as you’re going to get.

Some thoughts on that, and Apples other OSX news.

Stoplight Consistency


Apples stoplight window management controls, the red, yellow and green buttons at the top left of OSX windows, have long been a cause of headache for me. The problem I’ve always found, is consistency and predictability.

At first glance, red yellow and green means “stop, wait, go”. When you hover over the buttons, however, you’re shown x, - and + symbols. Classicy mystery meat navigation. Fine.

When you click the red button, you close the window. Fair enough, even though you don’t actually close the app. It takes some getting used to. Also fine.

When you close the yellow button, you minimize. Very good.

When you close the green button. Well, it’s anyones guess. Firefox will scale the window to fit the available space on your screen; Chrome will toggle the height of your window. This is the bad one, this is the one that needs changing. Which is why the next OSX should own the green button and let it invoke fullscreen for every app there is.



Apple introduced a launchpad which shows all your apps in an icon grid view similar to your iPhone device. That’s nice, especially in concert with the new App Store. It’s a bold new step in Apples vison of ridding the world of the file-system. In fact, apps may be the final frontier, as installing, managing and uninstalling apps cleanly and easily has been the bane of operating systems for decades. As such, it’s not the launcher interface itself that interests me — that could really have been anything and a grid of icons is not supremely original per se — but the fact that adding, managing, removing and launching apps is now done in a completely new and easier way is going to be something new Mac users are going to love. That’s nice.

Mission Control

This’ll be interesting.


The love-child of Exposé — the thing that explodes all your open apps on to the screen to help you select — has hooked up with fullscreen and Spaces, the arguably orphaned multi-desktop environment. The resulting ménage à trois is one where each fullscreen app gets its own “screen”. When you invoke “Mission Control”, you’re able to switch between screens — one screen for your oldschool stoplight windows, one for each fullscren app you have.

It really doesn’t look so intuitive. Frankly it looks confusing.

But that’s okay, because for most users, when you maximize an app — iPhone style — you get to another app by minimizing. And that’ll still work (I assume). Mission Control is for those willing to learn how to use it. It’s a window management feature for not-casual users, and those users are going to love it.

Next Project: Kill The Menu

One of the reasons I’ve clamored for fullscreen all these years, is so that screen edges can be used. You know, when you drag the mouse to the top, bottom or sides of your screen? Yup, that’s real easy because when you hit the edge, you can’t go any further — when you’re at the edge, you need only worry about moving in one direction, horisontally or vertically.

Which makes me excited for a fullscreen Chrome browser. Tabs can now work in Chrome as they’re supposed to — sit right at the top for extremely fast access. I betting Safari is going to try tabs on top again.

Long time OSX apologists have been pointing to the fact that OSX does in fact utilize screen edges. The top of the screen is reserved for the ubiquitous “file menu”. The only problem is, file menus are oldschool. They’re boring. They’re there because no-one had a good idea how to tuck in lots of features in very little space.

Be honest. When was the last time you used the Edit menu? Just now, for copy pasting? Oh, alright. How did you do that on your phone? You long-pressed? Right. Because that’s the new way of doing things.

That’s your assignment for your next OS, Apple. Rid us of the file menu. It’s okay to do it in a Snow Leopard-esque maintenance release to Lion. You could call it Liger.

Quick thoughts on the MIUI Android rom

A new rom has been developed by the chinese. It’s called “Miui” and it’s Android based. Be careful, unless you like 80ies power-ballads, you may want to turn down the volume:

Since I’ve been very harsh to HTC Sense and Android skins in general, I’ve been politely asked my thoughts on this one. And while I’m still preparing a larger rant on the skin situation, I’d like to give a few quick notes on what I think about this particular flavor.

— I love that it’s possible. I love that because of Android being open source, such an OS image can be put together.


— I like the lock screen, insofar as you can open the phone, messages or the device in general by swiping three different icons. I’m less thrilled that the direction to swipe/unlock is vertical. Which doesn’t work so well for HTC Sense.


— The homescreen / launcher seems as uninventive as every other homescreen out there (save for Windows Phone 7 which looks to bring something new to the table), but it’s a formula that works reasonably well. There’s a customizable dock for those shortcuts you use all the time, and there’s the rest of the screen for littering with various apps you use.

— In the spirit of Samsung TouchWiz (ugh), every icon gets an iOS-like rounded-corner box. Which does bring a grid-like look to the apps, but feels dated. Also, since the icons weren’t designed to be shown in such boxes (unlike iOS icons), I doubt the viability of this framing of all icons.

— Android has numerous ways to quickly toggle GPS, Bluetooth, Wifi and other “quick settings”, and it’s an interesting approach for MIUI to place these in the notification drawer. But like task-killers, some of these features really shouldn’t be “quick toggles”, but rather completely automatic and built in such a way that they don’t kill your battery. Like Android 2.2 killed task killers1, I’m hoping future Android releases will better manage these settings for me.

— The ability to quickly rearrange the sequence of homescreens is nice, if one likes the way Android homescreens work. I’m not convinced. On the one hand, I love the completely sandbox-esque feel of being able to tweak every homescreen and their widget and app layouts. On the other hand, I like iOS completely automatic and fascist homescreen regime wherein the leftmost homescreen is the search screen, and homescreens are simply added to the right when you need them. In the case of iOS, however, the otherwise brilliantly unified “there are no app shortcuts” metaphor lends itself to what I like to call the “stocks-app homescreen syndrome”, which refers to right-most iOS homescreen which is usually the debris garden for unwanted yet un-uninstallable apps.

— The app/widget trash can that has gotten prime real estate right at the top of the screen is rather silly. Sure it makes it easy when you need to move apps from one homescreen to the other, but in the ongoing crusade against the filesystem, the trash can will be first against the wall. And so it’s a UI metaphor that we should start to shy away from, no matter the kooky and fun way we decide to use it. The trash can is broken goods.

— In the folders vs. stacks fight that goes on, I’m actually in the stacks side of the arena, even if I think the stacks implementation of “max. 12 apps per stack” on iOS is dumb. This MIUI implementation of having folders that just look like stacks but behave like folders, is unimpressive.

— Most central in my argument against skins is that there are some aspects that are fair game, and some that you just don’t mess with. With HTC Sense, it’s primarily the bundled apps. Overall, I think it’ll be the same with MIUI, whose contact list is so stupid. How stupid is it? It’s so stupid, it copied Apples patently stupid interface mechanism where if you swipe right on a contact, it reveals a delete button (see the video, 3 minutes in exactly). Which, if it isn’t clear, is such a vicious example of mystery meat navigation that only bad bicyclists can get my blood to boil more.

— So you don’t mess with core apps is my mantra. Browser, calendar, mail, contacts, phone … those are off limits. Do not touch. What’s left in MIUI? Well there’s the lock screen, the homescreen (with custom icons and widgets), the app drawer and the notification drawer. Did you know that all those aspects of the Android interface, can be replaced by Android apps? In fact, MIUI could’ve been simply an Android app instead of a fullblown rom.

Did I mention I love open source? My friendly criticism aside, I love that MIUI exists. I may even try it, and I will no doubt like it more than HTC Sense. But it all boils down to the fact that we’re still dealing with a phone, which needs to be stable, easy to update with security patches. And the core experience — phone, browser, contacts, email — needs to be razor sharp. With that in mind, I think it’s a real pity that MIUI isn’t just an Android Market app that replaced my homescreen, lock screen, app drawer and notification bar. After all, that’s not only entirely possible, but it’s likely I’d pay for it. I could say the same for HTC Sense.

  1. Yes, really! Task killers no longer work in Android 2.2, and you don’t need them either. []

Internet Explorer 9 Beta video leaks, here’s a few thoughts on the revamped UI [Update]

I have a feeling this video somehow doesn’t tell the whole story about the UI (or is fake), but it’s so interesting I’ll give a few comments.


  • The tabs next to the address bar? Sure doesn’t leave a lot of space for tabs. Could it be Microsofts attempt at solving the tab overflow issue? If 10 tabs are open, do three of them show up next to the addressbar, and 7 of them below?
  • The move towards tabs on top has been gaining momentum ever since Chrome appeared out of nowhere1, so I half expected IE to jump on this bandwagon (which is a good idea for a variety of reasons).
  • Perhaps the placement of the back/forward and address bar in the bulk of Windows 7 dictated that they had to stay in place to ensure “consistency”?
  • Maybe combined with a desire to mimic the intense minification of UI that goes on in other browsers at the moment, this pushed Microsoft to place the tabs to the right of the addressbar as a last ditch attempt at saving vertical pixels?
  • On a widescreen device, while not a good idea, this is not terrible. Since http:// is now officially dead, and short URLs are the trend, perhaps a combined IE omnibar doesn’t need the lavish width it enjoys in Google Chrome? Perhaps it scales down to, say, 300 pixels in width at the least, revealing a decent amount of extra tab space?
  • Alex Faaborg from Mozilla explained best why tabs on top is a good idea. But with the emergence of Chrome Web-Apps, which are just around the corner, there’s a new, albeit not super strong, argument for disconnecting the addressbar from the tab, and that is that it’s still, despite web-apps, a place people use to launch new webpages. In the case of the omnibar, it’s also where people start searching. In Chrome Web-Apps (here’s an early look), the omnibar is hidden when you’re inside, say, the Google Maps web-app. How do you launch a new page or search? You have to click “new tab” in order to get the omnibar back. Which isn’t a big problem, but nonetheless one IE9s hypothetical future toolbar configuration could eliminate.

On the whole of it, Internet Explorer 9 is interesting only in an infamous way. At best, IE9 can become so standards compliant that us webdesigners can ignore it and let our code degrade gracefully to work in it. At worst, it adds another browser we have to hack towards. That makes four, with IE6, 7, and 8.

[Update]: It looks like I was right in many of these things.

  1. Yep, I know Opera was first, but Chrome somehow brought it to the masses []

The Windows iTunes Install Process, Archived For Posterity

This is a series of screenshots chronicling the install of iTunes on Windows. Behold:

iTunes_Setup_01 iTunes_Setup_02 iTunes_Setup_03 iTunes_Setup_04 iTunes_Setup_05 iTunes_Setup_06 iTunes_Setup_07

At this point, I’d like to remind viewers that in step 4, I unchecked the “Use iTunes as the default player for audio files” and “Automatically update iTunes and other Apple software” options, so you’d think you wouldn’t get all sorts of services and update apps installed. Not so:

iTunes_Apps iTunes_Services