Friday, February 20, 2009

The Art of User interface Design.

I've been using some Apple products for some time now, I have a MacBook, I have an iPhone and I use my old iPod as my home stereo.

I also have a windows laptop for work, probably going to rebuild my media centre at home, have an Xbox.

I also now have a Blackberry.

Now without a doubt, when it comes to User Interface Apple is king - this is a fact that cannot be disputed. I can't think of a single company that hasn't copied the UI principles that Apple sets in place. Except for Microsoft Zune, that was awesome UI with unfortunately shitty form factor.

Which is where Apple wins again, but in my opinion that's very much more an 'if you like that kind of thing' issue.

I think, for basic stuff, the Windows UI works great. I mean Vista blows chunks but I am quite a fan of XP. I like XP better because Vista is suspiciously mac-esque and I find it disappointing that after 20 years, Apple moved away from the original interface that they [allegedly] stole from Rank Xerox, which in turn was [allegedly] stolen from Apple by Microsoft, only to have the Microsoft boys do the a slightly more subtle form of theft with Vista.

It's disappointing because Microsoft are no slouches, they have massive R&D brains and boffins plugging away at all sorts of cool stuff (Surface is already being applied to multiple emerging technologies). It's just a shame that their marketing and sales guys appear to hate their employers and constantly drop them in the shit.

Anyway, I digress. Apple stuff looks good, but more importantly for the purposes of this post is incredibly easy for the layman to pick up and use immediately. Not so much the more advanced stuff, but basic operation of new concepts Apple is king. When it comes to more complex things I would suggest that the windows UI follows a more logical progression, but that'll be a matter of taste.

There's a LOT to say about the Apple vs. MS debate here, especially around how Apple appear to be able to get away with the sharkiest of business manoeuvres with 0 comeback, how they have a significantly easier job than Microsoft and a whole host of other things that I am sure you're even less interested in than the rest of this post!

This was originally about UI design, let’s go back there. So. iPhone, limited but painless. Zune, loveable in the extreme but didn't work with my Mac and battery life was appalling. Blackberry.

Ah, Blackberry! Imagine turning on your phone and having it squirt wee-laden acid into your eyes. This is the experience that the designers of this marvellous device have gone for. They evidently saw the writing on the wall when iPhone came out and thought trying to be in any way easy to use was an exercise in futility. They can't be number one in usability then they'll be number 1 in 'number of handsets launched at unfortunate passersby'.

I really like this phone it's really quite entertaining. Currently I am trying to list the ways in which they could have made the user interface worse. So far I have: 'Keys made from jellyfish' and 'random electric shocks'.

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