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Designing Windows 8 - Redesigning a Religion

Interview with Sam Moreau, director of user experience for Windows, Windows Live and Internet Explorer. This man has some balls.

As long as I’ve been at Microsoft, they’ve been sort of tired of being an afterthought in the design world. When I went to Microsoft, a lot of my friends in the design community were like, “Seriously?” And my answer was, “Of course. Where else can you create religion?”

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Mac OS X Lion: Impressions

Success!

Mac OS X Lion came out on the 20th and I hastily installed it on three separate machines.

I was under the impression that this transition would go rather smoothly based upon my past experiences with OSX and Migration Assistant. Little did I know I was in for a wild ride.

I installed it on three separate machines at the same time. Each one of slightly varying age and configuration.

Computer 1: iMac – 27″, Late 2009 1TB 7200RPM HDD, 4GB Ram, 512MB Video card, 2.66 GHz Intel Core i5

Computer 2: Mac Pro Nehalem, Early 2009 2TB 7200RPM HDD, 16GB Ram, 2GB Video Card, Two 2.93GHZ “Gainestown” Processors

Computer 3: MacBook Pro – 15″, Mid 2009 500GB 5400 RPM HDD, 4GB Ram, 512MB Video Card, 2.66GHZ Intel Core 2 Duo “Penryn”

I’ve tried two different installation methods: two via the Mac App Store and one via a bootable external HDD with the InstallESD on it. Here are my first impressions on Lion.

1. Migration Assistant Issues

If you didn’t happen to update via Apple’s built-in software update the morning of the launch, you likely missed a key update. The 714 KB patch apparently fixed a major issue which was unbeknownst to those of us who happened to, say, do all their software updates prior to 11:59 PM the night before.

This update addresses an issue with the Migration Assistant application in Mac OS X Snow Leopard that prevents transfer of your personal data, settings, and compatible applications from a Mac running Mac OS X Snow Leopard to a new Mac running Mac OS X Lion.

Not installing this update will simply render any backup you have as unaccessible when you launch the installer. Time Machine backups will not appear in the disk selection as a restore point. Ended in a waste of my life tracking down what the issue was (I had assumed a dead backup, oh no!)

2. Linen Lion?

Lion Linen Texture

Apple has continued their insistance on using a “linen” pattern. First seen implemented in iOS folders, it’s used as the background on the installation/login screen, as well as in use in the same fashion as the iOS folders for Launchpad, and can be seen as the Operating System background when going into Mission Control mode. I’m all for bringing in organic textures to software but sometimes it feels a bit out of place in contrast to the glossy, refined finish Apple executes in the rest of it’s interface. Another bothering thing is that they did not use the “linen” texture on the “dashboard” which would seem like a great fit for this texture. Instead they use a “beveled circle” surface to display widgets on. 

Inconsistencies such as these are irritating when you’ve come to expect interface excellence from Apple.

3. Don’t Touch My Mouse (Scroll)

Mouse Scroll

I understand how scrolling works on a touch device. I also understand how years of using a scroll wheel have developed a certain paradigm when interfacing with a traditional mouse. What I do not understand is why Apple insisted on forcing users to utilize their new “natural” scroll paradigm akin to a touch device on a traditional mouse (I use a magic mouse and even it felt wrong going the opposite direction).

For the Touchpad (which I do not own) I assume it would be a welcome difference and work quite well. But for my mouse, not so. Here I think Apple should have let users decide to go to their “natural” scroll, but not make it a system default.

4. Adobe Photoshop CS5 Failure

Photoshop CS5 Error

CS5 refuses to open my .PSD files. It will randomly select a file to open occasionally, but for the most part many of my files are in-accessible. I’ve managed to work around this; thankfully I still had an older install of CS4 on my system for backwards compatibility. I’ve tried repairing permissions on my disk, checking if the files were corrupted, trashing Photoshop preferences, and going so far as to reinstalling CS5 to no avail.

Seeing as this is the core application I use on OSX and the primary file type I open, quite a big glitch in my workflow.

5. Spotlight Indexing

Indexing

Disk Usage

It took around 5-6 hours for Lion to index the contents of my HDD on my 27” iMac. It’s around 200 GB of data, which isn’t ridiculously small, but the larger issue was my computer was essentially useless during this time and slowed to a crawl doing even simple web browsing. I’ve found this index issue on both my home machine and laptop as well.

6. Windows + Lion via Samba Sharing = NOPE!

Something is broken with the file sharing via Samba in this first version of Lion (at least for me). I previously was able to share work folders with co-workers that could then access via Windows 7. Very, very useful. Since installing Lion, I’ve received feedback from others that they can no longer access my shares and receive prompts to “login”. Even when I setup custom credentials for my machine it rejects them. Multiple troubleshooting steps proved largely ineffective; added users, rebuilt permissions, opened all sharing preferences…and the list goes on…

7. Where For Art Thou, Color Finder Icons?

Finder Icon Changes

I miss my finder icons being colored. In a largely desaturated GUI I prefer the color splash provided by Snow Leopard. The color encoding proved extremely useful for me and I find myself now having to read the labels (especially so with the introduction of a few new icons in the sidebar). A minor annoyance.

8. I Like It

Aside from these issues, I greatly enjoy the majority of the improvements made to the operating system. Mission Control (Originally called “Spaces”) is extremely useful and I’ve already integrated multiple desktops into my workflow effectively. Launchpad is more of a visual novelty (I can get to things faster in a Finder window list versus scrolling 27” pages) but I enjoy looking at it. I’d say it’s usefulness would only be apparent if my monitor was a touchscreen. The most overlooked feature though is the new “AirDrop”, which allows you to quickly and easily share files with another user. It’s super sweet, and just “works”. The refined GUI is a solid step in a good direction and appeals to me aesthetically.

Mission Control

Launchpad

Lion GUI

If you’re a graphic designer, I would hold off until some of the obvious issues are ironed out that affect our work flow. Otherwise, I think it is a solid introduction into what I think is Apple’s next push to something greater: Multitouch iMacs? 17” OSX Tablets? Only time will tell.

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Interesting how Microsoft has taken the concept of “mobile first” when thinking about their newest OS, Windows 8. I’m curious to see how well this new style of operating system pans out, especially under heavy workloads.

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Awesome look back in time: Mac OSX: - Introducing Aqua. Timeless Interface guidance here:

"When you design a new user interface you have to start out humble. What are the simplest elements in it? What does a button look like. And you spend months working on a button. That’s a button, in Aqua…simple things. Tremendous fit and finish…paying a lot of attention to dynamics. Our goal in this user interface was two fold: Give more power to pro customers, and make this the dream user interface for someone who has never touched a computer before." – Steve Jobs

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"There are two ways of constructing a software design; one way is to make it so simple that there are obviously no deficiencies, and the other way is to make it so complicated that there are no obvious deficiencies. The first method is far more difficult."

— Charles Antony Richard Hoare

(Source: jankoatwarpspeed.com)

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While designing visual interfaces for dense, complex products, designers can also influence brand perception by creating experiences that are both memorable and useful.

This session discusses how to design a unique visual interface that puts the needs of the users first; how to add surprise and delight to critical moments of the experience; and how to use craftsmanship and attention to detail to set your design apart in a visually complex medium.

Finally, Nick talks about how visual designers can effectively frame conversations with stakeholders about brand and experience by using personas, experience attributes, and stories to convey design ideas.

Enjoy!

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LiveView is a specialized remote screen viewing application intended as a tool to help designers create graphics for mobile applications, it has also proven to be useful for creating quick and dirty simulations, demos, and experience prototypes.

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Great project to standardize interface sketching by defining what the user sees (greys/blacks) and does (reds) into one coherent system.