Focus Deficit

Bicycles of the Mind. And Bicycles

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Calm UI

There’s a fair bit of interesting discussion at the moment around the topic of overly engineered interfaces on iOS devices, and to a lesser extent, OS X.  This post by Rene Ritchie captures it perfectly for me, in that you look at the skeuomorphic images, then compare them to all aluminium ones, and the aluminium ones are clearly less busy, easier to scan and more importantly to my mind, more calming.

As someone forced to use Windows at work for the last 20 odd years, it’s struck me that it’s become more shrill (Hotdog Stand theme notwithstanding) and more panic stricken an environment to work in.  

Overlapping glass windows, lots of constantly pulsing IM notifications, email windows, beeping and popping, it’s not at all conducive to calm, thoughtful working.

When I finally did manage to switch at home to Snow Leopard, it was like walking into a library.  No fuss, everything gentle and calming.

Part of this is the chrome that you hardly even notice.  An almost transparent aluminium like substance, that’s almost apologetic that it exists at all.  It’s interesting that Apple’s metal appears less substantial than Microsoft’s glass, but the glowing glass is so in-your-face that it yells at you, demanding notice.

And as for most Linux chrome, there’s a reason I prefer to ssh to them…

(Sidenote: is the reason that so much Linux has angry, angry interface design the reason so many of us that use Linux so annoyed all the time?)

So I think some people objecting to the fact that things are skeuomorphic may really be articulating the fact that they object to having busy, stressful places to work.  

For play, it’s different.

I think the Find My Friends interface is quite lovely to be honest, but it’s light, and a bit whimsical.  Game Centre is meant to be brash, and that’s OK too, so when you start gaming you should feel a level of excitement and if the UI can help, well that’s great.  For other high profile apps, the Calendar seems to rankle the most, as it’s hard to see how faux leather is at all useful there.

So maybe in all that, it’s just that it should be appropriate to the task in hand, and the default should be calming and just getting out the way.

iOS 6 made some strides in toning down the UI, more silver than blue, more blacks than silvers, and I thought on the iPhone especially, it felt more relaxing and pleasant to use.

Hopefully iOS 7 will carry that on and keep calming.

Filed under iOS skeuomorphism

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