One of the ways you can tell that a piece of UI design really works is when you start trying to use it in other apps. A great example of this: Mr. Reader’s navigation buttons:
Those up, down and close buttons at the side aren’t there all the time. In fact, you have to slide your finger in from the edge of the screen to show it, and it’s your finger is positioned automatically over the “down” button. You have to hold and slide up or down to use one of the other buttons: if you lift your finger, the buttons disappear.
The nice thing is that you can do this from any part of the screen edge, so it doesn’t matter where your finger starts. I usually use my thumb, as I’m holding the iPad in portrait orientation.
It’s a lovely user interface device: hidden, yet easy to find and simple to understand. And it’s one of the things that makes Mr. Reader my favourite news reader on the iPad.
Last week, I gave quick talk to some of the designers at Redwood about the challenges and opportunities that designing magazine-style content for the iPad presents. These are my notes. They’re rough, but they represent where my thinking is going.
There are some very interesting facts about the reaction of Microsoft to Spotlight after its first demo revealed in the comments to a post on Joe Wilcox’s AppleWatch blog.
"MSFT has worked on WinFS for more than a decade without success in
making it fast, reliable, and easy-to-use enough for release. The
Longhorn "reset" in 2004 was in large part the realization that WinFS
was still not ready for primetime.
At the June 2004 WWDC, Jobs blew away the MSFT engineers in
attendance by demonstrating lightning fast Spotlight searches on Tiger
(OSX 10.4). The court-released MSFT emails show how flabbergasted they
were, and the imperative of getting the Tiger preview DVDs back to
Redmond for reverse engineering. Comments by MSFT’s Jim Allchin and
Lenn Pryor were priceless.
" You will have to take Vic’s disk…I am not giving mine up. Tonight I got on corpnet, hooked up Mail.app to my Exchange server
and then downloaded all of my mail into the local file store. I did
system wide queries against docs, contacts, apps, photos, music, and my
Microsoft email on a Mac. It was f*cking amazing. It is like I just got
a free pass to Longhorn land today."
"Yes. I know. It is hard to take. I don’t believe we will have search this fast."
And years later, Microsoft still does not have search this fast – and, from the looks of what Joe is saying, probably won’t have it for many years.
So why is Apple so good at this stuff, while Microsoft keeps churning out concepts – like it’s latest, "table top computing" – that it never implements properly?