Gmail’s mobile apps recently received a crisp visual refresh, but the fundamental reachability issue was not addressed. The most important buttons in the app are still in no hand’s land. The Gmail team should consider the button layout Superhuman uses which places archive, reply, trash, etc. at the bottom to be more thumb-friendly.
Left: Gmail. Right: Superhuman
Gmail’s update is intriguing because Google Tasks already transitioned to an interface that focuses on reachability. I predict more redesigns that utilize half-sheets throughout the year.
This is a first attempt to write about what I’m listening to, reading, watching, designing, learning and thinking about. I took notes throughout the month in my current note-taking and task tracking app, Bear. For March I will begin to transition to Day One for journaling.
The Dropout Podcast
The Dropout is a new podcast from ABC Radio about Elizabeth Holmes and Theranos. I’m not as familiar with Theranos as I should be considering the drama, fraud, and damage the company has caused. After listening to the first few episodes I purchased Bad Blood too. The story is… insane.
Little Italy – This might be a tough sell and I understand. Little Italy is a terrible movie, but it’s worth watching if you enjoy listening to Jason, June, and Paul discuss the details.
A Star Is Born
In my opinion A Star Is Born is highly overrated. Yes, Shallow is a good song that I have listened to many, many times. However I did not buy the love story, and the ending felt both rushed and random.
Rami Malek rightfully won the Oscar for Best Actor for his performance in Bohemian Rhapsody. Learning to sing and speak with a British accent with large, fake teeth in your mouth must be incredibly difficult. I thoroughly enjoyed this movie. To learn more about his experience listen to his Fresh Air interview. Have I mentioned Fresh Air? 😉
The Walking Dead
Even though the ratings are down, I think the second half of season 9 is interesting and scary. The new villain and her group provide an innovative and unexpected story.
I’m sad season 5 will be the last season of Broad City, but so far it’s enjoyable. The first episode is told entirely as Instagram Stories. I got to see Abbi and Ilana at the first Clusterfest in San Francisco. The first 3 minutes and 45 seconds of their set was the two of them dancing to Jennifer Lopez’s Get Right. So fun.
Robocopalyse came highly recommended, but I would not recommend it. War, artificial intelligence, robots, etc. Yawn.
First Draught (clever name) is a newsletter written by MG Siegler that covers a wide variety of tech topics. MG has an uncanny ability to use his previous posts as arguments. I guess that’s an option when you consistently write year after year.
Design in Tech
The prolific John Maeda has a brief yet fulfilling newsletter named Design In Tech (not a clever name but simple never hurts) for those interested in the intersection of design and tech.
Craig Mod, author, photographer, and podcaster, has a newsletter named Ridgeline that focuses on walking. I enjoy it for both his writing style and photos.
Dense Discovery is the best design newsletter I’ve found. It includes links to high-quality articles, apps, and products.
I recently ran from my home in the Inner Sunset district of San Francisco to Ocean Beach. The angle of this ramp combined with the water collected at the bottom and the beach behind it spoke to me. I shot it with my iPhone XS Max and edited it in Lightroom on iOS.
I recently took a management course at Salesforce, and learned about the SBI tool for providing and responding to feedback. I was surprised by how difficult it is to give feedback for a problematic situation.
The Adobe Lightroom team occasionally Tweets short video tutorials to take a quick look at tools on both the Mac and iOS apps. A video to demonstrate the gradient tool was particularly helpful to adequately edit the above black and white photo. Take a look at the before and after. The first has an overexposed sky, and with a couple taps and swipes I managed to only darken the clouds making the photo more dramatic.
Run & Yoga
My fitness goal right now is to switch off every day between a 3-5 mile run and a 30 minute yoga session. I find that practicing yoga at home allows me to maintain an extended feeling of calmness. Like most habits once you have completed approximately one week of a new routine it feels unusual to miss a day.
I recently subscribed to Headspace and set aside a few minutes each day to meditate in a quiet room. Fortunately Salesforce provides “mindfulness” rooms on each floor. So far I find that after completing even a brief Headspace session I feel relaxed for a couple hours.
For years the iPhone was the clear leader in mobile photography, but something changed with the Pixel 3. It appears that the tech media and consumers are beginning to recognize the Pixel’s potential. However, I think there is some nuance worth discussing.
Apple’s mobile camera philosophy appears to be let’s show you either precisely what the image looks like in the real world, or, with HDR mode active, a few minor adjustments to enhance the details. Google’s philosophy appears to be let’s enhance what the camera sees as much as possible to ensure you get more likes on Instagram. This isn’t a bad thing! Google is making photography exciting. Apple is still playing it safe which, as a budding photographer, I believe is the right philosophy.
I took this photo using my Pixel 3 at Forest Hill Station in San Francisco. I strongly recommend you tap on the link to see Marcin Wichary discuss the station’s architectural details.
Steve Jobs was of course infamous for wearing a uniform:
In the process, however, he became friends with Miyake and would visit him regularly. He also came to like the idea of having a uniform for himself, both because of its daily convenience (the rationale he claimed) and its ability to convey a signature style. “So I asked Issey to make me some of his black turtlenecks that I liked, and he made me like a hundred of them.” Jobs noticed my surprise when he told this story, so he showed them stacked up in the closet. “That’s what I wear,” he said. “I have enough to last for the rest of my life.”
Facebook Paper launched in 2014 and I recall the overall reaction to be simultaneously “wow!” and “what?” Reflecting now it’s clear that Paper was an inspirational yet unusual attempt to combine Facebook with periodicals. You were able to follow publications and topics, and then swipe between your Facebook feed and these other sections. I consistently used Paper to browse my feed, and, more importantly, communicate with friends using instant messaging after Facebook removed messaging functionality from the main app.
Tilting through full-screen photos using the phone’s accelerometer was cool, but my friends don’t usually share gorgeous photos on Facebook. The assumption that people carefully edit photos after shooting with fancy cameras was also a misstep with Facebook Home.
As an interface designer I was floored by the details: the animations were perfect, the swipe gestures were fun, the onboarding tutorial was clear, and the primary interaction was horizontal instead of vertical. For right-handed users this was a very pleasing interaction (although Instagram recently tried a similar approach with less success). Paper pushed me and the rest of the now defunct startup I worked for at the time to get the details right.
I hope to one day build an app as beautiful and delightful as Facebook Paper.
Alas, it was time again for the San Francisco Unplashers to congregate and capture. This event was a bit more ambitious than the previous get-togethers and schmoozes. We decided to hop on the ferry at the Ferry Building and ride over to the quaint yet delightful town of Sausalito. But first, coffee at Blue Bottle for some pour overs and lattes.
I recently hosted another photowalk event for Unsplash. Read about it on Medium.
When you receive a new project, listen to your manager. Ask for requirements, historical information, the definition of done, timelines, etc. When you show your designs, listen to your design team. Ask follow-up questions. Consider every piece of feedback even if you disagree with it. Try their suggestions. Make a few more iterations. When you show your prototypes, listen to your users. They will surprise you by interpreting interfaces in ways you did not expect. Ask why. Ask what they’re thinking. Ask what they expected. When you hear concerns and clarifications, listen to your engineers. They need to solve problems you most likely didn’t consider. If they have a tough sprint they may need to find ways to simplify your proposal. Cooperation and compromise are key to building strong relationships.
I loved the medium-size Memobottle, and I carried it around at work for several months. The only problem was how often I was asked with a sarcastic tone, “What are you drinking?” People assumed it was vodka because of its flask-like shape. I eventually changed to a Yeti, but I was never in a fraternity. Now I drink water out of a glass like an adult. Sigh.
Each time I try to use iMovie my mental model for how an app should work is challenged: What *are* you, Sir? Be you a desktop app? Or be you an iOS app? Or be you some unholy hybrid, neither here nor there, using neither standard nor guessable UX patterns or keyboard shortcuts?
Where as using Keynote makes me feel like some perfect freestyle swimmer, able to glide effortlessly forward, running against few walls, expected functionality where I expect it, working as I anticipate it to work.
Let’s play: How do you save a movie in iMovie?
File … > Save? Nope. Doesn’t exist.
File … must be … > EXPORT? Nada.
OK … File … > Share?? … > File… ?
File > Share > File is how you get a movie out of iMovie onto your drive?
*places laptop in toilet*
I mean, I get the impulse to create parity between iOS and macOS … sort of. But, who is this helping? The iOS folks are going to open the app on iOS, and the folks on macOS are going to expect standard macOS patterns.
Craig makes excellent points about how some apps changed over time depending on how closely linked to iOS they became. Keynote continues to behave the way it did in the early 2000s when I was making fancy HCI presentations with three dimensional slide transitions.