Tuesday, July 24, 2018

bad ux is a misdemeanor against humanity redux - ios settings search and calendar

I generally like Apple's UI, but here are two long-standing problems in iOS.

One is, while the idea of a search box in Settings is great (since the hierarchy can be tough to remember and navigate) the implementation is so poor it's almost useless.

My use case: iOS Calendar sometimes gets confused if someone cancels or moves an Exchange meeting you've just accepted - frequent popups would recur saying it can't accept it. The only way I've found of fixing that is to disconnect the phone from the Exchange Calendar service (doable via a simple toggle switch, once you find it) then reconnecting it.

But where in Settings to do that? A search for "Outlook" or even "Exchange" comes up with nothing, even though "Exchange" is one of the panels under "Accounts & Password". So what if I look up Calendar? I get this result:
I don't think any of those are what I'm looking for. Using the magic word "Accounts" gets you there, sort of, but even then it's a redundant mess.

Another issue with the Calendar is that it's way too easy to put something on the wrong day - I've seen many people make the same mistake I do all the dang time. Why?

If you're using the list view (far and away the best way of seeing a week if you have a schedule that isn't jampacked) and hit "+" to add a new event, it's a bit hit or miss what day the dialog will default too - the day that's pressed up against the top of the scrolling view, and quite possibly not the one you're actually looking at. But once the dialog opens, the "Starts" field just lists the date, not the day of the week.

When you edit the field, the tumbler has the day of the week listed, but as you can see here above the tumbler (they highlight it in red) they didn't think it was important enough to put in the form field itself:

Having the day of the week listed in the field would be much more useful than the year. Because the day of the week isn't listed, many people quickly adding an event might assume the day they were focused on in the list view is where the event landed, and forget to check.

Four years ago I complained about the weird "statefulness" of the iOS Calendar views. I've internalized that so it's no longer a problem, but still - not having the day of the week always visible is just plain bad UX.

Thursday, July 12, 2018

the non-euclidean geometry of boston

At work, we've started a UI reading group and our first book is Edward R. Tufte's (pronounced so it fits the rhyme of Humpty Dance") Envisioning Information.

Unrelatedly, I live in Boston. I always claimed the geometry of the streets was "non-Euclidean", since at the end of Route 2, you can decide to turn left and drive to Harvard Square, or you can decide to turn right and drive to Harvard Square. (I said it jokingly, but someone pointed out, if you define "non-Euclidean" as "the shortest path between two locations ISN'T a straight line" I'm not wrong!)

(Also only semi-relatedly; I used to live in Euclid, Ohio.)

Anyway, Geoff Boeing made this lovely infographic showing the cardinal orientation of streets in major cities:
So good. You can see what a mess Boston and Charlotte have made of themselves.

add ".json" onto the end of most reddit URLs turns it into a mini-API

trojan horses ahoy

A while back I wrote up NPM and New Cities for Trojan Horses, mostly linking to this hypothetical how-to on putting in a credit card swiping bit of javascript in innocent looking code.

Something along those lines seems to be happening now, in the wild, for eslint-scope where some code seems to looking to grab .npmrc files and send them off, via pastebin. YIKES!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

boilerplate mad

I do love the twitter account I Am Devloper:

For when you don't want to learn the underlying technology, immediately bloat your codebase with 80% unused code and find it impossible to customise literally anything 3 months down the line.
 Of course I am too likely to think that of new frameworks in general :-D

Friday, July 6, 2018

the chrono, the wall, the stream, the froth

Kottke posted a few links lumped as Did blogs ruin the web? Or did the web ruin blogs?

My favorite was How Blogs Broke the Web - Amy Hoy breaks down how the idea of adding a chronological underpinning to content, combined with "glamorous" tools to make that easy, changed the quirky, independent, handcrafted web.

(I switched my site (then my unix-name kisrael.com, now kirk.is) to a blog at the tail end of 2000.  I avoided some of what Hoy points out by my ability to make and fondness for handbuilt tools (Perl CGI at the time, now a mix of that and PHP). I made this devblog on bloger/blogspot on purpose, to see what it was like to use that kind of tool, and it's not bad, but it has turned out to be hard to customize.)

Anyway, it's interesting comparing her points on the chronological model reshaping the web with my take on what came later, the stream vs the froth - she only touches on how the stream/wall model made online content generation far more universal, and let people curate their collection of who they read without having to bounce from place to place, and thus killed the "blogosphere"... and then of course Reddit introduced a whole 'nother model that you can't even keep up with...

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

a piece on the problem with touchscreens

Amber Case on The Hidden Cost of Touchscreens.

Kottke quoted a good passage:
Touchscreen design could benefit from some basic design principles. Color-based interfaces take less time to parse when they are glanced at. Image-based interfaces take longer for the brain to process, and the lack of contrast can be confusing, because each item must be distinguished from adjacent items. When so many images look alike, service workers must rely on position and muscle memory for speedy use. 
When I worked in food service and in the mailroom, the uglier touchscreens were always easier to work with. They were color coded with bright, contrasting colors, making the boundaries between numbers or items very obvious. I found that the colors reduced mistakes. I’d usually tap the right items after barely even glancing at the interface. After a while, I’d only check the screen for mistakes at the end of the process, before submitting an order or printing a receipt.
 Fun stuff, especially how Apple seems hell bent on some day getting to its vision of a perfect slab of glass. I always have pipe dreams that sameday we'd have some kind of clear plastick-y substance that could raise up virtual buttons on our fondle slab phones...