design

Writing great code can positively influence the end user, but more often, code quality is of greater interest to people within our own profession. It can become a closed loop. We are tempted to scratch only our own backs.

Programmer, hacker, and developer alike, it is your job to adapt to your trade. Today, our trade still means great code. It still means classes and methods. And proper scope. It still means understanding algorithms, and efficiency, and elegance. It still means comments, comments, comments. But, it also means writing markup. It means writing CSS. It means, occasionally, exporting a proper PNG from some Adobe product without fudging the transparency. It means knowing what kerning is, if only enough to ask a question or to appreciate it.

We need to understand that design is consistency in user interface as much as it’s consistency in method names. Design is every layer, even ones near the surface.

Matthew Howell, Developers Should Design

While I totally agree with this, design isn’t the easiest thing to learn. While, writing code and algorithmic is something quite easy to learn and to improve, I fell like design is something more of an innate talent. For example, while I can appreciate good UI and UX, and don’t I’d ever be able to make a decent one by myself.
My resolution this year was to actually try to improve my understanding of people relations with the software they use, in order to have a better view of what I needed to know before jumping into design itself. But sometimes, seeing beautiful UIs, I feel like I should really live this domain to people with better experience with it.

In a sense, desktop applications could be designed without context in mind, because there really was only one context: the user is sitting at a desk working on the computer. In this context, and because the PC only worked using abstractions upon abstractions, it was okay for the user interface to dominate what we were doing. Everything was artifice anyway, so it only made sense for artifice to dominate.

That isn’t the case with mobile devices. What’s powerful about mobile devices is that they exist to complement what we are already doing, rather than be our primary focus. Whereas users mold themselves around how PCs work—users only work on PCs while their focus is entirely on them—mobile devices are used while doing other things. They’re used while waiting in line at the grocery store, when out to dinner, watching television, driving somewhere (by passengers!), or walking somewhere. Mobile devices are used almost entirely while doing something else, for relatively short periods of time, and usually, to accomplish a very specific task. What groceries do I need to buy? What time does the movie start? How do I get to that restaurant? What’s the weather going to be like? etc.

What this means is that designing applications for mobile means that context—for what purpose it will be used, how, and where—should be the first and primary consideration. It must define everything about how the application is designed, from the application’s concept to the physical design itself. It also means, though, that mobile applications are tools, a means of accomplishing a task and getting on with what the user is doing. Mobile applications should be cogs which seamlessly fit into an existing process—say, finding a restaurant to eat at—and make it better.

Kyle Baxter, The New Interface Is There Is No interface

This is why I don’t like skeuomorphic interfaces.

There are objects that are timeless in design. You can’t improve much upon simple tools like a spoon or a compass. Brands can do this too—Dieter Rams designs for Braun fit in almost any decade and it is hard to imagine much by Muji looking dated. But a digital device is not an alarm clock or a shelving unit. It will grow obsolete very quickly. Which makes the atemporal look of electronics by Apple more uncanny, more rarefied. The personal computer as Holly Golightly’s little black dress.

Joanne McNeil, My Broken Iphone

I don’t think I’ve ever appreciated something as much as Apple products. Even my father’s Macintosh Classic, the first computer I’ve ever used, is still sitting in his office, even if it doesn’t get much use.

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