All Things Tarun

  • 11:16:06 am on January 7, 2011 | 0
    Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

    Gruber posts a blog on the death of “uniformity” in Mac OS design. Here is his conclusion:

    Whether you think this is a good thing or not, there’s no use fearing it. Apple’s passion for UI uniformity went away with the six-color logo. Change is inevitable. Individuality is the new norm. Mac UI design is only just starting to take influence from iOS UI design.

    To take one example from the App Store and declare the end of ubiquitous design is a bit of a stretch. Yes, Twitter’s new app which cannibalized Tweetie should certainly cause some alarm. The iOS like scroll bars, darker user interface, intense use of animations, and overall “lightweight” approach could render other Mac applications as looking old and shoddy. Though I think we have yet to see the last of the uniformity. After all, uniformity is still at the core of Mac design: look no further than the move to unibody processes existing in all of their products. There is something about uniformity and cleanliness in style that will always linger in the Mac user experience.

    A good example of a non-deviant is Reeder (there is a Beta 9 out there for you to try). Reeder seems to have two objectives in their design.

    1. Provide an interface familiar to all users of Reeder across all of the iOS and Mac computers.
    2. Keep true to the Mac creedo of design.

    The first is obvious. Look at the interface for the iPad (landscape):

    As you can see, there is a sidebar to move through each story tile, and a highlighted story tile shows the story on the far right. One can then share their story with others using the popular social media outlets or through Google Reader.

    Now, here is the Mac version (click for larger size):

    Here we see the similar tile design with the story as the focus on the right, but there are some noticeable differences due to the lack of touch controls.

    • A user needs to use the arrow keys to move through the tiles, and there are no actual buttons that one should click on.
    • The “refresh all” button and others similar have moved to the bottom.
    • Feeds can be seen right on the interface, rather than having to click a button to “zoom out” as in the iPad
    • Open/Close/Minimize buttons exist (for obvious reasons).

    There are more obvious elements that seperate the two. But what’s interesting is what unites them:

    • You can still use a shortcut to make a particular tile starred or marked as read (for Mac, drag a tile in either direction; for iPad, drag the tile with your finger in either direction).
    • The upper right still has familiar controls to a user, like sharing with social media
    • You can switch quickly to all unread tiles, all tiles, and starred tiles.

    The developer, Silvio Rizzi, has clearly made some design decisions in order to simplify the user experience. But he has done so by recognizing the character of the device. Obviously you wouldn’t need touch controls on a piece of Mac software, at least not yet. There may be a point where Mac OS becomes fully a touch oriented system, and then the iOS-ification is a valid claim. But for right now, the two OSs are still different enough where there needs to be less of a blur between the two types of designs.

    One might ask, “Why did Mr. Rizzi stick with the brushed metal design and the colored beads to control window movement?” (Or similar questions as to why he used the “old conservative look”) It seems clear that Mr. Rizzi believes that there is a way to fundamentally distinguish the two devices as inherent in the design he chooses. If it is an iOS app, it has the darker interface. If it is a Mac app, the lighter one. Many similar design choices can show this.

    The burning question is whether this distinction will be recognized by other developers. Indeed, if Twitter had used this distinction, then their Mac app would look more like a Mac app. Twitter here is taking the progressive approach but in a way that still says “there is something fundamental to the Mac experience that will always be there.” Maybe there is no usage of ludica grande, but a sans-serif font in small-ish type was used. The window remains slightly rounded at the edges. The animations are apparent, but subtle so as not to completely distract you. Clicking on your profile still shows a little brushed metal at the top*. A neutral grey color is apparent in the background of tweets, rather than a simple white or even dramatically different color like blue. The menu bar indicator is still a black, impressed feature in the bar itself.

    In conclusion, both the Reeder and the Twitter app suggest this: We have a future that is the iOS-ification of Mac OS X (and previewed in 10.7), but the roots of the Mac OS will never be forgotten. In fact, the design is one of the many things that makes people come back and love the experience.


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