Speaking At GNOME.Asia 2015

This is long overdue, my bad, I should’ve written this months ago. Haha. Anyway, I had the chance to speak at GNOME.Asia 2015, a regional level conference on GNOME and open source software in general. In case you didn’t know, GNOME is one of the available desktop environment for Linux-based OS. If you’ve used (or still uses) Linux for the past few years, chances are, your application window (among others) is managed by GNOME. That’s how important GNOME is. Therefore, it’s such an honour to be able to speak hear, even though I didn’t register until the very last day of abstract submission.

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Zen Device: My Personal Opinion on iOS 7 UI and UX

I’ve been using iDevices for 2 years, and after getting myself the iPad 2 at the end of last year and got myself an iPhone 5 as a birthday present half a year ago, those devices have been my main mobile devices. I must say that I’m content with how Apple designed its iOS User Interface as the embodiment of its whole User Experience. It’s fluid, intuitive and easy to grasp. It has no hidden room for power user and I can go setting up and enjoying the whole thing quickly. To be fair, I did amazed when I tried Windows Phone. Its different but bold visual style rapidly caught my eye. The same goes when I installed Google+ on my iPhone. Somehow, its whole simplicity felt modern and iOS’ native apps felt old. Maybe it’s time for a face-lift.

Then, along came iOS 7. Nicki Minaj style.

I was shocked. However, I reserved my judgment until I finished installing it in one of my device. So, two days ago I got it on my iPhone, took it for a full daily use and yes, I have plenty to say about it.

First of all, the form. The color and the shape. Yes, I’ve seen what I should expect, but actually seeing those bright icons actually wasn’t actually that bad at all. One thing for sure, the fact that my previous wallpaper, an Instagram photo, who fits iOS 6 style, looked entirely out of place now. A huge sign that Apple is slowly introducing the future color palette, so we can move slowly beyond the whole vintage Instagram style filter.

The first native app (since I expected Apple to redesign it) was Mail. Yes, at first I was confused thanks to its missing button, but few seconds of actually looking what’s on the screen, then I was good to go. And at this point, I must note the thin font and the bright color actually felt good. For the first time, the minimalist aesthetic of the iPhone’s physical form is married with the software’s equal design approach. You can say that Android or WP has done this before, but I’m talking about the perfect software and hardware unity.

The notable absence of button, or rather the increasing use of background-less button, is probably one of the things I applaud in iOS 7. I personally think that based on the technology we have now, buttons can be replaced by gestures as ways to talk to electronic devices. This of course, won’t happen overnight, but, by introducing less and less buttons, humans are trained to utilize it only where it’s meant to be. There are no buttons in Mail, only corresponding folder names and icons. But, there are buttons in the aptly named Command Center, which of course, are expected to contain ones. This is a clever decision to be honest and one that will push the whole game forward.

Mail in iOS 7

iOS 7 Command Center

iOS 7 Multitask

iOS 7 Notification Center

The Command Center itself is also a new feature in iOS 7. It’s one that I highly regard as a functional improvement for iOS. Android users have had this for a while now, but I wonder what took Apple so long to actually implement these shortcuts to critical items? Questions aside, the fact that I can swipe up from the bottom edge is a welcomed one. So now, I can easily change song while driving, quickly turn off wifi to save battery or use that flashlight. Quick and easy access to stuffs that I want in no time. Now add the fact that Notification Center is revamped to give users more information and it can be accessed like the old day. Add another fact that now folder can include infinite items. These all means that I don’t need multiple pages of home screen in my phone. With smart arrangement, I should be able to cramp the entire app in one page, and have access to Command Center, Notification Center and Spotlight search. All without having to do extra action of swipe left and adding one more mental block of “now, what should I do and where I put the app to do that?”

Finally, the multitasking is now more useful. I’ve been the type of user that cares about what apps are opened in preventing the quick loss of battery. Before, I just have to guess what was I opened an app for. But now, I can actually know what the hell did I do with an app thanks to iOS 7’s new multitasking function. It’s swipe up gesture to close program is also a nice semantic. Sort of saying, “go away” politely.

Is that it? No. I think, Apple is preparing themselves to launch something 3D. I still think that the whole 3D zoom to layers of apps is a bit weird. But, come think of it again, this is actually something way ahead. First, we have the minimalist interface on a minimalist device. Second, we have button-less, text-heavy interface which is more natural for human. Then, we have one screen that contains apps and information and just that one screen only. Last, we have layers of those apps available to be visited and on each visit, a zoom effect is introduced. This my friend, in my opinion, is a step closer to provide the experience of merging human and electronic device.

Sounds silly? Technophobia? Actually no. In fact, I really love this philosophy. For the first time, I thought that this is the way mobile device should mess with my perspective. Every time I check those tweets, this device takes me closer and closer to layers of virtual existence, thanks to its depth and zoom effect. And when I decided to leave it, the zoom effect actually forced me to say, “that’s it, welcome to the real world.” How rewarding is that? Apple realizes that mobile device is the personal gate to virtual world. And it would be appropriate that people with this device is given a bit reward for actually leaving this non-physical existence and back to the real world where they can do something real. Apple isn’t here for the flat design game, no. They are here to put that extra but of human in the world where technology and app wars seem to prevail over its users’ need to be appreciated as physical existence.

iOS 7 Notes

iOS 7 Reminder

iOS 7 Calendar

All good? Well in the aforementioned sense, yes. Sure, some of the visual aspects of iOS 7 is questionable from my perspective. For example, I don’t get the inconsistence of header between Mail, Reminder, Calendar and Notes. If Mail, Safari, App Store, Photos all got the same blue theme, why the others aren’t? The excessive use of white space still annoys me too, especially in Notes where things felt a little bit bland now. Plus, don’t get me started on why Camera got that odd gray and black icon, completely the opposite of the others? And why the Game Center icon?

Ah never mind. I, for one, think that Apple’s visual side of design isn’t always numero uno. Garage Band, iMovie, and the whole skeuomorphism in previous iOS. So actually, having what they have now in iOS 7 isn’t that bad. For I have forgiven them. They aren’t here for the visual game. They’re for the part where most companies failed to address, the human game. And that’s where they prevail once again.

All in all, I think this is another platform that sets Apple foot one step forward towards the next technological advancement. I just can’t wait to see what Apple will introduce next in iOS 8.

To humans.

PS: I can now understand Appleā€™s decision to include finger print detection in iPhone 5S. Imagine, using body part to turn on the device. Another added layer of human-device merged into one entity.

Interaction Design Diary: UX of Record Player

Listening to music, for some people is more than just pressing play, letting the song played in the background and doing what he/she was doing in the first place. Nope. It could be more than that.

I recently got a hold of a turntable and with that device I can now play records I’ve been collecting from few months back. Of course, the main purpose of buying this player was so I can listen to songs on those records and enjoying the hidden frequencies that weren’t heard on CD or mp3. However, I was wrong. Again, it was more than just that.

To start with, playing records wasn’t as easy as playing CD or cassete (my favorite physical music format ever). It involves a bit more dexterity in terms of putting on the record, carefully choosing which song to play and dropping that needle right where it belongs. And again, even the process of doing that, seeing the tone arm slowly drops, hearing a bit of crackle before the first song played were tiny details that makes listening records an amazing experience. To add even more, look at the cover or the record sleeve. Look at the size. A thing that size with that weight was obviously made to enjoy, to grace and to be examined. Now do that while listening to records. Compare it to looking at an album cover while listening to an album cover on your iPod or Winamp. Will you grace the cover?

That’s where the biggest difference lies. Records, were made not only so people can hear songs on it, but also to be enjoyed as a whole package. The whole processes can even be categorized as a ritual. At least for me. While on the other hand, listening to your mp3s won’t yield the same experience. Choosing mp3 to play is easy, playing it is as easy as clicking or pressing a play button. So easy, that you can do it in reflex mode and continue to browse the web.

To conclude, I’m not saying that mp3 is bad, and records are good. No. I’m just implying here that records, are made to be experienced in a different way than mp3 does. If you want to save the music industry, go ahead, buy those digital albums at will. However, if you want to fully enjoy music, then my friend, visit your nearest record store and start from there.

Happy Records Store Day 2012.