Tumblr’s Expectations of Content

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

I noticed something today that says a lot about the quality and depth-of-thought that Tumblr expects of it’s users’ content.

In the ‘dashboard’, posts to your blog on which others have left comments appear with a little number above it to denote how many of these comments have been left. Click this number and, below your post, it will display these comments. Unfortunately, if your content is more than a paragraph or two long, you have absolutely no idea this is happening.

There is no indication to tell you “hey, you might want to look down here”, it just happens somewhere down the page that’s out of the viewport when any substantial content is concerned. Apparently Tumblr have no interest in users posting anything other than cooky, out-of-context photographs and a load of ♥'s — or they at least have no interest in testing for anything other than that.

John Gruber on Mountain Lion, OS X Development Schedule

Thursday, 16 February 2012

So, today was clearly an embargo-release day, as the tech news sites and blogs burst aflame with long previews of Apple’s next iteration of OS X — 10.8, “Mountain Lion” — and about Apple’s new yearly iterations of their desktop and notebook operating system. But, of all that which has been published today, I think John Gruber’s assessment is the most masterful.

The words “Windows” and “Microsoft” are never mentioned, but the insinuation is clear: Apple sees a fundamental difference between software for the keyboard-and-mouse-pointer Mac and that for the touchscreen iPad. Mountain Lion is not a step towards a single OS that powers both the Mac and iPad, but rather another in a series of steps toward defining a set of shared concepts, styles, and principles between two fundamentally distinct OSes.

I’m tremendously excited. Not because I’m surprised, but because OS X seems to be going exactly the way I want it to.

Fuck Continuity

Monday, 13 February 2012

Have you ever noticed how the ‘hover’ state of bookmarked web page icons in Google Chrome are darkened when they are part of a folder, but unchanged when they are displayed straight in the bookmarks bar?

Chrome Bookmark Bar with Folder Open

Chrome Bookmark Bar

'Good Enough' is not Good Enough

Wednesday, 8 February 2012

My son, beware of “good enough,”
It isn’t made of sterling stuff;
It’s something any man can do,
It marks the many from the few,
It has no merit to the eye,
It’s something any man can buy,
It’s name is but a sham and bluff,
For it is never “good enough.”

Edgar A. Guest

Rethinking NBA TV

Sunday, 5 February 2012

The National Basketball Association is just about catching up with the wonders of the Internet. Thanks to the NBA offering access to its League Pass subscription package over the web, I can watch regular season and playoff NBA games live and on-demand, in fairly good quality, through a web browser and on an iOS or Android device.

The sport of basketball is energetic, gritty and full of finesse. Sadly, today’s NBA TV web player software is clunky, incoherent and frankly boring. The grey and murky blue palette reminds one of a golf trip ruined by rainclouds rather than the excitement of the NBA. Ugly alignment imperfections and dodgy type amplified by fiddly controls crammed into the void around the video player make using the UI an unpleasant experience - even when you’re not using it, as it distracts you. You have to trigger full-screen mode just to quiet the noise.

Old NBA League Pass / NBA.TV

But it’s not all bad. Though the visual din prevents the content from becoming the focal point, the current incarnation of the NBA TV web app does place it front-and-center. Switching between games is just a click away and it does offer some innovative features like directly jumping to individual plays and displaying two (or more) games simultaneously.

Basketball is one of many sports that’s highly stat-focused. The NBA TV player allows the user to bring up the game’s box score at any time, which is nice — only it completely obscures the game you’re watching, a down-side to the big player. Statistic junkies wishing to follow the action and the stats in real time will find it impossible. Enter the new NBA TV interface, and with it a decidedly more consistent brand. Gone are the days of inconsistent branding, poor interface execution, the NBA League Pass Broadband distinction and dueling “NBA TV” (with and without the ‘dot’), “League Pass” messages. This is just NBA.TV, and it looks like this.

The airy blue and grey are gone, to be replaced by a deep, energetic red and iron scheme on a black background, offering some stark contrast and making the content - the action - the centerpiece.

The omnipresent game schedule bar has been untightened to allow each game to take more space and display more information. As less games to choose from are now shown at once, it is clear that the user may reveal more games to the right or left. The games are shown in chronological order with the earliest on the left. The default position along the “bandolier” of games is the game that started most recently, or will start next. Only games from the currently selected day are displayed.

A nice feature of the NBA TV player is the DVR-style functionality, allowing the user to arbitrarily jump to specific plays in both live and archived games, offering a kind of ‘personal instant-replay’. Anecdotally, however, it seems that hardly anybody actually uses this feature. I’m sure (I hope) the NBA have a better analysis of their users than me, but I’m probably right 1. So why is this potentially screen-crowding feature enabled by default? In the current version, it effectively makes the video progress “scrubber” unusable while the play markers are enabled. In this version, they are tucked away under the ‘preferences’ option, available in what I call stats view.

Stats View and Game View

Though ugly, the availability of real-time stats (real-time for live games, anyway) at any point of watching a game is a nice feature. Sadly, as it stands now, if I want to pull up a box score, I have to obstruct the game’s video with a floating window that’s too big to place anywhere about the screen without covering an important part of the action. To remedy this, the new design offers two different viewing modes: stats view and game view.

Stats view reduces the video player to a width two-thirds of the window’s. The rightmost third includes a familiar tabbed interface, where the user can switch through the information that would otherwise have obscured the action with its floating panels, along with an improved chat interface which now incorporates Twitter chatter about the game at hand. Due to the smaller viewport, multi-game viewing is not available in stats view.

Game view is a highly simplified viewing experience that most users will stick to. With no play markers or stats, it’s just the video, but stats view is just a click away. Game view’s larger video player facilitates picture-in-picture and multi-game viewing. Full screen viewing is available in both modes.

The Vision

Clearly, the three themes present throughout my redesign were the user, simplicity and polish. The two viewing modes represent the two extreme fan archetypes: the analytical, stat-junkie fan and the laid-back just-hit-play-and-relax fan — switching between the two modes is easy enough to sate those somewhere in the middle. I’ve cut a lot of cruft, and in doing so introduced an edgy, energetic look-and-feel that’s a lot more pro basketball and a lot less day at the office.

I’ll be providing the raw source files for this redesign soon. You may change it, remix it or do whatever you like to it. Except call it your own — that’s a douchebag thing to do. All I ask is that you send me any improvements you make, so I can learn and become a better designer.

This redesign project wasn’t endorsed by the NBA. All intellectual property that is theirs remains theirs, including their logo and whatnot. For fuck’s sake, just don’t sue me.

  1. Unfortunately, I do use the play markers myself purely as a workaround to the broken ‘skip advertisements’ button on non-live games. 

Going Full Circle

Friday, 6 January 2012

Ars reports on an Android UI enhancement that clearly doesn’t get it.

The user experience module includes an implementation of an Android windowing system, which offers a more desktop-like approach to multitasking with overlapping windows.

Edd is a software developer, armchair critic, atheist, lover of design and autobiographical list compiler.

@eddm on Twitter