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<br /> <b>Strict Standards</b>: call_user_func_array() expects parameter 1 to be a valid callback, non-static method unfancy_quote::strip_quotes() should not be called statically in <b>/home/martingo/martingordon.org/blog/wp-includes/plugin.php</b> on line <b>166</b><br /> Martin Gordon's Blog / design

The MacBook Air's Emotional Specs

The MacBook Air is selling well, Ars Technica reports, with many stores reporting stock shortages and long lead times.

As Railsdaddy David Heinemeier Hansson mentions, this probably comes as a surprise to geeks all over the blogosphere, who were largely focused on the shortcomings of the tech specs - the relatively slow processor, shortage of ports, etc, and not focusing enough on the design and feel of it. Whether it takes 20 minutes or 30 minutes to convert a movie to iPod format is largely irrelevant, what is more noticeable (and therefore more important) is the general feeling of delight (or despair) one feels when using any device. Remember the awe people experienced when flicking images back and forth on the iPhone? Similar experiences abound on the MacBook Air - the feeling of not feeling like you're carrying a laptop, the feeling of not feeling like there's a computer under your keyboard - these are the specs, emotional specs, if you will, that are causing people to buy MacBooks Air. Indeed, the MacBook Air is just another in the long list of examples that prove that Apple is destroying the competition when it comes to emotional specs.

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Tab Dump - Long Overdue Edition

Too many tabs sitting open for far too long. Here we go:

Hugh Macleod on Applying "Creativity" to Your Professional Life Etc. Some nice tips, especially for those of us just starting our professional lives. Not really much to say about this, but a lot to think about. I'll probably keep this open and glance at it every once in a while despite having linked to it. (Note: This was posted on January 9th so I've had it sitting in my browser for a month!)

Andre Torrez's first Django app is a simple random color generator that is absolutely amazing and beats any other "Hello, World" I've ever seen. I'm a Rails guy and this is so cool I might just try writing my own just for kicks.

Today Is The Day is a really weird and creepy one-post blog about a day in the life of a styrofoam man. Really can't say much else about it, but it's worth checking out.

Air Traffic Controller Don Brown on air traffic safety vs. capacity. Quite an interesting and enlightening read, though probably not the best thing to read two weeks before boarding a 17-hour flight (granted I read this before I knew I'd be going back to South Africa).

I will keep doing this periodically, but it's worth noting that I'm sharing a lot more of what I come across over on Google Reader. Check out my link blog or add me as a friend directly from Google Reader/Google Chat (martingordon at gmail).

Ch-Ch-Ch-Changes

Commencement 1

It's been a little under a month since my last blog post. I've been busy this past month, mainly taking care of the transition between college and the real world. Instead of blogging I spent most of my time being anxious/preparing for graduation and securing a new place to live. I graduated on May 13th/14th and since then I've been finding a new place to live. I picked up the keys to my new place last Thursday and today I bought some furniture from a former California gubernatorial candidate.

In the past month, I've split my time online mostly between Craig's List and Desktop Tower Defense. Much like I used to wonder how college kids lived without Facebook, I wonder how the world survived without Craig's List. I think I will eventually do a couple of blog posts about my apartment hunting experience and the college-real world transition in general.

The small time I had between graduation-related activities, I worked on a redesign of this site. A stupid oversight on my part (I hadn't installed the widgets plugin) kept me from launching it earlier. I tried to keep it as simple as possible, but I realized that there's I know very little about the science of design (if that makes any sense). I've always been interested in user experience/user interaction, so if anyone can point me to good resources on the subject, it would be greatly appreciated.

Now that I've got this "I'm back" post out of the way, I'll go back to posting some real content (the 22 tabs I've got open in Firefox will certainly help).

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DS Lite Success "Hinges" on QA

It seems that the Apple-inspired Nintendo DS Lite is having quality assurance problems that also seem to be inspired by Apple.

Reports are coming in that the hinge on the new DS Lite is all its cracked up to be (man is this post too punny or what?). Worse yet, Nintendo is claiming that this isn't covered under warranty and is charging users the standard $50 fee (~$40 of the cost of the system) to repair it. This series of events eerily echoes Apple's stance when there were early reports of MacBook Pro and MacBook QA issues (though they've since changed their stance).

Both the DS Lite and the Apple laptops are considered by many to be the pinnacle of industrial design. Is this the unifying factor between the two that is causing these QA problems? Is it still possible to design something aesthetically-pleasing and have it last until at least the end of the warranty period? How much longer will consumers be willing to brave these issues to have something pretty to look at in their hands/laps/desks?

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Design Cleanup

I've gone ahead and cleaned up the site, switching to a customized K2 theme that I've been working on myself with much thanks to Paul's excellent K2 customization guides. From my limited experience working with other themes and now with K2, I find K2 much easier to work with. There's only one CSS file to edit and I feel a lot more comfortable making changes to it.

I've also gotten rid of the Stand Up lyrics, which had no place on the site, let alone on the main page. The album's been out for over a year now and official lyrics are available on the band's site.

It's always going to be a work in progress, but I think I've now built a good base to start from. I've always been hesitant to keep things simple, always wanting to put more on the front page, but now I want to really scrutinize every little thing I put on the main page and whether it belongs there or not.

It may soon be time to switch The Blog That Jane Likes over to something other than the default Kubrick theme, but its been working fine without any real customization, so I'll focus on this blog more.

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Yahoo's New Home Page Won't Do Them Any Good

TechCrunch reports that Yahoo is testing a new home page. It won't do them any good. It's still too cluttered. Even MSN Search (and Ask.com, too) got that one right. Not only that, but the old site compartmentalized content a lot better than this new one.

Seth Godin said it best at his talk at Google. The techies send non-techies to Google because they'll know what to do and won't come back to bother you.

If Yahoo is going after Google, they should stick with an uncluttered site for everyone and let My Yahoo! users make their personalized pages as cluttered as they want. If they're not going after Google anymore, well, then they should probably let the world know.

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Google and Craig's List Redesigns

A SXSW panel entitled "Design Eye for the List Guy" redesigned Craig's List yesterday. The "Design Eye for the _____ Guy" is actually a series of "experiments" (this one is number three) put on by a group of web designers calling themselves the Design Fab Seven. The mockup looks great, I hope that Craig's List actually implements it. The blue/grey/white theme works great for del.icio.us, but IMO there's too much going on on the Craig's List homepage to have it be so sparse.

Andy Rutledge redesigned Google about a month ago. I recently discovered a Greasemonkey script that will replace the Google homepage with the redesigned one. Some comments I saw complained about how Google's simple page was part of their branding and that it'll never change. I rarely use the Google homepage, but on the off chance that I do, at least it'll look pretty.

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Microsoft has sense of humor, box stickers

Remember that iPod packaging designed by Microsoft video that was going around a few weeks ago? The iPod Observer reports that the video actually came from inside the company. The video was made to point out the challenges Microsoft faces regarding their packaging and design aesthetic.

We all know the first step to recovery is knowing you have a problem. Good for Microsoft. I wonder if we'll see simpler, more refined Vista packaging or if they'll play it safe and boring again.

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XBox 360 a Dell ripoff?

Pantsland has discovered some similarities between the XBox 360 and Dell's old GX PCs. Both have that "inhaling" case design and they both have the circular power about 3/4 of the way down.

Other than that, I don't know. I'll leave that up to you to read too much into :)

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UI Revolutions

Between Microsoft's new Office UI (screenshots, video) featuring the ribbon, and Nintendo's unorthodox Revolution controller (details, hands-on), I think we're at the start of a new era of User Interface/User Experience design.

Universal designs, while consistent, may overly complicate the performance of a particular action; they are the jacks of all trades and kings of none. Microsoft is now moving away from a UI paradigm that worked well with few features but requires a lot of menu-hunting by the user to find what they want to do. Instead of forcing the user to think on the document-level, which requires thinking about formatting, layout, tables, etc., Microsoft decided to orient the user on the task-level. The creation of a document can be broken down into many tasks, the majority of which can't be done simultaneously, so why not focus the UI on document tasks instead of documents? That's exactly what Microsoft did. At first glance, it looks like they moved the menu bars into larger tabs with much larger toolbars. The biggest difference, however, is that the tabs make the toolbar modal and in doing so, eliminates options that are only applicable in a different context. Not only that, the ribbon provides more vertical space and can fit descriptions in addition to icons and allows for different layouts of icons within the ribbon.

Moral of the story: Empower the user by providing only options related to the task they are performing.

Only with an intuitive, contextual User Interface, can you not only provide access to popular options, but also highlight previously obscured options than can also be powerful.

Nintendo has taken a similar approach. They have created a non-standard controller design that will simplify the performance of particular actions. Contrary to Nintendo's competitor's "universal controller" design, which don't adjust to context, the Revolution controller can be physically used in ways that mimic in-game physical movement. Nintendo is in no way restricted by pseudo-consistency. Their developers don't have to deal with: "Since A is the main action button in our menu system, we don't want to confuse our users by making another the button the main action button in gameplay." Not only that, but users have no reason to associate "A" with action X other than previous experience in that game.

Things gets even more complicated when you need key combinations to perform actions because there aren't enough buttons on the controller. With Madden 2006 (on XBox), for example, I need to press three buttons to call a Hot Route (where a receiver's path is changed after the play is called): First there's "Y" to turn on the Hot Route (how does Y equate to Hot Route?), then I pick a reciever's letter and finally use the control stick to pick from one of four pre-selected routes. There is nothing intuitive about this, but it's the only way to do it with the current controller paradigm. Now image the same situation with the Revolution controller: Point the controller at the receiver (intuitive!), press a button (is Hot Route the main action of the current context? No, so then I must have to push an auxillary button), draw with or physically move the controller in the shape you want to receiver to run his route (intuitive!).

Moral of the story: By taking away the traditional restrictions of a controller, you allow for more contextual control of a game situation. The ability to add peripherals (such as a a left-handed analog stick) allows for even more contextualization.

Only with an intuitive, contextual User Interface, can you not only provide access to popular options, but also highlight previously obscured options than can also be powerful.

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