June 22, 2020No Comments

iOS 14: Designer Roundup

The new iOS came with a bunch of interesting user scenarios where consuming information was made easier than before. More information: https://www.apple.com/ios/ios-14-preview/features/

1. Widgets

Quick Look

  • Widgets come in three sizes: small medium and large
  • Widgets are interactive and can be placed on your home screen
  • Widgets can be stacked and scrolled through, like a website slider. It has two stacking options smart and custom.

For designers

  • Understanding use-cases where users might want to have your widget on their screen to either consume information or quickly access your app. For instance, adding a new to-do list item, or controlling music and podcasts. A new feature doesn't necessarily have to be implemented unless it actually helps the user with a task.
  • Designing widgets in three sizes for the platforms. Apple has done a good job of creating a full set of guidelines for the widgets here. A quick scan highlights certain areas to think of
    • Widget interactivity
    • Dark mode
    • Placeholder content
    • Continuous user-flow to the app

2. App Library

Continuing with the theme of making content easier to consume, apple realized that users tend to use only 5-10 apps at max in a day and search for other apps usually. Ironically, Android was always designed this way with widgets and app drawers.

Quick Look

  1. No new interaction to reach here. Instead it is placed at the end of your home screen pages.
  2. Apps are arranged based on their app store categorization
  3. Includes Siri Suggestions, recently added and a search bar.

P.S. This is where the really tiny app icons are being used

For designers

  • Your app maybe now hidden much deeper, because a user can remove all the home screen pages and just keep you in the app library making not readily available on the outside.

3. Picture-in-Picture

This is probably the most exciting thing in the whole list of features. It brings multi-tasking on your iPhone to another level. I can be talking to my family and browsing photos to send them, or send them a calendar invite.

Quick Look

  1. Supports FaceTime, Video based Apps and videos run on Safari.
  2. Picture and Picture can be enlarged by pinch and zoom, or swiped out of the current view.
  3. Third party apps will have access to the API.

For designers

  • A user maybe more distracted now than ever while using your app, as you can see in the image above. A user can be talking while setting up their calendar appointment or adding a new to-do, which means all that the whole screen may not be visible at all times.
  • On the good side, users are going to use apps, in even more specific contexts. Like adding a to-do, or taking down notes while talking to someone, or taking to a friend, and creating that recipe.
  • With shared apps like lists or calendars, it will be basically like collaborating on the same thing while being in a meeting.

4. App Clips

App clips are basically a preview of the app that are allowing users to have the app for a specific work-flow.

Quick Look

  • AppClip can be triggered from multiple different places, such as
    • NFC Tags
    • QR Codes
    • Safari Link
    • Maps
    • Messages
  • The AppClips will support Signing in Apple, and Pay with Apple
  • The App is used literally during that one instance and will go away after that, you can access them in the recently added from the app drawer
  • A AppClip is 10MB or less in size

For Designers

  • An example that Apple provided was "When using a scooter" you can just tap the NFC chip, use the AppClip and start using the scooter, signing and payment can be handled via Apple APIs
  • You can allow users to access the essential functionality even when they don't have the app installed. This can be quickly browsing, paying money, ordering food or other uses cases that haven't been discovered yet.

Misc iOS Features

Compact Calls

A user can now be using your app and transition into a phone call without leaving the interaction.

Messages App

  • Pinned users
  • Group Photo
  • Inline replies
  • Mentions

Maps

  • Cycling directions
  • EV Charing Stations
  • Guides

Translate

A new app that allows you to have live conversations with folks form different languages.

June 19, 2020Comments are off for this post.

Recommendation Engine

Read a blog yesterday on Wired.com talking about how the "For You" page on TikTok works, the articles does a great job covering different aspects about the past behind how people assumed it worked, the present and how it actually works and the bigger responsibility that all the social media networks hold by recommending certain content on their platforms.

The thing that I wanted to focus on what the article broke down into "strong signals" and "weak signals", these are basically set of properties about a the content and the user uploaded on their platform. The strong signals included these things

  1. Watching the video until the end
  2. Sharing the video
  3. Following the creator

Weak Signals Include

  1. Type of device
  2. Language preference
  3. Close Geolocation (Based on country)

There is an additional negative feedback that is considered in ranking the videos

  1. Tapping "Not Interested" by the viewers
  2. Choosing "hide content" from this creator

Other factos include

  1. Song clip
  2. Captions
  3. Hashtags

This might be a curated list that they are sharing with the users but even from this list you can see the amount of meta data available for the content and how much is being tracked and used in order to recommend what you watch next.

The blog doesn't talk about the fact the app maybe tracking this information if you just download an account and don't actually subscribe. Facebook is known for making shadow profiles and collecting data on users who aren't part of the platform. Given that TikTok is using tons of datapoint specially around device information, it is very likely that they are informing their algorithm based on user-data even for those who don't have registered accounts.

Three Good Things

  1. A mid day nap: My schedule was off yesterday because the AC stopped working in the night and sleeping in a hot Miami summer wasn't comfortable, so I needed taking a long nap in the afternoon and catching up on that eight hours of sleep.
  2. Watched a movie: Saw "About Time", a movie about how the boys in the family have the ability to travel back in time. In the need they stopped used them because they started living each day more joyfully and mindfully, enjoying every moment so that they didn't to correct it again and again.
  3. Made some happy people: I realized yesterday that we are all the same in that we don't feel motivated and need to push ourselves. Yesterday, I realized that if instead of pushing people you do the activity they enjoy in their presence really badly they will have the urge to correct that behavior and hence participating in the activity. It's a very passive approach but is something I feel my parents almost did all the time. So yesterday I picked up a guitar because someone I know loves playing them and they ended up playing it after the first five minutes of listening to my misery.

June 18, 2020Comments are off for this post.

The Home Advantage

Was reading the magazine Popular Science yesterday and they had a very detailed info graph on the advantage of playing on the home turf. You can read the whole summer issue for free on their website.

The thing that caught my eye the most was the decline in the home turf advantage. The two things the author talks about are the referee bias and comfier travel as factors contributing to the decline. There are a few irregularities though, for instance the spike gong up in the late 1980's and the steep fall in mid and late 1990's are present both in NBA and NHL. An article dated June 15, 1995 talks about this decline and attributes it to the labor strikes leading to low game attendance, and the sustained performance of the top six teams bringing the average low.


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A research article published in Feb of 2019, titled The Sustained Reduction-by-Half of Home Advantage in the NHL, 1991-1992 to 2000-2001, attributes the decline to rule changes based on instant replays for NHL.

As technology gets better, bias training improves, quality travel and training for athletes is given higher preference we are going to see home advantage reduce over time. The crowds have been found to create a psychology impact but mostly in form of booing on the visiting team and not on the referees. So next time you visit a home game, make sure to chant along to support your team and maybe given them a edge.

Good things

1. Made an amazing smoothie: After working out yesterday made a smoothie from the stuff I had available which included açaí, berries, hemp & chia seeds plus protein powder with a splash of soy milk. The outcome was a delicious smoothie.

2. Used looper along with the handpan: I have been procrastinating playing my handpan. Yesterday I set aside some time to use LooperHD app and the handpan to create some interesting patterns and that 30 minute session was a delight.

3. Finished rewatching House MD: I've been re-watching House M.D. with my lunch and dinner. Yesterday was the final episode of the last season and it has an appropriate ending with House pretending to be dead so that he can spend time with his dying friend.

June 17, 2020No Comments

Figure & Ground Organization

I have been taking an online course on "The Ultimate Guide to Visual Perception and Design" by the Interaction Design Foundation and yesterday in one of the lessons they covered the topic of "Figure & Ground". In this section they talked about how this might be a function of both the processing of the visual information in our brain and the visual perception of our eyes because of the fovea having around 50% of the optical nerves and is in the center of our retina.

This principle is really important because as the author says, it allows us to parse through a page with tons of information with a very clear background and foreground perception. Modals are a huge part of thing process, the most common ones we see on the web are login modals.

Lets walk through a few example of where people might use this Gestalt Principle for improving the design.

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In this image by James, the modal is used to create a new project wizard which in itself has been broken down into three steps for providing limited amount of user interaction at each step and categorized based on the steps. The figure/background principle is applied really well and clearly separates the step of adding a new project from the browsing area.

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This is another excellent example on mobile where a lot of options are hidden behind an alert or a modal like sharing, reporting and in some places even further options.

For further reading on how to use elevation for creating depth and showing figure and ground Material Design Guideline is my go to.

Good things

  1. Found old music: Yesterday while I was backing up some images from iCloud to SSD I found music that I had been listening since I first became a digital native. Moreover, found out that Google Play Music allows you to upload 50,000 songs of your own to the platform thus making this archive of mine now easily accessible over the web.
  2. Working out: For the first time since I started using Monkii 360 did I feel that I was stretched to my limits and the feeling was really good. I followed that with a amazing açaí, berries and protein based smoothie.
  3. Danced my heart out: I'm doing the 100 day project for the second time this year and coming up with new things to do is always challenging. Yesterday, I did a third video where I just put a really high tempo swing dancing song and move without thinking much about moves or choreography

June 16, 2020Comments are off for this post.

Three Good things

What are the good things that happened on 15th June

Read more