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UI design craft

Updated: 2014-08-04T08:00:00-07:00


Delegate brain-melting date math and localization to general-purpose calendar web components


Which of these month calendars looks correct to you? One of the calendars will probably look right. The other two will just look wrong — like they’re mistakes, or maybe not even calendars. Setting aside the basics of which language...

Deconstructing the standard photo carousel into general-purpose web components


I recently contributed a small handful of web components to the Basic Web Components project, and wanted to share some observations on how designing and building UI with web components is going to be pretty different from how you’ve created...

Paper can be faster than gadgets: a printable 2014 wall calendar for more efficient scheduling discussions


I’ve posted an app that lets you print a free wall calendar that can make your scheduling discussions go faster. This is based on a printed calendar I created by hand for some years now. As I noted in that...

Amazon: Please make better use of cover art to improve the ebook reading experience


As we pass through the transition from paper to electronic books, the humble book cover seems to have been dropped from important roles in the reading experience. I'm generally a huge fan of Amazon's various Kindle devices and apps, and... As we pass through the transition from paper to electronic books, the humble book cover seems to have been dropped from important roles in the reading experience. I'm generally a huge fan of Amazon's various Kindle devices and apps, and love the convenience that goes with them. But I'm finding some aspects of the current Kindle reading experience leave me cold, and make recalling a book harder than it should be. We usually don't think much about the covers of the books we're reading, but each time you reach for a paper copy of a book, you have a chance to see a cover:   This cover is hard at work. Before you've even cracked the book, the art and typography have played a subtle but useful role in setting the mood for the reading experience. Yes, the cover is serving as advertising, but it’s also an earnest attempt to visually establish the tone of what follows. Details such font choice, text size, color palette, image content, and composition, all contribute to provoking an emotional shift before you've even reached the primary content. In this light, a cover is something like a movie’s opening credits. In both cases, subtracting the aesthetic treatment leaves behind bare content that has to work harder to make an emotional impact. More lastingly, the cover helps to repeatedly connect the book's title, author, and content in your brain. During the course of reading a book, you likely see its cover numerous times (even if the cover's only facing up half the time). I'd hazard that the cover for a typical paper novel creates something on the order of 20–40 visual impressions for the average reader between the time they see it in a store and the time they put that book out of sight. In contrast, let's quickly consider the use of book cover art in Amazon ebooks. When you buy a book on Amazon's Kindle store, you can see a small thumbnail of the cover art: You can also see a book's thumbnail in a device or app's the Library view. But when you tap on a book to open it, you're brought straight to the first page of text:     Jumping to the first page of text seems really efficient — but by skipping the cover, some things are lost. The title is presented here, but in such a subdued way that it’s easy to overlook. The author's name isn't even shown in portrait view. (You have to rotate the presentation to landscape, two-column view for that.) And, once you've begun a book, when you return to the Kindle app or device again, you'll jump straight back to the page you were on — skipping even the small cover art thumbnail in the Library view. The digital cover art is typically still there in the ebook content; it's just not shown to you by default. And if you explicitly do view the cover, you will see an odd thing: the cover art presented as an image sitting on one of the book's pages, instead of a cover that's the same size as a page. This makes the cover feel less like a cover, and even less important than the user interface is already treating it.       Overall, I think Amazon's doing an amazing job with ebooks. I do think the cover art could be handled more effectively. As it stands, you can lose out on quite a bit as a reader of an ebook: If you can't remember a title or author, you can't easily recommend the book to friends. I’ve frequently found myself trying to tell friends about an interesting ebook I’m reading — a book I may have been reading for a couple of weeks — only to discover I can recall neither the title nor the author’s name. If you can't recall an author's name, you yourself might not be able to later find more books by the same author. Yes, you could dig up the name through your order history, but maybe you're not goi[...]

If we created an open library of web components for all general-purpose UI patterns, how many would there be?


Wouldn’t it incredibly helpful if we had a library of components providing solid implementations for all the common, general-purpose, well-designed user interface patterns found in mobile and web apps? In such a library, how many components would there even be?...

UI component whiteboard talk: The Web Still Needs a Vibrant UI Ecosystem


I've been considering putting together a video screencast sharing some thoughts on web UI components, covering the case for why we need them, some limited solutions today, the prospects for the Web Components standard, and the principles behind my own...

A 2013 wall calendar optimized for project management discussions


In many project discussions, it’s been my experience that two calendar-related questions constantly arise: On what day of the week will date x fall? Example: We’d like to make our next release on or around the 15th of next month....

Designing by Making: your process for arranging furniture can point toward a good process for UI design


The last time you had to arrange the furniture in your home — did you create a design first? No. You had a design idea, and then immediately jumped into implementing your idea by moving the sofa and table around...

An axiomatic approach to defining user interface elements: building complex elements from simple ones


Just as geometry builds up complex results from simple axioms, and programming languages build up complex constructs from simple primitives, it should be possible to create complex user interface elements from simple elements. But the lack of great building blocks...

Evidence suggesting more than half of web app UI code is reinventing results already achieved many times before


Web app designers and developers spend a staggering amount of time recreating common effects and behavior that have already been done many times before on other sites, or within their own organization, or in their own code on previous projects,...