User Interface Design

Exciting things are happening at the Outer Level development labs (my desk) these days. With the recent releases of Apple’s two latest platforms, Mac OS X 10.5 (Leopard) and the iPhone SDK, I’ve been very busy learning the latest development tools and working with the newest APIs.

Things are happening very fast in the technology world, but for a long time it seemed that the user interface portion of software development had hit a very wide growth plateau. Over time the color of system controls changed, fonts adapted to new displays, and small innovations kept things feeling fresh for a time; but progress was linear and slow.

Then suddenly, everything changed. Apple introduced Leopard with its awesome Core Animation framework and the iPhone with its game changing Touch interface.

Designing new applications has become much more interesting with all the new possibilities. All this power and open frontier ahead of us will inevitably bring missteps as well as exciting innovations.

One of the resources that has helped to guide us through user interface design in the past is Apple’s venerable Human Interface Guidelines. Much has been said on how this document has passed its prime and needs to be updated or relocated to the trash bin. But, today Duncan Wilcox argues that The HIG is still good on his new blog, Cocoa Therapy.

The HIG is still good. In fact the first fifth of it is pure gold, still 100% current and relevant.

While the HIG may still be relevant, Duncan’s main point is “content is the user interface”.

An application with visually distinctive window style or control look will never stand a chance against an application with distinctive data visualization and interaction.

The iPhone’s Touch interface and Core Animation’s power means this idea has moved from possible and rare to the new bar in application design — whether that be on the iPhone, the Mac, the web, or any other computing platform.

Now, the hard part is doing it right.



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