A closer look at Dolphin's gestural browser

We've got browsers coming out of out trousers these days. However Chrome, Safari, Mozilla or even (shudder) Explorer don't provide a very different UX from one another. Ultimately they are all comprised of the same elements. Since the introduction of tabbed browsing nothing has shifted dramatically.

This week Amazon have announced their take on the browser (via a very dull video). Apparently they have "redesigned the browser from the ground up". Supposedly the software is noticably more responsive and it's driven by their cloud hosting solution. But looking at the screenshot on CNet the interface it's pretty much a brown Safari

Some designers (including Mr Joe Leech and Henrik Eneroth) have even taken apon themselves to redesign the fundamentals of the browser UX.

With all of this in mind I was very keen to get my hands on the new gestural driven, tablet web browser  Dolphin from Mobotap. It comes with a small selection of pre-defined gestural shortcuts.

But it's very simple to create new ones. Just swipe away at the canvas and save it to your list. The only thing that feels a little clunky is having to tell the browser you are about to make a gesture. I had imagined this would be automatic, in order to create a more fluid experience. Perhaps they were concerned about mistaken gestures.

Beyond the ability to create your own gestures, the browser is well designed and has good blend between utilising the OS functions...
...and creating bespoke UI elements. Their take on tabs is very graceful indeed.

The default homepage design a owes a debt to Flipboard, but also includes your favourites. It's a brilliantly well thought out start point for the browsing experience.

All in all Dolphin is highly successful piece of work. At the moment it only exsists in iOS and I guess any forward thinking product team would be keeping focus on handheld devices for now. Hopefully the team at Mobotap will be able to develop what they have without getting consumed by the big guns.


Google's design crime

Here is how I imagine this happened. There is Google's design team rolling out their beautifully subtle new design langueage when a group of execs start to panic about how many people are using their highly derivative social network. "Perhaps it's just not obvious enough" says one exec. "Yes let's really shout about it" says another, then somehow we land with this. So the logic follows; 'don't make it better, just make it more obvious'.

Google you will be held back after class and we will talk about this with your parents!


Is Timeline a hint of FB's new design direction?

Last week Facebook announced it's new timeline feature (along with a number of other updates to the service). The whole timeline UX has already been tried out, talked over and chewed up by designers and commentators alike. Instead of adding my pennies worth to the noise I decided to look at the campaign around the new timeline. More specifically the design of the timeline 'about' page.

I think this is the first time we've seen Facebook's approach to visual design move on from it's usual pared back approach (perhaps a reaction to Google following them in to this area?!). There are definite signs of FB's recent splurge on new designers beginning to bare fruit. Particularly when you can spot UI techniques similar to Spotify (hand drawn arrows, stars, title wraps. see below) following the hiring of Spotify's Creative Director.

The whole page has more texture and depth than anything FB has released before. So far nothing else has been so richly layered with subtle use of shadows and patterns. The page composition as a whole relies on a  large  fixed footer navigation, which is unusual for the classicly left nav'd site  

Further on through the new timeline's walk through we get a glimpse of how the mighty Nike+ has been integrated in to user's data. This beautiful use of quantative data shows signs of Feltron at work.  
As far as I can find, there is no talk of a formal change in Facebook's design standards. But following Google's recent UI overhaul it appears to be another area in which FB are starting to fight back. Evidently they are able to pull some of the world's best talent in to their team, so I'm looking forward to it gaining even more momentum and creating richer visual experiences.


Beautiful type experiences in seven cities

I'm utterly in love with this piece of work. This is everything advertising should be; carefully observed, beautifully crafted, rich in visual stimulus, emotive and dare i say it; sincere.

There are seven films, each centred on a different city, each one as good as the last. You can read more about the project on Design Taxi


Gowalla changes direction

Over the past year Foursquare has undoubtedly won out in the race for location based microblogging supremacy. Facebook places and Gowalla have all but fallen away, as the team at Foursquare continue to develop and deploy at a dizzying rate.

Instead of pluggin away at the same product and continuing to fall behind Gowalla has taken a bold move and switched direction. Last week at a TechCrunch event. Josh Williams (Gowalla's founder) unveiled a demo of the new app. By all accounts they are moving away from the simple check-in and share model and in to something new.

"Several months ago, the team sat down to dream it all up again. They thought about what kind of location-based app they would build today if they were starting from scratch. Then they went out and did just that."

I love that quote. My hat goes off to the gang at Gowalla. After all the success they are clearly not afraid to keep questioning everything and go in different directions. I really hope this works for them and they keep the innovative spirit up.

You can read more about the new version over at TechCrunch


Designing to music

Photo by bburky
Take a look around your average design studio and you'll find either a stereo pumping out tunes or a room full of headphone wearing designers.

Recently I was working on a visual design brief whilst listening to the guitar jangling, floppy fringeness of  Bombay Bicycle Club. The next day the brief change (bloody typical) and I started again, this time I happened to be listening to the warm bleeps and twitchy bloops of Mount Kimbie. What struck me at the end of day 2 was how different the tone of my work was. The use of colour particularly struck me as more restrained on day two, as was the level of depth I had applied to the graphic elements (shadows, gradients, effects etc). I started to wonder if the music I was listening to had impacted on my visual sense and the outcome could have been persuaded by my choice of music that day. This in turn led me to wonder if there are better types of music for designing with each brand. For example listening to Noah and the Whale might lead to more successful and 'on brand' design for Innocent. Whilst it might prove more fruitful to design for Uniqlo whilst listening to Yeasayer.

Maybe it's a case of wider influences and music, just playing a small part. Or perhaps music affects my mood and it's the general mood that influences the design decisions. Either way I'm going to experiment over the coming months with different music types to find the perfect sound for me to work with.


Timex retro packaging

I don't know why I'm noticing (and posting) a bunch of packaging design work. Perhaps it's a subconscious reaction to the non-physical design work that consumes my brain these days. Either way this watch box from Timex is beautiful. The watch itself is an eighties style digital design, so the box is a perfect match. The sliding lid reminds me of the wooden pencil boxes we used at school (in the 80s). The diagonal lines and LED typeface are straight out of tron. But the aspect of the packaging that makes me spidey senses tingle is the dayglo trim on black against the black panels. I doubt it's the most environmentally friendly piece of packaging work, but it's certainly one of the most stylistically rewarding.


Every detail is important...

"Every detail is important because the end result is the sum of all the details involved in the creative process."
Massimo Vignelli


Mozilla throws some weird UI design out in to the world

Check out Mozilla's UI experiments

I was shown this by me old mucker Mike. It's a somewhat strange collection of disconnected UI design work from the team at Mozilla. Under the guise of getting feedback from users, it's just appeared online recently.

Don't get me wrong there is some lovely visual design work going on here, but without a prototype or some kind of beta product, it all feels like rather a hollow gesture. Take a look and see what you think.


New Diet Coke design work

I thought I'd cured my Coke Obsession, but this might be enough to kickstart it back to life.Quite rightly Coke are asserting enough brand confidence, that they don't have to worry about showing the logo in it's entirety.

More Diet Coke can designs by Turner Duckworth on Creative Review


Google rolls out new design standards to Blogger

This here blog is running on Google's Blogger platform (but you knew that from the URL right). The backend of the Blogger platform has only had minor changes over the past four years. Blogger has always sat uncomfortably within Google's product portfolio, largely because it was not built by Google. However it seems that in the recent wave of design updates across Google, it has been brought firmly in line. Unlike Gmail and Google Calendar this is not a refresh of the front end, it's an entirely new UX. The service architecture has been redesigned from the ground up.
Overview page
The new design has some lovely UI features, although surprisingly they haven't replicated the composition functions from Google Docs. Also the blog title seems to be the the only way to navigate out of the post composition feature, which doesn't feel particularly graceful.  
Post compose page
By comparison to the previous iteration the colour palette is very restrained, with Blogger's orange being used for any necessary emphasis.

The previous Posts page

Posts page
Sensibly the new interface is on a limited trial with a fail safe switch back for those regular users who are scared off by the new interface. They are also inviting feedback and bug reporting throughout the new version.

I would say the new version is massive improvement, I've already switched it as my default. However i expect it to remain in Beta for a while, as Blogger's users become accustomed to the new structure and UI.


Amazon's perfect packaging

Hat's off to Amazon's packaging team. Amazon's own brand packages are a triumph of simplicity and functionality. No excessive padding. No hassle unboxing. Strong branding. Low cost.

It's a perfect solution for the Amazon brand, who have made themselves the number one online retailer, by taking the hassle away from customers. The brand's low entry points allows for quick, simple transactions that you can rely on. Just like the boxing. No thought, just one perforation and your goods are in your hands. The final step in Amazon's UX is befitting of their online experience.