Elegant little UI update on YouTube

Google is continuing to develop its design language, across its various products. YouTube has had some changes to its frontend recently. All of which are characteristically elegant and reserved in their execution. None more so than the new Guide menu, which has appeared to the left of the media player. It's tiny, smooth and enjoyably simplistic.


Twitter's finest moments #twitter2012

Twitter is a beautiful way of connecting people and sharing information. Here they've compiled some of the key events, using their data, from the past year. It's an incredibly elegant use of the platform and testament to how far it has reached round the planet. The design is rather lovely too.


Twine - connecting you & your home

Twine is on sale. Twine is on sale. Twine is on sale. Twine is on sale. I'm a bit excited about this.

If you haven't seen it before Twine is the work of two MIT students who used Kickstarter to fund their product launch.

Essentially it's a small box of sensors that can be set to alert you when it detects changes in light, temperature, moisture or position. This means I could receive an alert when a door is opened during the day or a pipe bursts or a window breaks etc etc

There is already "smart home" products available, but the eye watering simplicity of Twine makes it that much more appealing.

More on FastCo


University of California identity launch

University of California Identity from University of California on Vimeo.

I'm not terribly impressed with the design of the new identity. It's got some nice executions, but mostly it seems to be an exercise in graphic design trend watching, than something longstanding. Either way the short video they've produced to launch the identity is quite lovely and worth taking a look at.


My declaration of love (from the Lovie Awards)

From last month's Lovie Awards Winners party. I had ten seconds and it had to include the word "love". I had planned on quoting some poignant Beatles lyrics, but my mind was fuzzed up by the thought of cocktails and photo booths.


Google's beautiful music searches

Google is awesome at data handling. It is, without doubt, the thing they do best. Here is another example of Google at their best. When you search for band/singer/musician you, their search string recognises the type of query and now presents an enhanced results page.

You get an image overview, a small biog from Wikipedia, tour info, a list of popular tracks, plus some recommendations for other similar musicians.

You can even drill down to song level and get results for each track. Presumably they are one step away from plugging their Shopping search in to this and allowing users to buy tracks or albums straight out the search results. I wish Google would spend more time promoting these features, than dreaming up daft names for the latest Android OS.


iTunes 11 - A UI Design Review

Earlier this year, during their product launch event, Apple announced a new version iTunes was going to be released. It was initially billed as a 'ground up redesign'. To me this sounded like good news. This piece of software is a keystone in the iOS ecosystem and it's long been in need of an update. Since it's release (11 years ago) it has steadily built on top of the SoundJam software it acquired to manage iPod content. But it soon went past it's initial intention and became bloated.

After the announcement the rumour mill started talking of a streaming service, much like Spotify or Rdio, which utilised the iCloud services. This seemed a logical step in customer behaviour, but would of course pull apart Apple's Music Store business.

In recent months more attention (than usual) has turned to Apple's software design, following the public ousting of Scott Forstall and the widening of Jonathan Ive's remit in to HCI. Whilst I'm sure this release was signed and sealed before the internal team changes it seems like a good time to take a close look at where the UI design for iTunes has reached with this new version.

iTunes v10

The Visual Layer
The shine is gone. All traces of the old OSX design language have been removed in favor of a more metallic finish, as per the most recent OSX design. Colour is restricted to just greys, with a muted blue for highlights. Strangely it doesn't include the orange which has been introduced to the iPhone version and it doesn't have the heavy black areas seen in the iPad version.

The approach to visual design is certainly not as clean as Rdio and there seems to be some very crowded areas in the interface, even when it's in fullscreen mode. These feel a little fussy and awkward when trying to learn the system.

Switching between the media library and store inverts the main navigation bar and changes the switching button. This completely stumped me. After i moved to the store I felt stuck and found myself really searching for a route out.

Like the iPad, each route to media (Songs, Artists, Genres, Playlists etc) uses a different layout. I can't say I agree with this principle. To my mind Spotify's singular media layout is far more graceful and focussed. The layout for Albums is the same as the iPad version, offering only a scroll bar to find your way round. Where as the layout for Artists is a graceful split between an alphabetical list and second level of detail. For me this is the best designed view in the new version. It's focussed, simple and in keeping with the elegance we've come to expect from Apple.

Unlike the layout used for Songs, which is frankly a mess.

 It's hard to imagine how the iTunes team arrived at the design of the Songs section. Visually it hops from side to side and up & down at the same time. It doesn't seem that it can be customised, unlike version 10. I'm not wholly convinced this filter adds anything to the software at all.

The Structure
By pushing the TV and Film content in to a distinct category the focus now on back on music. Surprisingly the software launches initially with a very un-Apple intro welcome message.
Not only is this counter to Apple's usual approach of simplicity that requires no explanation, but it's also not click-able, so you can't jump right in.

There is now a more seamless connection from media in to the Store and the integration of iCloud is far more subtle and dare I say it enticing. But iTunes Match has far too much prominence.

The Store
With every release the iTunes Store is getting better. Strangely there are still big differences across devices, but overall it's a far more confident design. The approach to cross selling and overloading options at every step has been hugely toned down, to make the browsing and buying process significantly calmer.

iTunes Store v10

iTunes Store v11

Ultimately it's a bit of a grubby update. The software is improving and the overall structure is mostly better, but the UI design is fussy where surplus features have been left in. It shows signs of intelligent software design, but it's still lacking the 'insanely simple' design principles that makes us love Apple.