So I have been digesting the WWDC conference and yeah, there is a lot of fantastic new stuff coming out of Apple HQ. I’m seeing a lot of innovation in things like Time Machine, and its incorporation of ZFS. Finally, home users will have a reliable storage architecture that “just works”. The new Safari and iChat are also badly needed upgrades. The current Safari is slow, and leaks memory like a sieve. I also desperately need iChat to have a “stealth mode” that allows me to be on the network, without showing up in buddy lists. Core Animation is huge, and will only grow to be more massive. I see developers from all over, rushing to incorporate that slide-and-fade hotness.
What I am also seeing, however, is quite a bit of “Me Too”. Take the new Finder, for example. The menubar is now translucent, making me think strongly of the translucent menubar and windows of Vista. As a matter of fact, I vote this as the “WTF” feature of the new OS. Since when does having less contrast in a menu help the user find their target. Fitts’ Law states there is a relationship between the size of the target, and the distance from the current position. Smaller targets that are far away take more time to hit. What Fitts’ Law doesn’t take into account is a new dimension, opacity. I’ll coin this as “Harrington’s Corollary to Fitts’ Law”. As objects become less opaque, the more difficult it is to accurately select a target.
All those animations. I ask myself, “Do having these things animate make me work faster and more accurately?” At the moment, I am not so sure. I’m seeing a lot of flying, a lot of sliding, and lot of zooming which make for great demos, but I am not sure about their utility. It seems that depending on the number of items, the display will change from jack-in-the-box style, to grid style. Can I force them to all be the same? Much of the animation gives the user some context as to how and why things are happening. This bodes well for the interface, but my concern is the amount of time it’s going to take before a user can take action. How long is that animation? Does it scale when you have a stack of 200 items, or is it The Dock Problem all over again?
Speaking of The Dock. I’m actually a big fan of The Dock, and have been since the NeXT days, when it had some additional functionality, and was placed, by default, on the right. The New Dock is now more of a shelf in 3D space. Objects (icons) are placed on top of this shelf, and items reflect off its surface. How is The Dock going to look when the user chooses to have it on the right, or left? Will it still be possible? My Magic 8-Ball says “Outlook not so good”.
Finally, one last comment on the interface. Finally, we get some unification of interfaces. Will the Pro-Apps reflect this change? iTunes? If that’s not the case, we will still have a hodge-podge of UI elements. Luckily, these questions will be answered in short-order.
Earlier: The Revolution Starts Now
Later: Petty Fireball