Saturday, November 8, 2014

Real World Review - Lowepro Slingshot 202AW

I really enjoy the Lowerpro line of camera bags. I have this one and its bigger brother. Both work beautifully. They're flexible and well designed.   Definitely a 'must-have' for photographers and videographers who want to go light but carry a lot of gear...

Monday, October 13, 2014

Stop the Unreadable UI Insanity!!!

I've long been a real proponent of readable, functional and easy on the eyes user interfaces. Heck, I spent a large part of my life as a UI designer in the IT world and also as a VP running IT departments that did a lot of development.

Those who know me understand my eyes aren't the best out there, but I'm not blind and can see pretty well except at night... So this is not a gripe about catering to disabilities. But this is a gripe about ridiculously designed UI that are hard to read, tiring and eye damaging (yes, eye strain can damage the eyes with prolonged use).

Years ago my biggest complaint in elearning tools was Adobe Captivate. Version 5 and 5.5 were this side of unreadable. It was plain awful to work on for 8 or more hours a day. Eye-strain was a given and not just for me, but for our staff of 20-50 year olds. They all complained of eye-strain, headaches and tiredness after a full day of development.  And they all had 20/20 vision!!!

Adobe finally capitulated and version 6 had more contrast and became 'usable'. Versions 7 and 8 mostly followed suite and it's not that hard to work on Captivate for long periods now.

Articulate started the trend of making the UI look like Office (first 2010 and now 2013). Lectora also thinned the fonts and grayed things up a bit. Not terrible but could be better.

Microsoft, particularly with Office 2013, has one of the worst UI color schemes around with almost no useful contrast. Things are plain hard to read for many. One of our younger graphic artists gets headaches working with PowerPoint, Articulate and others due to the low contrast (she has 20/20 vision). With all the billions that Microsoft has they came up with a lame color scheme for the Office products with no thought as to how functional or not people would be using them. My theory is that people use them, complain but don't complain loudly enough... I wonder how many lens prescriptions Microsoft is responsible for?

We recently upgraded to the new Articulate Storyline 2 and it's pretty cool! Great new functionality, improved workflows and overall a good release. We love working with Storyline. BUT, we hate (read that with extreme prejudice) the new UI. It is hard to read, no contrast and unfunctional for long (or even short periods) of time.

Here is Microsoft PowerPoint 2010:

Articulate Storyline 1

Articulate Storyline 2

PowerPoint sets the trend for awful UI design (I still don't think the ribbon menus are all that effective).

Articulate Storyline 1, while not great, was a tad better than PowerPoint.

Articulate Storyline 2, is much worse than Storyline 1 and surpasses PowerPoint in unreadability. 

If you know anything about photography, you know that auto-focus lenses use contrast to determine difference between objects. If you have very gray scenes, as in some fog or dusk, the cameras have a much harder time grabbing focus as contrast is very low. Cameras were patterned after the way our eyes also focus. While our eyes are a bit more flexible in lighting conditions than cameras, our eyes also require contrast or they will take much longer to acquire focus.

In our eyes, contrast and focus is acquired by squinting, or using the many tiny muscles around the eyes to try to make an unreadable image sharper. Many tests have been done to film people as they struggle with very bright screens, light interfaces, a lot of gray, etc.  Invariably, the eyes squint a lot more and the muscles around the eyes get tired. The lack of blinking that occurs while people focus continually on light screens  dries the eyes and causes other issues. 

In essence, no contrast UI is simply bad for the eyes whether you can read them well or not. Some of the people in our office can read them without a problem but when asked to pay attention to their eyes they realize they're squinting a bit or their eyes are getting dryer faster.


Really quite simple. Use thicker, darker fonts. That's it!!! How hard is that???

But in our form before function world that seems almost impossible.

What reads better to you?

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

UI Prototyping Tools

One of the most important elements of software development is a good user interface or UI. While the adding, editing, processing, reporting and deleting of data is foundational, a good GUI can make the difference between a successful and a failed UX (user experience).

All good software starts with a good UI design. And in the world of mobile apps that is even more crucial than ever before. Ease of access, readability, functionality, colors, etc. all contribute to an app's appeal and usefulness.

One way to get started quickly in the app design process is by prototyping.

1. Fluid - a web-based prototyping tool  that's fast and easy.

2. - a web-based tool which allows for collaboration and feedback. Currently free.

3.Pidoco - rapid prototyping tool:

4. Hot Gloo - free wireframe prototype tool:

5. Mockflow - super easy wireframing mock-ups:

6. Keynotopia - PowerPoint-based templates & graphics for mobile UI development:

Happy prototyping!!!