Try explaining UX design to someone who’s unfamiliar. It’s tough. Unlike the typography or colors that make up an application’s aesthetic, user experience is invisible when done well. That’s why for mobile app makers and designers good UX can be a tough thing to nail down. How do you implement design ideas when the best ones are fundamentally unnoticeable?
For designers Arthur Bodolec, Chris Polk, and Nathan Barraille, the answer is in observation. Observing how others have tackled user actions, and making note of what’s worked and what hasn’t. To do this, they created the UX Archive – a site meant for logging examples of popular apps and identifying how their design goes about certain challenges.
It’s always great when a third-party app replaces a bad stock Apple app. Mailbox killed Mail, Drafts shamed Notes, Google destroyed Maps, et cetera, et cetera. And now there’s another one for the list – this time for the phone: Callism.
I know what you’re thinking. “I never call people anyway.” But that’s Callism’s point. It simplifies an already infrequent task. Most people find themselves calling only a handful of people, and the process of scrolling through a list of contacts feels redundant. Callism learns from your habits and puts that handful of people at the top of your list. That in itself should be enough to trump the first-party phone app.
Back in the iOS 6 days (man, remember those days?, there were a few apps that might foreshadow what was to come in the fabled “flat” iOS 7 redesign. One of the most prevalent was a to-do list app called Clear. It was gorgeous – simple color gradients, bold typography, and dead obvious gestures that made the app a delight to use. In the context of the rest of the OS’s awkward linen textures and embossed buttons, Clear stood out as the indisputable way of the future.
So now that we’ve arrived at this less-skeumorphic landscape, how does Clear hold up? Better than ever. In fact, it didn’t take much to return the app to its lead among other iOS 7 redesigns. With the just released Clear+, the typography was lightened, a few UI elements were added, and iCloud syncing was introduced to support a new iPad version.
As Apple released its iPhone 5C last week, buyers had the opportunity to personalize their phone unlike never before. Five color variations as opposed to the standard two? Man, the choices.
Color variations aren’t much of a customization feature – in the end, your phone does the same things, has the same features, and even falls short in the same areas as everyone else’s. Dutch designer Dave Hakkens, however, has come up with a concept that would truly make your phone customizable.
It’s called Phonebloks – a name that might remind you of Megabloks or Legos. And thinking along those lines would be right on. The Phonebloks concept takes phone design to users as Legos do for architecture. Every functional component of a phone is contained in its own individualized block. The battery, for instance, would be one block; while the camera would be an other. Combine all the right blocks, and soon you have a working phone.
If you’re like me, fonts can drive you bananas on the internet. Not in a “oh look how bad that font is” way, but in a “what a nice font, I wonder what it is” way. Sure, bad type happens. But when you see that great font being used, the inability to identify it can feel so close yet so far.
Thankfully, I’ve come across a solution. It comes in the form of a Google Chrome extension called WhatFont. If you aren’t familiar with Chrome extensions, that’s okay – many aren’t. Like your iPhone or Android device, the Chrome browser has a marketplace for third-party software that runs inside Chrome. Games and apps, of course, are there. But extensions are small functions that you add to the browser; oftentimes in the form of a button that goes up near your bookmarks.