Learning From ‘Bad’ UI

Ryan Singer has a thoughtful piece regarding TripLog/1040, specifically regarding developer Steve Patt’s defense of its design in the comments on my Flickr entry.

My takeaway is this: I’m genuinely intrigued to see how things pan out for iPhone apps written by developers who don’t get the iPhone’s UI. Mostly these apps are going to come from developers coming from platforms other than the Mac, but I’ll bet some Mac developers will struggle, too — the iPhone UI isn’t anything at all like the Mac’s.

Patt’s defense of TripLog/1040’s design is that users will want all of these things on a single panel. Even if that’s true, though, to me the fundamental mistake in this design is shrinking everything to fit on screen at once. Just use more vertical space and let the user scroll the screen with their thumb to see the bottom. See, for example, the iPhone’s Settings app — it almost fits on a single screen, but instead of shrinking things to make them fit, it just scrolls off the bottom. But even if you’re sure that you do want to fit all of these controls on the iPhone screen at once, with no scrolling, this design is bad, because it takes up so much space for the number picker alone. That there is some logic behind TripLog/1040’s current design doesn’t make it good.

And a postscript regarding the tone of some of the comments in the Flickr thread: Constructive criticism of the design itself is, of course, OK. Gentle ribbing is OK. Personal insults are just wrong, though. Criticize the design, not the designer; the work, not the person.

Update: From the comments on Singer’s post, here’s an iPhone-style redesign by Raphael Campardou. And another here.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008