July 28, 2006

Beta fun and bye-bye "GUI"

Some interesting product peeks this week:
  • AOL released a beta of an integrated communications/media product, Streamliner.
  • Microsoft release a public beta of their new "Live" desktop mail client.
  • And Adobe released the latest public beta (now for Windows, too) of LightRoom (think iPhoto or Picasa on steroids for Professional Photographers - or at least, that's basically the pitch).

The particularly interesting thing to me (from a "tech trends" perspective) is how much each diverges from any real compliance with the underlying OS "look and feel". Increasingly, VMWare and DOS would seem to provide about the same value that Windows does to these apps... so is that (a) consumers embracing/demanding these differences, or (b) that companies feel more and more pressure to differentiate (or maybe some combo thereof).

Used to be that "consistency" was the
great boon of the GUI era - whoops.

Good news, bad news,
who knows?


Casual Penguin said...

Nothing new, nothing to see here. It's not like say, PhotoSOAP followed the UI guidelines of it's host Application. I think differentiation is the big draw --- something that isn't helpful to the user - more more a plus for "brand identification"

Sree Kotay said...

yeah - i agree with that strongly, and even more feel that (a) the web and games have conditioned users to accept different strokes for different apps and (b) users are just more sophisticated in terms of interaction now (just look at TVs and consumer electronics)... so then the question is: what is (if any) the common stuff that matter?

I hear a lot of whining (as we did at Metacreations) about "OS look and feel" - bogus or nor bogus?

Anonymous said...

I think the default look and feel is so old, clunky and "ugly", that companies really feel the need to break away to make a decent looking product. While UI concepts advance and we come up with new interactions, Windows XP UI remains the same. Look at Apple for example...they have a great UI engine and therefore they are not having the same kinds of problems. At the same time, having different UI may not always be a bad thing. We deal with different UI for the same thing all the time in real life without even a flinch (nobody has a problem lowering the windows in their rental car, do they?), so perhaps different UI doesn't deserve the bad rap.

I think behaviors and expectations of what a UI should do is what matters. When you click on something that looks like a button it should behave like a button. List boxes should all behave similar. The problem comes in when UI elements look ambiguous or aren't clear on their state / how they operate. Also I think placement of UI elements may be just as important. Seeing links in desktop client UI is just wierd (unless it will open a web page, and even then it is debatable).

Sree Kotay said...

I only kind of agree - the other side of the argument (obviously) is that I'm not sure most people really appreciate the context switch between applications; its all just using a computer to them.

Apple's the biggest "make shit up" UI company - every app creates new looks AND feels, and perhaps that's not bad. I guess it the general hipocrisy of the OS vendors (and their adherents) that I take some issue with.

Unknown said...