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-   -   Allusion noise erodes productivity - please drop it from OF2 (http://forums.omnigroup.com/showthread.php?t=29398)

RobTrew 2013-05-03 02:18 AM

Allusion noise erodes productivity - please drop it from OF2
 
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Focusing on what counts is mental work - your brain has to filter out the noise.

What is all this productivity-eroding visual noise in OF2 ? Where is it coming from ?

From the fallacy of visual "allusion" the understandable but incorrect idea that distraction is less distracting if it reminds us of something else.

Large and visually distracting finger-sized checkboxes, compacted paragraphs which make field and record boundaries much noisier and much harder to read, high-contrast hieroglyphic icons - open folders, sphinxes, snails, and norwegian flags ? Menu slabs competing for display space ? These are all forms of visual noise imposed on OF2 on the grounds of "allusion" to the iOS version.

"Allusion noise" even leaked into the otherwise excellent Omni app icon project, though the leak was luckily fixed for the iOS versions, which were spared the redundant high-contrast edges, black fills and shadows which were were added as allusions to twisted sheets in earlier icon designs.

[IMG]http://forums.omnigroup.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=2823&stc=1&d=1367575500[/IMG]

iOS7 is now making a bonfire of allusion logic - the idea that visual noise can be allowed to get in our way if it "reminds us" of something else. Torn sheets, library bookshelf splinters, faux leather diaries etc. etc. Luckily, the bonfire of allusion will then move on to OSX 10.9. Will OF2 be ready for that ?

If Omni is serious about productivity, and understands that visual noise distracts, then there's room for an early bonfire here as well. Pruning out all those distracting and unproductively high-contrast allusions would quickly let us see much more, and with much less effort, in OF2.

Allusions are not a good substitute for a coherent graphic approach. They're visually distracting, and they're moving out of fashion, too.

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fidic 2013-05-03 01:37 PM

Great post, nothing really to contribute here aside from the fact that iOS 7 isn't out yet... It's still currently on iOS 6.

The [I]real[/I] iOS 7, however, is said to have undergone a massive change, with the scaling back of the UI from skeuomorphism to a more understated design.

RobTrew 2013-05-03 02:21 PM

Exactly the "skeuomorphic" designs which iOS7 is dispensing with are examples of redundant and distracting visual noise being rationalised as allusions to earlier technologies (torn paper etc).

(Just as the irrelevantly and distractingly finger-sized checkboxes of OF2 are rationalised as allusions to iOS versions of OmniFocus).

etienne 2013-05-03 05:05 PM

I find your reasoning difficult to follow. Your assumption seems to be that many design decisions in OF2 were taken with no other purpose than to "allude" to the iOS version, but I see little evidence of that.

For example, the large checkboxes are a productivity win to me, because the larger hit target makes it much easier to click. It makes more sense to presume that this was a conscious design decision, and not simply an "allusion" for the sake of allusion.

Also, while I agree with you regarding the sidebar icons (I think they have too much visual weight), how is this related to "allusion noise"? As far as I'm aware, these icons debuted in OF2 and any problems they may have have little to do with "allusion noise".

You make some very good points, but I don't think the argument for "allusion noise" as a common thread is very compelling.

CatOne 2013-05-03 05:34 PM

I don't know about "allusion noise" and fancy-schmancy words like that, but I do agree that the older icons were better than the new ones. The new icons are rich and sexy in texture, but they look horrible in the dock, at least in how they fit, at least on my dock which is on the side. It really bugs me, whereas the old OF icon looked good that way.

RobTrew 2013-05-03 09:13 PM

[QUOTE=etienne;123554]the large checkboxes are a productivity win to me, because the larger hit target makes it much easier to click.
[/QUOTE]

A larger hit target is good, and we don't have to pay for it with a large area of non-data ink and fill (a weakened ratio of signal to noise) - the UI can simply enlarge the responsive area around the familiar unobtrusive check-box, and a mouse-over cursor change can reveal that enlargement.

[QUOTE]It makes more sense to presume that this was a conscious design decision, and not simply an "allusion" for the sake of allusion.[/QUOTE]

Conscious certainly. But not an optimisation for the OS X screen - just an allusion to the iOS screen, on which such checkboxes are optimised for fingers. Introducing, in fact, additional visual distraction from the text (see the image in [URL="http://forums.omnigroup.com/showthread.php?t=29290"]another post[/URL]).


[QUOTE]I agree with you regarding the sidebar icons (I think they have too much visual weight), how is this related to "allusion noise"? As far as I'm aware, these icons debuted in OF2 and any problems they may have have little to do with "allusion noise".[/QUOTE]

Take a look at the folder icons on the iPad version. The jagged-profiled open folder icon, and its closed partner, with its over contrasting tab-line, are simply imported straight from iPad to OS X. The rest of the icon set adopts the same high-noise (redundantly high-contrast) style - dark gray fills in strong constrast with bright internal white lines. Again, not a local optimisation even stronger visual contrasts, in fact, against the lighter OF2 background - but instead of visual optimisation, an allusion to the iPad version.


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RobTrew 2013-05-03 09:35 PM

3 Attachment(s)
From iPad,

[IMG]http://forums.omnigroup.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=2829&stc=1&d=1367645746[/IMG]

to OF2

[IMG]http://forums.omnigroup.com/attachment.php?attachmentid=2828&stc=1&d=1367645627[/IMG]

Visual allusion in place of visual optimisation.

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colicoid 2013-05-04 01:49 AM

I'm not a beta tester of OF2 so I don't see the bigger picture here but (talking about the folder icons only):
Are you suggesting Rob that the contrast of the folder icons should be reduced on the OS X version?

There are other things to consider, besides avoiding allusion. The design needs to be similar across multiple devices too. People like the unified experience.

In general, I think there is a constant struggle to make UI's more appealing to the eye. Every new major version of every software needs a "refresh" of the UI these days. It's kind of fashionable right now and overhauls are expected by the customers. Apple has made full circle a couple of times here. First there was this glossy aqua interface. Then they made it more metalish, then OS X which was glossy and skeumorphic which they then brought pieces of into OS X which makes a mess and now Ive is going to change it all again. Each time people say "ahh ohh" thats a nice UI, thats how it should look.

Unfortunately if you came up with the perfect UI, you would eventually have to ruin it for marketing reasons. :)

RobTrew 2013-05-04 05:18 AM

Hi Colicoid,

Appeal to the eye starts with clarity. Once things are clear, there's always room for decoration/color/typography, user options etc.

[QUOTE=colicoid;123571]There are other things to consider, besides avoiding allusion.[/QUOTE]
No need at all to avoid allusion (perhaps a misunderstanding there ?) but allusions bought at the cost of increased noise and clutter do not improve appeal to the eye. What is more, they reduce focus and productivity in an app which is marketed for focus and productivity.

[QUOTE]Apple has made full circle a couple of times here[/QUOTE]
Well, there have been some [B]decorative[/B] undulations, but the deeper and more important story of its [B]clarity[/B] is [URL="http://photos.appleinsider.com/iTunes11.102012.008.jpg"]far from circular[/URL].

As the resolution and contrast range of displays improved, the clarity (visibility of data divided by effort imposed on the eye) was gradually improved at each stage by:
[LIST=1][*]Removing redundant edges,[*]and reserving higher contrasts for graduated foregrounding.[/LIST]
I think we would all share the goals you set out:[LIST][*]Appeal to the eye,[*]a refresh of a look which has flaws that have grown more visible with time,[*]and a consistent experience across devices.[/LIST]
but at the moment:
[LIST][*]It doesn't have the quality of color and finish of the iPad version, [*]it doesn't bring the visual relief of something cleaned up and repainted (it's cluttered and gray),[*]and it doesn't have the same friction-free optimisation for its medium as the iPad version.[/LIST]
In other words it's relying for coherence on some visual allusions (cluttering and noise-importing allusions, as it happens) instead of aiming for a coherent and recognisable excellence in visual clarity across all the apps and devices.

(As for the sidebar icons, there's discussion elsewhere it's not just that they are noisy and cluttering clarity has been lost by removing their function as status indicators, forcing the eye to scan across and match up with another icon to the right of the text. A symptom, if you like, of not attending to the minimisation of visual effort.

One thing that the eye does not find appealing is unnecessary work :-)


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RobTrew 2013-05-04 08:21 AM

[QUOTE=colicoid;123571]there is a constant struggle to make UI's more appealing to the eye. Every new major version of every software needs a "refresh" of the UI these days. It's kind of fashionable right now and overhauls are expected by the customers.[/QUOTE]

Perhaps that's more the case when the thing is heavy with decoration and ornamentation. Everyone tires, in time, of patterned wall-papers and strongly colored wall-paints.

Interesting to see the success of a slightly different path - iA Writer is still in the App Store productivity category's list of top 10 paid apps.

Even in a very low-noise design it still finds room, once clarity is well-established, for some color and marketing (in the cursor).

I would personally be inclined to let the user choose their own colors and fonts, not least for the cursor, but the line they've taken still seems to have worked well for sales. No getting tired of the wallpaper there ...

(And iA Writer got a Mac App of the Year award. It would be good to see OmniGroup winning an Apple Design Award again No reason why they shouldn't, with some good deep design principles, some ambitious creative re-thinking, and a willingness to throw away a few initial drafts :-)

r48 2013-05-05 04:11 PM

The OF 2 icon looks "unfinished" to me, which alludes to the actual status of the app. :)

dtj 2013-05-05 04:57 PM

The anti-skeumorphic religious zealots have now been heard from. Some salient points, some hyperbole.

RobTrew 2013-05-05 09:55 PM

[QUOTE=dtj;123667]The anti-skeumorphic religious zealots have now been heard from. Some salient points, some hyperbole.[/QUOTE]

:-)

'Skeuomorphism' is not the issue here, but a clearer view of our projects and tasks would be good.

Lizard 2013-05-06 08:08 AM

To the degree that this thread discusses OmniFocus 2, here is my response: our approach to software development takes time. Some suggestions that came in a month ago that we really like and want to use have not been built yet. We haven't even finished everything we designed last year. So please give us a bit more time before assuming that we have not heard or will not address your concerns.

Also, this thread seems to be primarily discussion of past Apple design and speculation on their future direction. (And the bits specific to OmniFocus have already been discussed elsewhere on this forum.) I'm going to move it to the Omni Lounge.

RobTrew 2013-05-06 08:46 AM

[QUOTE=Lizard;123711]our approach to software development takes time. Some suggestions that came in a month ago that we really like and want to use have not been built yet. We haven't even finished everything we designed last year. So please give us a bit more time before assuming that we have not heard or will not address your concerns.

I'm going to move it to the Omni Lounge.[/QUOTE]

No problem :-)

The essential point in relation to OF2 is that visual quotations of another app need to work well in their own right, and in situ. If they add more clutter than clarity, one has to ask what they are doing there.

A cross-company set of codified deep principles for graphic design could yield a coherent experience for users, but assorted fragments of shared decoration probably won't, especially when they add (without much reward) to cognitive load.

Looking forward to seeing what you come up with. Good luck !

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dtj 2013-05-07 04:39 PM

I assume that lots of "fit and finish" issues are deferred at this point, instead focusing on the infrastructure and flow. As a long time professional GUI developer, i seem to be a little more immune to "seeing the sausage being made" issues. ;-)

With allusion noise, I think while you're probably right that it is distracting, I think that shortchanges our capacity to filter out distractions. For instance, I am told that google search results often have ads associated with them. Same with sidebar ads on websites. I filter that stuff out. I am, however, ready to stab people over long pre-roll ads on youtube, so apparently there are limits to that filtering mechanism. I think if you were quantify the affect of allusion noise, I think it would be in similar range as having a pastel green or blue motif, instead of something more jarring, as it affects productivity.

If you want to make a big impact on productivity, perhaps there is a moral equivalent of the "Dunbar Number", as it relates to projects and contexts, and enforcing that with perspectives would make a dent.

RobTrew 2013-05-07 10:40 PM

[QUOTE=dtj;123800]I assume that lots of "fit and finish" issues are deferred at this point, instead focusing on the infrastructure and flow.[/QUOTE]

Doubtless there will be some "finish" issues, but more interestingly, I think, there are also some deeper 'architectural' issues in this early draft of the UI design best caught and dealt with as early as possible, and I think they're planning to do that now.

My guess is that the central problem has been a tension between:
[LIST=1][*]An understandable desire to somehow converge the design of the OS X version with that of the generally well-received iPad version, and[*]an absence of any clearly formulated framework for thinking through the visual implications of ergonomic differences between tablets and larger non-touch displays with keyboards and mice.[/LIST]
That initial unpreparedness can, in part, be attributed to the date. Still relatively early days for thinking about coherence across touch and non-touch media, and Microsoft, with all the professional resources and experience at their disposal, have still been shocked to find that they have pulled a "New Coke" out of the hat

Tim Cook was fortunately [URL="http://go.bloomberg.com/tech-blog/2012-04-24-apple-ceo-you-can-merge-toaster-and-fridge-but-it-wont-be-pleasing/"]clearer about the fundamentals[/URL]:

[QUOTE]Anything can be forced to converge. But products are about trade-offs.[/QUOTE]

The key problems for this first draft were, I think, regressions (relative to OF1) in:
[LIST=1][*]Visual effort required to see field structure (iPad typographic segmentation rather than OF1 spatial segmentation), and[*]visual effort required to spot the status of projects (state indicator moved to right of text - an analogy with rightward move of iPad checkboxes, which placed them, quite sensibly, in reach of the thumb ?)[/LIST]
I'm sure the next re-draft will focus more on trade-offs that work, (rather than on trade-offs which simply resemble those made in another app).

I also think that a coherent company-wide approach to the fundamentals of visual ergonomics is more likely to yield a coherent (and good) user experience.


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mukka23 2013-07-08 11:52 PM

i think "Allusion noise" even leaked into the otherwise excellent Omni app icon project, though the leak was luckily fixed for the iOS versions, which were spared the redundant high-contrast edges, black fills and shadows which were were added as allusions to twisted sheets in earlier icon designs.


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