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Omnifocus Interface Aesthetics/ Visual Design Thread Tools Search this Thread Display Modes
I'd just like to make a request to OMNI to do something about the busy, sterile, bland aesthetic of OMNIFOCUS. Clearly it's the functional leader among the ToDo apps out there, but it seriously lacks a clean, elegant aesthetic. That's one area they could improve on and mimic the likes of Things, Hitlist, action|method etc.

I suggest looking at Things, HitList, and Action|Method(from Behance) and come up with a way(using color, texture, layout) to make Omnifocus as aesthetically appealing as their competitors. Form and function should be harmonized, not seperate. Each of those competing products has something to be learned from re: visual design and look/feel.

The aesthetics of an application contribute significantly to the user experience that it delivers.

I'd like to invite ohers to add what they think would be desirable changes to the OF visual design:

I like the colored tabs in The HitList

I like the clean look of AM, and the layout of tasks as a grid option.

Note the use of shading, color, and texture in Things
While I agree that the default OF appearance doesn't seem likely to make someone get excited by all the pretty colors and shapes, this is intended to be a functional, industrial-strength tool. I look at your screenshots, and I look at my task list in OmniFocus, and my immediate reaction is that OF appears to pack a lot more content onto my small screen. If I had a few dozen projects with a few actions each, it wouldn't be a big deal. With hundreds of projects, making it more beautiful by just spreading everything out isn't going to be a welcome change.

Don't misunderstand me, I'm not insisting that the UI design must stay the same, but rather that the most important part of the user experience for me is that the tool helps me get my work done expeditiously, and if that means the only people interested in printing screen shots and framing them for the wall are Omni developers (and their mothers), that's fine. I'd rather they work on fixing rough spots in the UI that make various tasks more difficult than necessary.
I love OF but agree it could look a lot nicer, and have a few more bells and whistles taken from the OSX toolkit.

I can't say I really 'enjoy' using Omnifocus in the same way I have with Things or The Hit List. Yet Omnifocus is the most powerful. If Omnigroup could sprinkle OF with some graphical love and some things that would just make it 'cooler' to use, while still retaining it's core functionality, I would be really happy.

And probably more productive. Looks DO matter. It's software. You have to look at it. A lot.
Perhaps adding visual appeal/elegance without sacrificing screen real estate is one answer, but another one would be to provide the OPTION of a stripped down sterile industrial look, and then the option of a more appealing interface for those who are emotionally connected to an elegant aesthetic.

I for one prefer a more simplistic view, and am turned off by too much info on the screen at once, but I realize others desire the opposite, and that's why I think it should be customizable. I'd rather scroll a bit than be visually overwhelmed by dense information...

I'm trying out HitList now and I must say I'm definitly enjoying it and look forward to interacting with its interface... this is the opposite 'sensation' from what I get when using OF.

I have to agree that the lack of an appealing aesthetic does act as an obstacle to me actually using OF unfortunately. But then again, I'm a UI/UX designer so I'm often very emotioanally reliant on aesthetic elegance.

Again, I want to be clear that I'm well aware that OF is the CLEAR leader of this category in terms of power and functionality. I just think it should not sacrifice aesthetics as a result, and could learn from others in that regard.
Every piece of software, with all its strengths and weaknesses, is a model of the organisation which produced it.

So far, I'm not convinced that Omni has either formulated the visual quality goals, developed the visual quality management processes, or acquired the visual design skills which would be required to make this leap.

A pity, I think.
I happen to like the OF display just the way it is now. The display contains everything I need / want and it is easy to see-find-and use. I am not into "pretty" software, I want function and high visibility of the information I want and need with a glance and it is all there. The bells and whistles are there and easy to find without all the extra colors and fluff.
The examples do look nice. But I'm not convinced they're significanty better than OmniFocus.

I've done my fair share of UI/UX design work over the years too, and, like uxable, prefer a "simplistic view." But that's exactly why I like the OmniFocus UI. It's clean, with simple lines, shapes, and textures. It feels lightweight and, well, plain.

That may seem boring to some, but it helps you to focus on the content rather than the chrome. And there are many ways to control the density of information, from row spacing and style to filtering and focusing.

That's not to say OmniFocus is perfect -- there's certainly room for improvement (e.g. RobTrew's comments on the darker view bar). But other than that, I've not seen many concrete suggestions. What exactly should be changed and why?

Of the three example screen shots, my favorite is THL, perhaps because it looks the most like OmniFocus. :-)

Originally Posted by uxable View Post
I like the colored tabs in The HitList.
I like the tabs too, but OmniFocus doesn't have a tabbed interface. So what exactly is your suggestion? Add colored tabs or use similar colors for something else?

As good as THL looks, I think it's use of color for navigational elements (i.e. the tabs) is ill-conceived. Color can be a powerful source of information. Why waste it on static navigation? It is better used to highlight important data, like OmniFocus does to indicates state (accessibility issues aside). Using color for both state and navigation would likely lead to over-stimulation.

One thing I especially like in THL is the more conventional Mac OS X sidebar selection highlighting (i.e. darker gradient with the selected title displayed in bold, white text). I also prefer the conventional count indicators. These elements look consistent with those used in Apple's apps.

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Originally Posted by uxable View Post
I like the clean look of AM, and the layout of tasks as a grid option.
I've never used AM, but to my eyes this interface looks cluttered and visually confusing. Maybe it's all the high contrast elements.

However, the craftsmanship looks good from what I can see. And the grid view is an interesting idea. But beyond that, I have to say I vastly prefer the look of OmniFocus.

Originally Posted by uxable View Post
Note the use of shading, color, and texture in Things.
Funny, it's the excessive use of shading, color, and texture in the Things UI that turns me off. The overall experience is dark, heavy, and cumbersome, like something you'd expect to see in a Cold War-era Soviet submarine or a Klingon starship.

I really hope the Omni Group doesn't emulate the Things aesthetic, despite the app's popularity with a certain crowd.

While I'm ranting about Things, I also hate the Logbook and Trash pinned to the bottom of the sidebar. That just feels wrong to me and is particualt annoying when you have a long list of items scrolling in the sidebar.

The iPhoto-esque placement of the search input and toolbar at the bottom of the window also feels awkward. The design works in a image-oriented app, like iPhoto, but unneccessarily breaks convention for a textual data app. Why are those controls at the bottom when every other textual data app puts them at the top? I can't help but think the Things designers were just trying to be different for the sake of being different. When the novelty wears off, you're left with nothing but a nuisance.


Last edited by Toadling; 2009-09-22 at 06:35 PM.. Reason: Added screenshot
Originally Posted by atreinke View Post
I happen to like the OF display just the way it is now. The display contains everything I need / want and it is easy to see-find-and use. I am not into "pretty" software, I want function and high visibility of the information I want and need with a glance and it is all there. The bells and whistles are there and easy to find without all the extra colors and fluff.
I'm sure you're happy with the existing look of the UI based on what you stated, but let's be clear about aesthetic elegance and usability. An appealing aesthetic is not about sacrificing functionality in any way, in fact quite the opposite. Software can be beautifully elegant and aesthetically pleasing in a way that enhances usability. It may be that you're perhaps eluding to a misguided stigma you may have that's associated with what you refer to 'pretty' interfaces that involve easthetic elements that do not play any role in usability, because it seems to be something you perceive negatively, and good visual design should rarely if ever leave such impressions. What I'm suggesting is much like the design philosophy employed by companies like Apple. Now, I'm sure there are those out there that mightr argue that the design and interface of the iPod is awful and they might not like it, but it's very obvious by the market cap of the product that the vast majority actually appreciate the elegant visual design of the product and its associated interfaces. Good visual design is not about aesthetics for easthetic's sake at all.

Perhaps the answer is flexibility. If the OMNI team did enhance the visual design of the UI, I doubt there's any reason they couldn't also provide the option of the more sterile, bland, stripped down look as well. My ideal scenario involves a 'theme' functionality that would allow any designer to customize the UI to some extent to achieve their optimal easthetic, no matter what that may be...
I spend most of my day in OF. Compared to the way I love my Mac and love other applications that I use on it I can honestly say that I absolutely hate the way OF looks.

I even thought switching back to Things but I changed my mind due to all the scripts that I am used to use in OF .

I love GTD and I love the way it changed my life, I am always looking for new things and gadgets that would keep me connected to GTD and help me improve my system - moleskines, filofax, different trays and filing cabinets and so on. It is a shame that I am "forced" to work in an environment that I do not like.

BUT, even if OF is leading the pack in MAc GTD apps, I am sure that the guys from behind are getting a piece of the pie and they want more.

So, from my point of view they (OF) must change something if they want to stay on top - as Zig Ziglar said-: there is plenty of space at the top but not enough to sit down!

So..OF- Get UP!
Out of the box OF isn't my cup of tea either, but after some major tweaking I got it looking a lot like "things"; for instance try using Lucida grande 11 point. Itunes and Things use this.
Having said that i could never ever go back to using things now, let alone use this Hitlist.. it's just too playful for my taste. This is an information manager, not an mp3 chillout tool/toy. I would not take myself seriously using something with tabs that resembles the "real world", in art school i had a teacher that had an anecdote that I will spare you all, but the conclusion was, and still is that this is Kitch.
However if they would change the purple icons into something less purple Led Zeplin i would give it ++1 ;-) Smokey omniganja to fresh omnicoffee or something like that. I'm still amazed at that choice of color for an application like this.

I do think OF could be a bit modernized; it feels a bit cluncky at times. And if i look at Omnioutliner the omnigroup does have it in house to make it all a bit more osx 2009, so i guess we will see that in the near future. But I hope for synced perspectives on the iphone first, and if that means putting up with this design.. i do not mind.

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