Is it yet another $21 million Swiss Watch for Apple?
In 1998, I was a junior Program Manager on the Internet Explorer team at Microsoft. My first project was shipping Internet Explorer 4 Plus, a CD-ROM with Internet Explorer 4.0 and a whole lot of trialware junk that we sold for $49. Yep, gather around, kids – let me tell you about a time when browsers were sold in physical boxes at CompUSA. And a pack of gum cost a ha’penny, and Coke still had cocaine in it!
Anyway, I digress.
We had shipped Internet Explorer 4, and we were busy with Internet Explorer 5, which was chock full of awesomeness, like offline browsing using Channel Definition Format (remember when Pointcast was worth $450 million?), an all new Trident engine, and “Weblications,” a way-too-early-attempt to let devs build rich apps in the browser – though I guess that did lead to the invention of AJAX.
In those days, I was always at work until 10 PM, mainly because dinner was free and I had no life anyway.
And one of those nights, one of the senior devs Bharat Shyam asked me to come over to his office to look at something. I’m sure I was in the middle of writing some amazing yet useless spec/patent. So I walked over to his office and he was hunched over his 133 Mhz Pentium PC, one window full of Win32 C++ COM jibberish, and the other with his local build of IE5. He said, “check this out,” and in IE he added a favorite (aka bookmark, for you Chrome-heads). Amazingly enough, the favorite had a fancy icon to the left of it! Never before had anyone developed the “technology” to do such a thing. Marc Andressen hadn’t though of it, and that guy was rich, right?
Bharat said, “this is good, right? Check it in?” And I said, “yeah, sure, how does it work?” And he said that you just had to put a file named favicon.ico at the root of your IIS Server, and you were good to go! So I said, “sure that sounds good,” and I went back to my office.
The next day, my manager called me into his office. He said, “did you OK this checkin?” And I said, “yeah, sure.” And he scolded me because he said Bharat had taken advantage of me – he was looking for a junior PM to OK this late checkin, and I should have said no. I promised to do better.
But now I look back & realize that we did the right thing. Seriously, how risky was this feature?
And I still remember telling my friend Michael Radwin at Yahoo about favicon.ico. He was looking at Yapache logs for fun as he does, and he had noticed an unusual spike in HTTP requests for http://www.yahoo.com/favicon.ico. He said, what the hell is favicon.ico? And I explained it to him. He was so excited that he slammed a favicon.ico onto the server, which might have been one of the first official favicons in existence.
So there you go, the story of the invention of favicon.ico. For the kiddies.
I’ve changed all my native email apps to sort conversations “newest at the bottom,” like Gmail.
When I read an article on the Internet, or anywhere, I read it from top to bottom. Why, then, would you read a conversation thread from bottom to top? Is the UI optimized for reading while hanging upside down from the ceiling? That sounds like a 5% case to me at best. :)
Skeuomorphism vs. Flat Design arguments fill the tubes. Especially with iOS 7 going flatter.
Skeuomorphers think that Flat Design lacks the natural touch that makes things feel good.
Flat worlders think that Apple Calendar’s leather stitching is Literally the Anti-Christ.
As usual, nobody’s right and nobody’s wrong. Good designs can have touches of Flat, and hints of Skeuomorphism where appropriate.
|Mark of the Beast?|
|An affront to nature?|
iOS 7 removed physical-looking buttons, but kept translucence. Windows Phone is very flat and digital-first, yet it has a skeuomorphic On-Off switch.
|Where’s my Settings button?|
|That acts like a physical switch!|
So instead of spending all your time on this UI Quagmire, I recommend the following:
- Spend most of your time on your Interaction Design. Make sure your product is extremely easy to use. Everyone on your team should care about good interaction design. Don’t just hand this off to a Visual Designer – work across engineering, product management, and design to nail the interaction design.
- Spend the rest of your time on a great design. I said great design. Not “flat” or “skeuomorphic” design. Just great design, full stop.
Visual Design is Pri 1. Interaction Design is Pri 1er.
It’s like what Steve Jobs said in the NY Times:
”Most people make the mistake of thinking design is what it looks like,” says Steve Jobs, Apple’s C.E.O. ”People think it’s this veneer — that the designers are handed this box and told, ‘Make it look good!’ That’s not what we think design is. It’s not just what it looks like and feels like. Design is how it works.”
Next time you’re yelling at someone about the merits or faults of rounded corners, remember to take a breath. No amount of visual design can save bad Interaction Design.
But if watching the video is too slow, I’ve provided the raw “Powerpoint notes” below.
Nintendo makes amazing games. The Zelda and Mario games are best in class for casual gamers and kids. I demo’d Zelda for NES – yeah, the original one from 1986 – to Connor and now he’s hooked.
Mario is to games as Robert Downey Jr. is to movies. Put Mario on a game, or make another Iron Man movie. Either way, you can start driving to the bank before the game/movie even goes live.
But – Nintendo has a problem. Wii U is losing money.
Nintendo has gone into the red. $36B Yen in losses last year ($370 million).
Build new touch-first Zelda and Mario titles for iOS and Android phones and tablets. Don’t let others rip you off.
And when I say touch-first, I mean redesign the entire game with the touch assumption. Just like how Apple redesigned all their apps for touch. They didn’t just layer touch on top of old OS X UI. They built a great new experience for touch.
I think these will sell quite well and revive Nintendo. People flock to Mario like 20-somethings flock to Robert Downey Jr. Iron Man movies.
Then Nintendo can even consider porting to (gasp) Xbox and Playstation. Just like how MS sells Office on PCs and Macs and wins on both OSes. If you have the best stuff, don’t hold it back for just your OS.
And even build games for the Apple TV app store (probably coming) and Chromecast app store.
Look, I can already run Mario on my Macbook just fine – this will also work on a future Apple TV with a bit more power.
Then, Nintendo has a choice. They can keep building hardware, but it needs to be best in class.
3DS – has to be better than your iPhone and iPad at playing games, or cheaper. A 3DS costs $199 – know what else costs $199? An iPhone. Which does way more, better. An iPod touch also costs the same, if you want to avoid the contract and buy something for your kids.
Wii U – has to be better than the Xbox One, PS4, AppleTV, Chromecast, and Smart TVs. Or way cheaper. A Wii U costs $350. Way too expensive. An AppleTV costs $99, a Chromecast costs $35.
Or if they can’t compete, exit hardware and build the best games.
- Sync your iPhone to iPhoto.
- Import your new photos & say OK to delete them off your device.
- Then, look for the button below – Remove Photos from Ray’s iPhone. Clicking this will remove all photos except your Photo Stream, saving you a ton of space in photos. If you are worried if this is the right thing to do, keep reading.
I always recommend humor when you’re trying to convince someone of something. Please watch this very short video as a Primer before reading this article. The reason for the boldface will be clear soon, I promise.
Ok, let’s talk about Prim. Prim, please don’t take this the wrong way, I am just making an example out of you. Here’s a glowing article about them:
This business suffers from the Free Pony Initiative problem, often felt in my state of Washington. Many years back, voters approved I-776, a measure to drop car license tab fees to $30/year. A friend & I joked that the ballot should have read:
- I want a Free Pony.
- I do not want a Free Pony.
- Do you do it more efficiently than others? Do you have a competitive advantage that is sustainable? Perhaps Yin Yin Wu is the world’s best launderer (yes that’s the right word), and she’s doing all the laundry by hand? Maybe she built a robot that launders better than the Mafia (mixed metaphor)?
- How much will people pay for your service? Call that x. Let me give you a business equation that I provide all of the companies in my portfolio:
- If (x < Cost of you paying people to drive to a house & pick up laundry & drop it at the laundromat & pick it back up & drop it off & handle disputes where you lose the laundry or damage it & handle cases where your drivers steal things or crash their cars)
- And let me provide a related equation:
- If (x is NOT bad) AND (you become profitable & successful)
- How long do you think it will be before LaundromatX starts cutting out the middleman & offering pick up services? I’ve seen this offered before, but the cost is so prohibitive that only Silicon Valley Dreamers use it.