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January 2, 2015

New Horizons

Filed under: For Posterity,Working — admin @ 7:56 pm

2015 promises to be a year of change for me, professionally speaking. In December, I left my role as Design Director at HeathWallace after more than 9 enjoyable years.

It was a very hard decision to make; to leave a company you’ve poured tens of thousands of hours into (not all during ‘work hours’), a company who you’ve helped grow, clients you’ve helped make happy, colleagues who’ve become firm friends. But, after all those years, I felt I needed a new challenge: new ways of working; new teams; new problems to solve in new verticals. Our industry moves at such a pace, I worried that I was becoming stagnant.

I started asking myself some difficult questions. If I stayed, where would I be in 12 months time? What experiences would I have had? Was I happy? Through months of cognitive chewing, I came to the sad conclusion that I needed to move on.

The world of contracting was appealing: short term blasts of exposure to new work, teams, methods, challenges. The flexibility to choose the kind of work I might like to do. The ego massage that when you do a good job, it reflects well on you personally.

And yet, at the same time it was terrifying. As a father of two young children and the sole breadwinner of the house, I would be taking a massive risk. Contract roles do not come along until a matter of weeks before they start. My notice period was three months; I probably wouldn’t be able to find a role until 2-3 weeks before I left. So if I left, I wouldn’t know where I would end up for months. As someone who’s meticulous about finances and planning, this was incredibly difficult to accept.

Questions gnawed at me. Am I good enough? Can I survive in the far-more-cut-throat world of contracting? How will it feel to be treated as a commodity, rather than an embedded employee? What if the work dries up?

Ultimately, I’ve decided that the risks are worth the potential enrichment this experience offers. And no, I don’t mean fiscal enrichment!

I’m lucky. I’ve got the support of my beautiful wife and that of our families. I know that they believe in me and want to see me professionally happy and fulfilled. We’ve been open about the risks and what it would mean; ultimately it’s a decision I could only have taken with their full support.

So here we are. For the first time in my entire career, I’m doing my own thing. Whether it works out or not is completely down to me. And that’s massively sobering.

I’ll try and document my experiences as I go — I certainly found solace across the Internet when I was pondering change. I feel it only right that I should try and pay some of it back.

So 2015: what you got?

I wrote four things in 2014

Filed under: jammylammy.com — admin @ 7:26 pm

A piddly four! I can’t even think of an excuse.

I will try and create more of my own content in 2015.

September 8, 2014

Countdown to the Apple event

Filed under: Apple — admin @ 9:23 am

I can’t remember the last time Apple posted a countdown to an event.

Apple's homepage

Tomorrow’s gonna be a big one.

May 19, 2014

Van Gaal Appointed

Filed under: Football — admin @ 4:45 pm

Confirming the worst-kept secret in football:

Louis van Gaal has been appointed manager of Manchester United on a three-year deal and vowed to “make history” at the club. The Holland coach will officially start work at Old Trafford in July after his commitments at the World Cup are over.

Interesting that it’s a three-year deal, especially when you consider his predecessor was handed a six-year deal and United have always valued long-term stability. Either Giggs will step up in 2018 or Guardiola will be itching to get back into football after another year-long sabbatical…

April 22, 2014

Moyes Sacked

Filed under: Football — admin @ 9:44 am

It had to happen — David Moyes has been sacked as United manager:

The list of unwanted records broken during Moyes’ time at the helm is as embarrassing as it is long. United will end the season with their lowest points total in Premier League history, they have not qualified for the Champions League for the first time in almost two decades and their home record this season is the worst since 1978.

The same team that won the title by 11 points last season look on-track to finish 7th this term. This is hard to fathom — why have things failed so miserably? A worse-than-expected post-Ferguson hangover? Did the players not perform? Was the manager out of his depth?

A bit of all three, in my view. But Moyes’ biggest mistake was to immediately clear out the well established — and successful — United backroom staff and replace it with his Everton entourage. Any manager wants to stamp their mark on a new club but Moyes should have taken his time figuring out the best possible backroom staff. By firing Mike Phelan, Rene Meulensteen et al, he immediately discounted them from the running.

[Update 25/4]

Reading this article from the Guardian, it sounds as if Moyes didn’t actually fire Meulensteen, but that he left of his own accord when it became clear Moyes was changing things around. It’s interesting that it’s come out now, but it still doesn’t change my view that Moyes was rather rash in bringing in his own staff so quickly without taking the time to observe & work out the best mix of personnel.

Ferguson will help choose Moyes’ successor (he didn’t get it right first time, did he?)
Scholes joines Giggs’ backroom staff (this whole Giggs thing interests me, particularly the idea of someone more experienced coming in for a few years to give Giggs a few years experience before taking the reigns permanently. If nothing else, it signals some kind of strategy about the beyond-immediate future.)

March 21, 2014

The Frustration of iOS Banner Notifications

Filed under: Apple,Design,Experiential,Ideas,Interfaces,iOS,Mobile,Usability — admin @ 5:18 pm

Sagi Shrieber has written a thought-provoking piece on his annoyance with iOS notifications, offering some suggested improvements as to how notifications appear and how users might interact with them. The whole piece is worth a read but the basic jist is:

  1. Too often, iOS doesn’t get it right when you try to dismiss a notification by swiping it off the top of the screen. iOS interprets this swipe as a tap, taking you away from your current task. (I believe that you actually have to tap & hold the notification, drag it down a little then ‘throw’ it off the top of the screen to dismiss it — not easily done.)
  2. Because of the inherent clumsiness of the dismiss gesture you might opt to just ignore the notification instead and carry on with what you were doing. However, the position of the notification banner over the top of your currently-running app’s UI means that some of the controls of your current app are obscured for the duration of time the notification persists.

So when a notification arrives that you’re happy to ignore, you’re too afraid to swipe up and dismiss it because of the first issue yet you cannot really ignore it because of the second.

Sagi offers a couple of solutions to these issues:

  1. When a notification arrives, pull it down to show the necessary interface to deal with the notification. Once dealt with, swipe up to ‘put away’ the notification and return to where you were. (Note: Sagi’s initial sketch shows this swipe up feature, but his mockups do not seem to demonstrate it).
  2. Position the notification underneath the currently-running app’s titlebar, thereby keeping relevant UI and/or controls relating to the currently-running app visible and usable. So if you want to ignore a notification and keep doing what you’re doing, you can.

Whilst I love seeing other people’s ideas on improving already well established UIs (I’ve done it myself), I can’t help feeling that these suggestions overcomplicate notifications, their associated interactions and app hierarchy within iOS. A banner notification is designed to notify you of something in way that’s unobtrusive, along with offering you a way of ‘doing’ something with that notification — including dismissing it or ignoring it. In a nut, notifications should be simple, obvious and easy to act on or ignore.

Sagi’s piece focuses on a Whatsapp notification interrupting his use of the Homebudget app, so let’s keep going with that scenario here. I have a few questions on Sagi’s suggested improvements:

  • When I pull the notification banner down to load the Whatsapp interface, am I in the Whatsapp app or still in Homebudget? This is important when considering how I exit the Whatsapp interface to get back to what I was doing in Homebudget.
  • Considering the above, how do I get back to Homebudget? I want to be able to slide it back up to get back to Homebudget — the reverse of what I did to get into Whatsapp. If I can do that, where’s the affordance in the Whatsapp ‘sheet’ to tell me I can do this? And if I can swipe up to dismiss the Whatsapp interface, how will iOS know whether I meant to dismiss the Whatsapp interface or whether I wanted to invoke Control Center, also available by swiping up from the bottom of the screen?
  • If I can’t swipe the Whatsapp UI off the top of the screen to get back to Homebudget, how else do I get back? Double-tap the home button to show recently opened apps and select it from there? How is that any less annoying than what happens today?
  • Because the notification now sits within the content of the currently-running app — underneath the title bar — how will iOS know whether I’m trying to dismiss a notification or scroll? Granted, this is a challenge that applies to the current implementation of notifications (and is, perhaps, a reason why dismissing them is so hit & miss).
  • Is showing the notification underneath the title bar really a better solution? Whilst it avoids obscuring any controls residing in the titlebar, it’s still sitting over the top of content I was looking at. A notification over the top of a photo you’re about to post or a tweet you’re about to send is still in the way. (In either of these two scenarios, I’d most likely try to dismiss the notification before continuing with what I was doing, regardless of whether it obscures content or controls. It’s still in the way.)

I completely agree with the issues Sagi highlights. Dismissing a notification is currently a game of pure luck; the number of times iOS has misinterpreted a dismiss gesture for a tap is far larger than the number of times it’s been able to get it right. But as I was reading Sagi’s piece, it struck me that perhaps a better interaction model for notifications already exists in iOS: those that are shown on the lock screen.

A mockup of an iOS banner notification being swiped to the right

What if, when I receive a notification, I were able to ‘action’ it (read, reply, post etc.) by swiping the icon to the right, as I do on the homescreen? This would take me off to the app that invoked the notification. It’s fairly safe to consider this gesture as something relatively ‘bullet-proof’, in that there’s no mistaking what I want to do if I swipe.

Tapping the notification would therefore do nothing. Swiping to dismiss the notification would therefore be a whole lot more accurate.

Also, what if we let iOS assume that when I receive a notification but carry on interacting with the currently-running app, that I do not want to action it just yet? The notification arrives, I continue tapping or scrolling in the app I’m in, so iOS hides the notification as I’ve made it clear I’m in the middle of something. If I do want to do something with the notification, I can pull down Notification Center to see it and action it from there.

We could take this further and say that swiping an icon invokes an ‘inline’ or contextual interface to let me action it, much as notifications on the desktop in Mavericks does. The notification arrives, I swipe the icon, but instead of taking me to Whatsapp, I get a modal box (like the one Sagi mocked up in his piece) that lets me reply to the message without taking me out of Homebudget. Importantly, it would also let me ‘cancel’, so if I changed my mind and didn’t want to reply immediately, I wouldn’t be forced to do so by a limited UI.

To me, these interactions fit with the notion and purpose of banner notifications much more comfortably.

Sagi’s post really resonated with me and sparked a lot of internal debate, so none of my comments or questions are meant as a negative critique of his original point and subsequent ideas. I wholeheartedly share his frustration with iOS notifications and refuse to accept that there’s not a better way of doing them.

Perhaps that’s why, after reading his post, these ideas have been tumbling around my head all day.

Thanks for the inspiration, Sagi!

September 9, 2013

Ricciardo Gets the Nod

Filed under: Formula One — admin @ 8:04 am

At the end of June, Mark Webber announced he was leaving F1, setting off weeks of speculation around who would replace him. When the dust settled, it seemed that Red Bull’s choice had boiled down to a choice between Kimi Raikkonen — a former world champion and one of the fastest drivers on the grid — or Daniel Ricciardo, a driver from Red Bull’s Young Driver programme.

A few days ago, Red Bull announced that Daniel Ricciardo would replace him.

Whilst I would have loved to see Kimi in the second Red Bull, politics & PR dictated that it was always going to be Ricciardo. What’s the point of having a young driver programme if, at the first opportunity to allow one of the participants to progress, you hand the seat to someone else entirely? I have nothing against Ricciardo, he always comes across as one of the most genuine blokes in the paddock. But Kimi and Vettel in the same team would have been brilliant.

Now that the Red Bull seat is taken, the rumours are that Kimi is going back to Ferrari. An Alonso/Raikkonen partnership in 2014 promises fireworks. Remember, Alonso doesn’t like it when his team-mate is faster than him

September 6, 2013

The New Yahoo! Logo

Filed under: Design,Opinion — admin @ 1:27 pm

There’s so much greatness in this post by Oliver Reichenstein on Yahoo!’s new logo:

Redesigning a logo for a $10 Billion Dollar company that is in deep trouble is not a matter of talented designers and personal preferences for design. It is not about fiddling. Doing it in a weekend is simply unprofessional.

My favourite bit by far is this gem, relating to the ‘mathematical consistency’ piece of Marissa Mayer’s blog post announcing the new logo:

Perfect geometry does not result in perfect design. On the contrary, “real visual rhythm is hurt by precision. This fact is where we get the saying in design: if it looks right, it is right.”

Personally speaking, I mourn the loss of the old Yahoo! logo. The new one is devoid of any character and, having seen the efforts put out during Yahoo’s 30 days of change, feels like it boiled down to a choice of typeface.

All Mayer’s bullshit does is sprinkle glitter on a turd. Terrible, transparent, waffly, tack-it-on-once-we’ve-artworked-it-up glitter.

September 4, 2013

Samsung Galaxy Gear

Filed under: Geekery,Mobile,Technology — admin @ 8:50 pm

Samsung just announced their new wearable piece of technology. From The Verge:

Yes, it’s a smartphone accessory that can pick up notifications, control music playback, and keep time with a rich variety of watch faces, but Samsung takes it a few steps further by integrating a 1.9-megapixel camera, a speaker, and two microphones — allowing you to shoot short 720p movies and even conduct phone calls with the Galaxy Gear.

So do you point your hand at whatever you want to film, like Buzz Lightyear? And are we all going to be having conversations looking like Michael Knight calling Kitt?

This, though, jumped out most of all — battery life:

Samsung promises “about a day” of endurance from the Gear, but by the end of our briefing with the company, the cameras on most of its demo units were refusing to turn on due to the watches running low on power.

“About a day”. If this is something Samsung expect people to wear everyday — you know, as they would, say, a watch — then battery life has got to be better than “about a day”.

Who wants to have to charge up their watch every single day?

June 27, 2013

Webber to leave F1 at the end of 2013

Filed under: Formula One — admin @ 9:48 am

He’s leaving to race for Porsche’s Le Mans project:

“I’m very much looking forward to this new challenge after my time in Formula 1. Porsche will undoubtedly set itself very high goals. I can hardly wait to pilot one of the fastest sportscars in the world.”

Räikkönen in the second Red Bull for 2014? Yes please.

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