Design

A collection of 42 posts

A new website for Dialog

I've been under the weather for the past couple days so I took the time to redesign a few older projects and get them pushed up to Gitlab.

Namely, I updated the Dialog landing page and moved it over to my site as a subdomain. While I was doing this, I took the time to update the app icon to the new spec Google introduced last year. I know it's not the update many were hoping for, but it's something.

I'd love to continue work on the app if I found the right partner to join me, so anything is possible. For now, this will have to do.

Microblogging, Ghost CMS, and RSS feeds

I've struggled for a long time getting Ghost to properly display posts without titles via RSS but I finally cracked it. If you've wanted to do the same, here’s how I split out the post types into their own feeds and got them to display correctly. Read more

Good artists copy, great artists steal

Raymond Wong for Input:

There used to be a time and place for pointing fingers and bashing one company for blatantly copying another’s ideas. But now it feels juvenile. Who really cares? “Good artists copy, great artists steal” as the saying goes. Everyone borrows. Everything is inspired by something before it.

‘Nuff said.

macOS: Big Sur

macOS: Big Sur

There's almost too much to unpack from the update but I wanted to touch on a couple things that I've had a chance to take a first-hand look at so far. Specifically, the updates to Safari, the addition of Control Panel, and the new system sounds and icons. Read more

Chasing the ideal podcast listening experience

I’ve had so much trouble getting the podcast experience I want on iOS and macOS. I listen to shows on my phone while commuting to work, and then transfer to the machine on my desk for quick access to the media keys so I can play and pause the episode I’m listening to or switch to watching a video or song in another app.

Because of my heavy reliance on sync, Pocket Casts has been my go-to for years but has been having a ton of issues as of late. Often my progress on a show or the episodes in my queue won’t be saved so I’ll have to grab my phone and manually figure out where I was, assuming the desktop app doesn’t synced the old progress over to iOS, which happens more often than I’d like.

Because of this, I’ve been exploring other options as of late and determined that the ideal podcast experience — at least for myself — might not actually exist.

I’ve tried Apple’s first-party podcast app. To be blunt, it’s a nightmare to navigate and plagued with sync issues. How people have exclusively used this app for years is completely beyond me. I’ve also thought about using Overcast again but I’ve never been a big fan of the overall UI. This, combined with the fact that there is no desktop app available, makes Overcast a non-starter for me.

For now, I’m using Castro. I love the trim silence and enhance voice functions and the app is pretty well designed. I do have some issues with how the whole inbox/queue system is presented, but it’s far from unusable. That said — much like Overcast — Castro does not offer any sort of synced desktop experience.

Needless to say, I’m already contemplating a return to Pocket Casts.

Monsters are taking over the Steam Sale page

Art by waneella
Art by waneella

Andy Chalk for PC Gamer:

When the sale began, the store was bathed in the soothing red glow of dusk and surrounded by trees whose red leaves had not yet fallen. A small, white cat-like thing stood on the sidewalk out front, while a customer at the counter chatted idly with Newell. It was pleasant.

Now, however, it’s nighttime at the Steam Store. The streets are bathed in shadow. More worryingly, they’re also apparently being overrun by writhing Cthulhu-esque horrors. The customer from earlier struggles in the grip of a giant black tentacle that’s burst forth from the sewers, while in the background a squid-headed monstrosity looms.

The artist of the piece, waneella, is one of my absolute favorite pixel artists. In fact, I don’t remember when I had anything other than her art as the wallpaper on my phone. It’ll be interesting to see if the art evolves more as the sale wraps up.

New look for Twitch

Twitch's old look and new one by COLLINS and Twitch
Twitch's old look (left) and new one (right) by COLLINS and Twitch

The subtle adjustments to the glitch logo are nice fine and I like the updated logomark more than the original, which — as someone who really liked the old logo — I never thought I’d say. I think it’s the consistent border and distances in the open letters (W, C, T, etc) that’s really selling it for me. The larger radius on the button corners and circular pills for tags are a nice touch that I feel modernizes the look. I also like the new typeface (Roobert) but I think they’ll need to make adjustments to weights (ie: the sidebar “followed channels” etc) throughout the site.

The new purple is nice, particularly in the dark version of the website, but I’ll miss the previous one. It would be nice to see them use a combination of the two. Speaking of dark mode, while the dark palette of the site looks fine, the light version feels… off. Maybe too much white space? Weird contrast with the shading of the sidebar? I can’t quite put my finger on it but something about it doesn’t gel like the previous version did. That said, I almost exclusively use the dark version and I’d have to assume many other users are the same. Still, I’m glad it’s something they offer to those that want or need it.

I know they’ve already said this is only the beginning of the work they’re doing but I hope they have some work planed on the overall user experience of the Twitch website. The navigation still feels cluttered, items are hidden, the dashboard is still all over the place, panels are hard to organize and display effectively, discoverability of channels still isn’t very good, etc.

I’m into the new look. Next, I’d like to see them tackle deeper UX issues.

Android 10's new look

Android's new look, designed by HUGE
Android's new look, designed by HUGE

Abner Li for 9to5Google:

Google is using this year’s release to significantly update the operating system’s brand and naming scheme.

Moving forward, “Android” will just be followed by a version number. This tradition of naming major releases with desserts dates back to Android 1.6 Cupcake in 2009.

[…]

Like the Android 10 naming change, the primary goal of this new look is accessibility. It starts with something as fundamental as color, with the “android” wordmark — which has been slimmed down with a tweaked font — now in black. The previous green was hard to see for those with visual impairments.

While I totally understand the decision to move away from the dessert names for the sake of clarity, I’ll definitely miss them. One of my favourite parts about Android was how playful the whole idea of the version names were, and how Google would include an easter egg that often played off whatever treat they chose for that particular version.

I love the refreshed look of the Android logo, the new green (accessibility!) for the mascot and the new guidelines for placement of the logomark in relation to the type, etc. I think this new look blends well with that Google’s been doing to refresh their own brand, Material Design, and the like.

Reeder 4 beta available now for macOS

Having used Reeder on both iOS and OS X for years, I’m excited to see this new version finally coming to life. Already I’ve noticed a ton of great improvements — mostly around the UI and animation — that makes Reeder feel new again.

Dialog has left beta

Dialog has left beta

It is with great excitement that I announce Dialog is now publicly available. If you were a part of our beta, there should be an update available soon if there isn’t already and new users can download the app now via the Play Store. We also encourage everyone to leave a review for the app there if they have the time.

We appreciate everyone’s patience as we worked through the development process and look forward to hearing your thoughts and feedback.

We’ve relaunched our website, where you’ll find contact information and more information about Dialog. The page makes for an easy way to share the app with friends or fellow Micro.blog users.

Google Play Music design overhauled, machine learning for better discovery

Gus Lubin for Business Insider:

Play Music’s latest update blows up the concierge in favor of a new array of recommendations that pull from not only relevant activities (e.g., “focusing”) but also recent listening and recommended classics, new releases, and customized stations. In short, it’s pulling from a much wider range of sources. It’s also getting more use out of Play’s carefully curated stations, many of which where buried in some dark corner of concierge.

And the whole thing adjusts based on context, giving you different recommendations on your phone, on your computer, at the gym, and in the office.

[…]

The new Play Music is not only smart but also wonderfully simple, putting it all on one neat page. If you scan the recommendations without seeing anything that excites you, you can always click “I’m Feeling Lucky Radio” for a unpredictable custom radio station based on something it knows you like. Not feeling that, and you can sort by new and top releases, create custom radio stations, and more.

Google Play Music has long been my music streaming service of choice and it just got even better. This is a great update, both aesthetically to the design of the service and technically to helping find that next great song or album too.

Also mentioned in this piece:

Spotify has excellent playlists, including the personalized Discover Weekly, and it’s great at surfacing hot new music—and for some that will make it the best. It remains a step behind Play Music on contextual recommendations, however, and if you ask me, it’s lagging in interface too, especially after Play’s update.

Apple Music? It has a clunky interface, even after a big update, with often contrived playlists.

Nailed it.

It’s not about who has the better library of songs anymore. They’re all practically identical. Now, it’s all about how easy it is to navigate and bring the most relevant music to the surface. I’ve switched back and forth through the different services over the past year or so and, as mentioned, Google’s interface, features, and ease of use have for a long time made it the clear winner in my books. Now, with this new update, it’s not even close.

After spending some time with the new Google Play Music interface, i’ve noticed a fairly major issue. On the mobile app, it’s become much harder to specifically have new albums surfaced than it is custom radio stations. I’ll get the occasional new release but otherwise it’s entirely radio stations built around my habits. As someone who rarely used the radio feature prior, this doesn’t really fit my routine. It’s not the end of the world, as I use the desktop player most often as well as the “feeling lucky” playlist generator, but definitely something i’d want to see addressed in a future update.