Linked by Hadrien Grasland on Tue 11th Jan 2011 13:40 UTC
Graphics, User Interfaces Nowadays smartphones, tablets and desktop/laptop computers are all siblings. They use the same UI paradigms and follow the same idea of a programmable and flexible machine that's available to everyone. Only their hardware feature set and form factor differentiate them from each other. In this context, does it still make sense to consider them as separate devices as far as software development is concerned? Wouldn't it be a much better idea to consider them as multiple variations of the same concept, and release a unified software platform which spreads across all of them? This article aims at describing what has been done in this area already, and what's left to do.
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RE[3]: umm
by mrstep on Tue 11th Jan 2011 16:22 UTC in reply to "RE[2]: umm"
Member since:

"This would be an acceptable smartphone office suite UI". (Not your quote, from the original article.) That sums it up for me. Acceptable. Yep, it will pretty much work, but that's it.

I'm definitely aware that the WM apps are meant for stylus and that they're not just re-compiles of their desktop counterparts - that's why I'd leave WM out of the convergence discussion. I mention it purely as a point of UI - the reduced UI in the example looks like a WM app (drop some menu items here and there, call it a mobile app), not like a well thought out portable version. I'll totally ignore that the backend app was a rewrite because I don't think that users know/care for the most part. Look at a Word for Windows Mobile screenshot - fine, they put the buttons on the bottom at some point, but... and?

The evidence in multi-platform apps being 'wrong' is in iOS + Android market share. I'm talking UI here, not the idea that you could compile the same app code to work across devices - I agree that we're pretty well there already and it's where things are heading.

FWIW, you don't have to "re-code" your apps UI at this point. At least on iOS you're going to be doing more re-layout work and re-thinking what it means for a user experience with maybe a few code path tweaks, but you'll spend more time making the layout nice, doing other artwork in some cases, etc., than re-coding anything.

Does a user have to re-learn using the app? Maybe slightly, but not at any deep level, just to the device bring its best capabilities to bear and mitigate any shortcomings (CPU/screen space).

We'd be looking at zoom sliders instead of pinch-to-zoom, next/previous buttons instead of swiping, etc. if we tried to do the suggested UIs. Sadly, it may be acceptable for most users, but it's definitely un-interesting from a capabilities perspective. And it's really what most of the industry was bringing to the table until Apple lit a flame under their collective ass. Code convergence on the back end shouldn't be seen as a reason to avoid improving the user experience, and looking to save time across device variants has that feel.

And I really hope I don't come across as combative or anything - I just don't agree with the conclusion, though it's certainly a question worth asking. I'm drawing my conclusions from my own development and from industry trends.

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[4]: umm
by Neolander on Tue 11th Jan 2011 16:34 in reply to "RE[3]: umm"
Neolander Member since:

No offence. I just wonder if we have tried cross-device UIs hard enough before dismissing them. If the question wouldn't be worth reconsidering more carefully now that cellphones, tablets, etc... all begin to try to do the same thing, making the app compatibility distinction a bit technical and artificial from a user's point of view.

Apple clearly chose the easiest path by asking developers to re-code apps. No question about that. Putting a real cross-device UI toolkit (where, as you say, zoom sliders don't remain on touchscreens ;) ) on rails would be very difficult. This article is meant as a description of the core idea of a cross-device UI, but I don't pretend to have fully solved the problem. It'd take months (years?) to get an implemented, stable, and working version of this, if it's possible at all...

However, wouldn't it be worth it ? Like it was worth putting money in fundamental research about lasers after all...

Edited 2011-01-11 16:38 UTC

Reply Parent Score: 1

RE[5]: umm
by mrstep on Tue 11th Jan 2011 23:19 in reply to "RE[4]: umm"
mrstep Member since:

Happily (or sadly?) I've been coding since there were other cross platform frameworks, and there's not one instance that has worked well. And that's just trying to bring mostly the same functionality to similar screens.

Coming up with a different set of UI frameworks certainly wasn't the easiest path for Apple - they could have done nothing and just had you build Cocoa UIs for iOS, so I'm not sure I agree. It goes far beyond pinch-to-zoom, there's a lot of basic and extended behavior that just doesn't fit the mold of a desktop app.

Based on what I've seen over a long time, it's never worked, or at least never worked well. You end up with a lowest common denominator. That does have a place - I can see where you can save some time - but if you extend it to the point of really having a UI that shines, you may as well have done a custom layout. And that's having used Java/VC++/Delphi/C#/ObjC/assembly/C/.... :/

Reply Parent Score: 2