UI&us is about User Interface Design, User Experience design and the cognitive psychology behind design in general. It's written by Keith Lang, co-founder of Skitch; now a part of Evernote.  His views and opinions are his own and do not represent in any way the views or opinions of any company. 

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Entries in Development (3)


The Rise and Rise of the Indie Mac/iOS Developer Conference


A good friend of mine is on the team of an upcoming indie-run iOS developer conference called Swipe.

It looks great. And it seems like a worldwide trend:

Melbourne, Australia: Swipe Conference  - Sep 5th

Brighton, UK: Update Conference  - Sep 5th

Denver, USA: 360iDev - Sep 11th

Edinburg, Scotland: NSScotland  - Oct 1

Massachusetts, USA: Voices That Matter  - Nov 12


MacDevs, meet GameDevs

I'm no hardcore gamer. I own a Wii and PS3, but they mostly gather dust. I've enjoyed some time playing Spider and Field Runners on the iPhone, but that's the limit of my attention. And occasionally I dust off Age of Empires on the Mac. Oh, and I strangely enjoyed playing Ramp Champ on the iPhone. What an odd game, there couldn't be anything simpler* to play the game at some level, just flick your finger up the screen. To play well, of course, is another matter.

So I'm as casual gamer as anybody. But I am desperately interested in gaming, and game development—game development is about building fun, engaging experiences, using motion, art, sound and flow. That's what we application creators want to do too, right?

Mac developers have always prided themselves on great looking graphics. And now we enter an age where that UI includes the subtle and practical use of animation and real-time graphical effects. Game devs have been working on making artistic, believable, fast and fluid OpenGL-optimized stuff for years, yet I've personally seen very little cultural crossover to date. I would love to see more cross-polinization from the game development community and Mac App development.

Tools-wise, I've been looking into Unity, a game-creation engine and development environment that seems to have become the winner in the space for creating physics-driven games. It seems like it could be a useful tool for mocking up and testing interfaces.

Now, of course, the 'game' experience and the App experience can be totally different things. Gaming can be all-encompassing, Apps simply a piece in a puzzle. Learning the interface of a game can be a fun experience, having to work out the interface of an App, an infuriating one. The same bright, loud and novel interface in a game might be completely tiring in an App, which instead aims to focus your attention on your content. Although, there are many hours spent in WoW (etc.) where I suspect any novel/distracting interface elements create the same annoyances as in an App.

I welcome the game developers** who are sniffing around after the iPhone App Store explosion. Come, share your wisdom.

*Ok, there is an interaction which could be simpler: a single button. And I'm proud to say I know a guy who's build an awesome game (Fishie Fishie) using just that.

** Oh and I should add that there's some great Mac Game dev houses, bust 'serious' gaming is still very much on the PC, afaict

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Zen and the Art of Controller Mapping

Good Game is a great Australian gaming TV show/podcast by the ABC. Even if you're not a 'gamer', you may like to watch the podcast for industry news, history segments, in-depth UI discussion and interviews. Is good. Recently, GG featured local software developer Farbs, big-studio guy turned solo-game-producer. Fishie Fishie is one of his great Flash-based 'casual' computer games. The basic objective of the game is to catch and eat the small fish, while avoiding the nasty big fish. It's much fun and unexpectedly challenging. Download Fishie Fishie for free!

What's interesting from a UI perspective is that the entire game is played with a single key. Let's say you prefer the spacebar. Normally, your fish character slowly rotates in one direction. Pressing and holding the spacebar key makes the fish spin in the other direction. If you repeatedly tap the spacebar, the fish swims forward. So simple and so effective. I'm interested to hear what people think. What other examples are there of zen-like controller mappings?

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