The glory days are over
It seems that the floating action button may soon go the way of the hamburger.
If you’re a web designer you probably know what I’m talking about, but if you’re not, let me catch you up.
What’s hidden stays hidden
The “hamburger” or “hamburger menu” refers to an icon consisting of three parallel lines – like two buns and a burger – used on a website or mobile app to pull down a menu. The hamburger was popularized as a design feature as developers were trying to cram as much information into the slick, slimmed-down designs of mobile apps as possible.
Theoretically, it’s a good idea. It’s a simple menu that allows the user to access more content than can fit on the screen. In practice, however, the hamburger has proved to be pretty dysfunctional. The fact is that people don’t really think about – and don’t click on – what’s hidden, so engagement with the hamburger menu is extremely low. In the words of Josh Constine over at techcrunch.com, “hiding your features off-screen behind a nondescript icon in the corner is usually a poor mobile design choice.”
Mobile doesn’t translate
Hamburger menus are dipping in popularity, showing that designers still have some finagling to do to figure out what actually works best for mobile – our first assumptions often prove incorrect after user testing. What’s more, designers are also finding that what works for mobile often doesn’t translate well for full-size computer and tablet screens.
This is also the case for floating action buttons – usually a circle with a simple icon that hovers over other page content in the lower right corner (where your thumb can easily tap it on a mobile device). Floating buttons are a recognizable feature of Google’s Material Design – a design aesthetic created for Google’s branding that has quickly become the go-to for modern web design.
Designers need to keep the user in mind
The floating action button usually represents the “primary action” of the page. Unfortunately, designers too often choose an action that is actually not the most popular user action. The designer has to narrow down an app with several functions to the “primary” function – and often guesses incorrectly which action users will want to take. A conveniently located button that toggles your music playlist is useless when what you actually want is a play/pause button, for example.
The moral: test it out
Like the hamburger menu, the floating action button translates awkwardly to large screens. On a computer, the floating button often ends up on the opposite side of the page as the rest of the navigation. Meaning that, just like with the hamburger menu, people aren’t really going to use it.
Google’s Material Design has some good ideas. But let’s be honest – copying a highly popular site’s design aesthetic isn’t going to make your site stand out.
And more importantly, you want your design features to actually engage users. Design concepts that theoretically make sense and look cute still need to be tested by real users to find out if they are working.
New Apple Watch is awesome, but past watches could be just as good for cheaper
(TECH NEWS) The Apple Watch Series 6 is a ridiculous display of self-flattery—but that doesn’t mean people won’t line up to buy it in droves.
The Apple Watch has been the subject of everything from speculation to ridicule during its relatively short tenure on this planet. While most have nothing but praise for the most recent iteration, that praise comes at a cost: The Apple Watch’s ghost of Christmas past.
Or, to put it more literally, the fact that the Apple Watch’s prior version and accompanying variations are too good—and, at this point, too comparatively cheap—to warrant buying the most recent (and expensive) option.
Sure, the Apple Watch Series 6 has a bevy of health features—a sensor that can take an ECG and a blood oxygen test, to name a couple—but the Series 5 has almost everything else that makes the Apple Watch Series 6 “notable.” According to Gear Patrol, even the Series 4 is comparable if you don’t mind forgoing the option to have the Apple Watch’s screen on all of the time.
More pressingly, Gear Patrol points out, is the availability of discount options from Apple. The Apple Watch Series 3 and Apple Watch SE are, at this point, budget options that still do the job for smart watch enthusiasts.
Not to mention any Apple Watch can run updates can utilize Apple’s Fitness Plus subscription—another selling point that, despite its lucrative potential, doesn’t justify buying a $400 watch when a cheaper option is present.
It’s worth noting that Apple is no stranger to outdoing themselves retroactively. Every year, Apple’s “new” MacBook, iPhone, and iPad models are subjected to extensive benchmarking by every tech goatee around. And the conclusion is usually that buying a generation or two behind is fine—and, from a financial perspective, smart.
And yet, as the holidays roll around or the initial drop date of a new product arrives, Apple invariably goes through inventory like a tabby cat through unattended butter.
The Apple Watch is already a parody of itself, yet its immense popularity and subtle innovation has promoted it through several generations and a few spin-off iterations. And that’s not even including the massive Apple-specific watch band market that appears to have popped up as a result.
Say what you will about the Series 6; when the chips are on the table, my money’s on the consumers making the same decisions they always make.
Microsoft acquires powerful AI language processor GPT-3, to what end?
(TECH NEWS) This powerful AI language processor sounds surprisingly human, and Microsoft has acquired rights to the code. How much should we worry?
The newly-released GPT-3 is the most insane language model in the NLP (natural language processor) field of machine learning. Developed by OpenAI, GPT-3 can generate strikingly human-like text for a vast range of purposes like bots and advertising, to poetry and creative writing.
While GPT-3 is accessible to everyone, OpenAI has expressed concerns over using this AI tech for insidious purposes. For this reason, Microsoft’s new exclusive license on the GPT-3 language model may be a tad worrisome.
First of all, for those unfamiliar with the NPL field, software engineer, and Youtuber, Aaron Jack, provides a detailed overview of GPT-3’s capabilities and why everyone should be paying attention.
Microsoft’s deal with OpenAI should come as little surprise since OpenAI uses the Azure cloud platform to access enough information to train their models.
Microsoft chief technology officer Kevin Scott announced the deal on the company blog this week: “We see this as an incredible opportunity to expand our Azure-powered AI platform in a way that democratizes AI technology, enables new products, services and experiences, and increases the positive impact of AI at Scale,” said Scott.
“Our mission at Microsoft is to empower every person and every organization on the planet to achieve more, so we want to make sure that this AI platform is available to everyone – researchers, entrepreneurs, hobbyists, businesses – to empower their ambitions to create something new and interesting.”
OpenAI has assured that Microsoft’s exclusive license does not affect the general public’s access to the GPT-3 model. The difference is Microsoft will be able to use the source code to combine with their products.
While OpenAI needs Azure to train these models, handing over the source code to another party is, to put it mildly, tricky. With the earlier GPT-2 model, OpenAI initially refused publishing the research out of fear it could be used to generate fake news and propaganda.
Though the company found there was no evidence to suggest the GPT-2 was utilized this way and later released the information, handing the key of the exponentially more powerful iteration to one company will undoubtedly hold ramifications in the tech world.
What is UI/UX? Take a little time to learn for free!
(TECH NEWS) For the all-time low price of—well, free—Invise gives you the option of learning a few basic UI and UX design techniques.
There’s no denying the strong impact UI and UX design has on the success of a website, app, or service—and, thanks to some timely altruism, you can add basic design understanding to your résumé for free.
Invise is a self-described beginner’s guide to the UI/UX field, and while they do not purport to deliver expert knowledge or “paid courses”, the introduction overview alone is pretty hefty.
The best part—aside from the “free” aspect—is how simple it is to get a copy of the guide: You enter your email address on the Invise website, click the appropriate button, and the guide is yours after a quick email verification.
According to Invise, their beginner’s guide to UI and UX covers everything from color theory and typography to layout, research principles, and prototyping. They even include a segment on tools and resources to use for optimal UI/UX work so that you don’t have to take any risks on dicey software.
UI—short for “user interface”—and UX, or “user experience”, are two critical design aspects found in everything from websites to app and video game menus. As anyone who has ever picked up an outdated smartphone knows, a janky presentation of options or—worse yet—a lack of intuitive menus can break a user’s experience far faster than slow hardware.
Similarly, if you’re looking to retain customers who visit your website or blog, presenting their options to them in a jarring or unfamiliar way—or selecting colors that clash for your landing page—can be just as fatal as not having a website to begin with.
The overarching problem, then, becomes one of cost. Hiring a design expert is expensive and can be time-consuming, so Invise is a welcome alternative—and, as a bonus, you don’t have to dictate your company’s vision to a stranger and hope that they “get it” if you’re doing your own design work.
2020 probably isn’t the year to break the bank on design choices, but the importance of UI and UX in your business can’t be overstated. If you have time to read up on some design basics and a small budget for a few of the bare-bones tools, you can take a relatively educated shot at putting together a modern, desirable interface.
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