First Impressions of Samsung Galaxy S8

Played around with the S8 at Best Buy for five minutes. Here are my quick-fire first impressions:

  • overall aesthetic is best in market
  • screen has much more subtle curve than I remembered in past edge-screen models, in a very good way
  • screen is GLORIOUS; watching video is visually immersive
  • speakers suck compared to iPhone 7's stereo speakers; dulls video-watching experience
  • Iris Scanner not as practical as fingerprint for unlocking; requires phone at very specific angle and eyes at specific distance. For a feature that is used an average of 120 times per day to unlock the phone, this would be a persistent annoyance.

Designing for Apple Watch →

Rocket Insights recently shared the lessons they learned when designing an Apple Watch app for Virgin Pulse:

We created a Watch version of each of the features on the iPhone. We built clickable mockups and tested them. What we learned surprised us. Most features were not useful as Watch fact most were actually harder to use there. […]

We discovered that the only features worth replicating were those that were actually better on the Watch. Not just the same, but easier, faster, or more delightful.

A big misconception for smartwatch doubters is that the smartwatch is supposed to replace the phone. But actual smartwatch owners tell a very different story:

When we asked them what apps they use and like on their Apple Watch the answer was invariably apps that delivered intelligent notifications. This was fascinating...that answer was consistent across the board. People are not using Watch apps as much as they are merely receiving quick notifications about their lives. So Watch software is, in a sense, a notification framework for your iPhone app. The Watch is merely the delivery device for it.

Rocket Insights also sums up perfectly how each Watch UI element should be used:

  • Complications are for frequently changing data.
  • Glances are for data that changes a few times per day.
  • Notifications are for real-time updates.
  • Apps are the very last thing a user interacts with, therefore all of the longer-term, slower-changing data should be left here.

I still see a lot of smartwatch doubters and Apple naysayers proclaiming that the Apple Watch is already a failure. The reality is, smartwatch app design is still in its infancy, and it takes a lot for people to rewire theirs brains and get it right — smartwatch apps are not just shrunken-down smartphone apps.

We're barely in the "fart app" phase of watch apps. But eventually, someone will figure out the next Instagram/Snapchat/Uber for the wrist.

Facebook Events UX →

Facebook employees describe the challenges with naming the "Decline" button for Facebook Events:

“People hated clicking that,” says Matosich. “That’s the language of the button, that’s what goes out to the host. It spiders out: ‘So and so declined my event, did I do something wrong?'” When it came time for Facebook to revamp its events pages, the team considered a variety of possibilities to replace decline: No, Can’t Go, Not Going, No Thanks, and Unable to Go were among the options.

Eventually, Can’t Go was the chosen winner, because while Not Going is more literally accurate, the intent of Can’t Go is truer to what people want to communicate. “People don’t know how much care we put into this. It’s one little button, it’s one little option, but we want to think through all the use cases,” Matosich explains, saying the team testing the phrases across different UIs and scenarios (how it looked in different notification screens, and as a response to birthday parties, memorial services, book clubs). “We don’t believe in edge cases, we want to find something that works for everyone. We don’t want to alienate anyone or make anyone feel icky … we don’t want to put words in anyone’s mouth.”

When Facebook replaced “Decline” with “Can’t Go,” a funny thing happened: People actually started using it.

For graphic artists, every pixel matters. For sound engineers, every decibel matters. For web developers, every kilobyte matters.

For user experience designers, every word matters.

Reducing Friction: The Difference Between Good and Great Design →

Joshua Topolsky:

And that’s part of the reason why Apple’s “me too”s end up feeling like “me-first”s. In the age of digital, execution is staggeringly important, and there isn’t a single company in existence that can pull off polish and simplicity like Apple. While other companies struggle just to get all of their devices and services talking to one another, Tim Cook and friends are worrying over the details that actually make consumers pay attention. The products don’t just work the way they should; they feel the way they should. Reducing friction, even a single click, can change the way a user perceives an entire product. […] [Emphasis mine]

That’s partly Apple’s magic show: being able to blend the familiar, the known, and the obvious with something (even a little bit) totally new. The company’s senior vice-president of marketing, Phil Schiller, told Businessweek “You can’t just say, ‘Here it is. It does the same thing 5 percent better than last year.’ Nobody cares.” But that five per cent is often the difference between making something that people talk about, and making something they forget. That five per cent is where Apple lives.

People Don't Want Something New, They Want the Familiar Done Differently →

Nir Eyal:

Then came the California Roll. While the origin of the famous maki is still contested, its impact is undeniable. The California Roll was made in the USA by combining familiar ingredients in a new way. Rice, avocado, cucumber, sesame seeds, and crab meat — the only ingredient unfamiliar to the average American palate was the barely visible sliver of nori seaweed holding it all together.

The California Roll provided a gateway to discover Japanese cuisine and demand exploded. Over the next few decades sushi restaurants, which were once confined to large coastal cities and almost exclusively served Japanese clientele, suddenly went mainstream. Today, sushi is served in small rural towns, airports, strip malls, and stocked in the deli section of local supermarkets. Americans now consume $2.25 billion of sushi annually.

The lesson of the California Roll is simple — people don’t want something truly new, they want the familiar done differently. Interestingly, this lesson applies just as much to the spread of innovation as it does to tastes in food.

Another great example of innovation being more about execution, not the idea.

How Google Finally Got Design →

Cliff Kuang, FastCode:

In Google’s case, the company probably had no choice but to make design a priority in 2011. Owing to its relentless design perfectionism, Apple was on the cusp of becoming the most valuable company in history. To compete with Apple’s tech cachet, Google’s products had to be well-designed. But Page’s design awakening reflects some broader trends in technology that have been brewing for a decade.

As Brett Lider, Google’s design lead for Android Wear, points out, web design during Google’s ascendance in the mid-2000s was focused on utility. Being homegrown and DIY lent a certain credibility on the web, especially in the valley. Conversely, most well-designed sites were marked by a painful lack of performance. In that brew, ambitious design actually suggested a lack of seriousness about engineering. Google’s obsession with tech geekery, visible in details like the Android logo, and the functional but unimaginative language of stripped down simplicity happened to fit both the valley’s DIY self-regard, and an ancient precept in human-computer interaction: That the most user-friendly thing you could do is to make a computer fast, because if it were fast enough, it would hold people’s attention. Faster speeds inevitably made people spend more time at a computer.

This all changed, of course. Computing power eventually became a secondary draw to user experience. That's partly because broadband exploded, making sheer speed less of a selling point. But mobile is what really forced design to center stage. Unlike desktop computing, which took decades to become household mainstays, the iPhone ushered in a new era of invention that was geared toward computing experts and computing novices—from software developers to grandmothers—at the same time. Everyone was learning about mobile, all at once, forcing both engineers and designers to think about usability on unprecedented scales. User experience, once a discipline that evolved at a pace dictated by Apple and Microsoft, was being pushed ahead by every new app that did things just a little bit better.

That "Aha!" Moment with Digital Touch →

Non-Techie Girl #1:

That changes the game for messaging I think for really young people. And it's right on my wrist. It's so easy, I love it!

Non-Techie Girl #2:

If I'm at a party and a guy is being super creepy, I could just double-tap it, that will be like, "Come save me, right now! Rescue me!"

Girl code taken to the next level.

As I've said before, I really do believe Digital Touch is an underrated feature that will become a fan favorite. Something like how front-facing cameras on phones were never considered revolutionary, yet people LOVE selfies and it's become a big part of our culture.

While I don't think people will buy an Apple Watch for Digital Touch, I do see people falling in love with it once they start using it.

And this won't be a feature that people will use with all their friends. Rather, it will be used with their closest friends, which is actually even more powerful.

(Note to the haters: this BuzzFeed video was NOT paid for by Apple)

Communication by Touch →

This. Exactly this. But built into the Apple Watch.

When Apple first announced communication as one of Apple Watch's three tent pole features, it sounded gimmicky to me. But the more I thought about it, the more I saw beauty in how well it humanizes technology.

This isn't a feature that will wow you when you read about it. This isn't something that will jump out at you when you read tech specs or feature lists. Rather, this is the kind of feature that you may very well fall in love with once you actually experience it. This is about making an emotional connection.