• The cost of bad design and the “ghetto of inattention”

    14 November 2018

    From the “Wireframe” podcast, “Good Design is Human”:

    KHOI: […] It’s the idea that design should make tech comfortable for people. It should put people at ease. So you have all these little cues that make people feel like they can explore the tech, they don’t have to worry about being caught in a trap or inadvertently triggering a nuclear meltdown.

    AMY: But while human-centered design had permeated the world of consumer technology, not every industry has been as quick to adopt it.


    AMY: In January 2018, an employee at The Hawaii Emergency Management Agency mistakenly issued a state-wide alert that went straight to residents’ cell phones. “Ballistic Missile Threat inbound to Hawaii,” it read. “Seek immediate Shelter. This is not a drill.”

    […] This was supposed to be a safety drill. But the guy at the controls clicked on the wrong link. And you kind of can’t blame him… when you see the screen that he was looking at.

    KHOI: I mean, on the one hand, technology that consumers interact with has gotten so much better. We don’t have manuals anymore. Everything is much, much more intuitive. And so, design has really come a long way in that respect. But there’s this whole other sector of technology – the stuff that you and I don’t get to interact with everyday. The stuff that– power plants or emergency centers. That stuff still is pretty rough still.

    CLIFF: The stuff that really needs to be redesigned is not apps and things like that. It’s the gnarly ugly enterprise software out there that sort of has escaped real scrutiny right? So, let’s say some piece of software for managing a trucking fleet.

    AMY: Too many of these kinds of tools still aren’t streamlined and friendly and easy-to-use the way our smart phones and laptops are. They have not yet, in other words, received the benefit of human-centered design.

    CLIFF: All these things actually, they exist almost in this kind of like “ghetto of inattention”. The greatest opportunities are within those things, this like gnarly machinery of everyday commerce that really powers the world we live in, but that has escaped notice.

  • “Give it five minutes”

    31 October 2018

    [Richard Saul Wurman] said “Man, give it five minutes.” I asked him what he meant by that? He said, it’s fine to disagree, it’s fine to push back, it’s great to have strong opinions and beliefs, but give my ideas some time to set in before you’re sure you want to argue against them. “Five minutes” represented “think”, not react. He was totally right.


    [He] has spent his career thinking about these problems. He’s given it 30 years. And I gave it just a few minutes. Now, certainly he can be wrong and I could be right, but it’s better to think deeply about something first before being so certain you’re right.

    Jason Fried

    This comes to my mind every time I face new ideas, laws, structures, products, redesigns, or just a change in my life.

    When we talk about politics, for example, it's really easy to dismiss what someone is doing and say "it's so stupid and I would do this instead of that, of course!". Without understanding the big picture, or the keys behind a problem, yeah, for sure we would do differently. This is not a justification for world destruction or horrible legislations, but a mental framework to acquire knowledge about why it's like that and how it could be really improved.

    It's hard, and we all fell for it, but each time I try to understand the motivation or the why behind something I would push against, it always makes more sense, whether I liked it or not. Then, I get a better grasp on the problem. And sometimes, it can even change my mind.

  • Unity and iPhone X's home indicator

    18 October 2018

    Check the Bottom option for "Defer system gestures on edges" in the Edit → Project Settings → Player menu of Unity to make the iPhone X's home indicator less visible and obtrusive in your project.

    Don't use "Hide home button on iPhone X". This is not what you want for a game.

    We are porting Steredenn: Binary Stars to iOS right now, and with the port comes the support for the iPhone X new form factor (yes, it's a bit late, I know…).

    When trying the game on an iPhone X, I was not happy with the way the home indicator was always visible, distracting the user while playing Steredenn. I looked at other games and saw that it was possible to change its behavior.

    However, it was not really clear how to do that with Unity, so I hope this will help others.

    Home indicator?

    Since the iPhone X, the mechanism to go back to the home screen has changed on iOS. You have to swipe from the bottom of the screen, which puts the app back inside its icon.

    By default, at the bottom (where the chin was), the home indicator is always visible in an app. It's the black bar you can see on this screenshot:

    Home indicator default state

    For the moment, it's a permanent indicator if the app does not specify a different behavior.1

    See what it does in action:

    Using the home indicator (download video).

    It's a thoughtful UI that follows the finger precisely. With the haptic feedback, it's actually very nice to play with.

    Changing the behavior in Unity

    However, this (default) behavior is not great for games. It's too bright and it hides a small portion of the bottom part of the screen. Which can be confusing in games like Steredenn, where many things are displayed at the same time.

    Home indicator in Steredenn

    Fortunately, Unity (well, technically, it's iOS) provides 2 ways to change the home indicator. Obviously with Unity, the correct one is not the one you would expect.

    You can find these settings by following this procedure:

    1. Go to Edit → Project Settings → Player.

    Open the Player's settings

    1. Then, click on the iOS tab, and find the "Other Settings" area.

    Find "Other Settings"

    1. Finally, we are interested in 2 settings: "Hide home button on iPhone X" and "Defer system gestures on edges".

    "Hide home button on iPhone X" and "Defer system gestures on edges"

    "Hide home button on iPhone X"

    "Hide home button on iPhone X", the one that looks like what we want, is, of course, the wrong one.

    This setting hides the home indicator after a certain inactivity delay. If the user taps on the screen, the home indicator appears again in its full bright glory. In a game, where you will tap all the time, it's the same as showing the indicator permanently.

    Note that this setting can be useful sometimes. For example, if you are doing a video player, or a game that does not require user inputs often, this is what you want. I think there is ways to toggle this behavior when needed.

    This is what YouTube does, for example (it's hard to see cos' the home indicator is black here, but look at the bottom):

    "Hide home button on iPhone X" (download video).

    "Defer system gestures on edges"

    As you have guessed now, this is the setting we need.

    It does two things:

    • The home indicator opacity is reduced, which makes it less bright. Perfect.
    • To go back to the home screen, you have to do the gesture twice. This is also nice, since it prevents accidental gestures.

    The "bottom" checkbox is enough if you only want to change the home indicator behavior. The other checkboxes can be used for Control Center and other gestures on iPad, I think.

    This is what Alto's Adventure does, as well as Steredenn:

    "Defer system gestures on edges" (download video).

    1. I think it will be hidden or removed in a future version of iOS when the behavior will be accepted by most people. Currently, it's a nice affordance and the space it takes is necessary while the users are getting used to it.