I'm sure glad I'm not on the Omni User Interface team

by Joel on April 27, 2006

You know, after something like 22 years of working on Macintoshes, I have found that I care little about the actual “look” of an application's interface, instead focusing on the “feel”.

This in no way makes me a “touchy-feely” sort of person.

Take, for instance, the current controversy (I like the way some British-English speakers pronounce that word, con-TRAHV-er-sy) surrounding the “under construction” title bar for the latest OmniWeb 5.5 Sneaky Peeks. Quite polarizing, it turns out. Kind of like a Quentin Tarentino movie. Yep, that's it – The OmniWeb 5.5 SP title bar is EXACTLY like a Tarentino movie. Jackie Brown, as a matter of fact.

Anyway, myself, I don't even notice the SP title bar. I, unlike some folks, am able to peer INSIDE the window of pretty much any application,be it an Omni one or no, and direct my focus on the content of said window instead of its framing. I don't know why or how I can do this, perhaps it's due to being from another planet altogether, or that can of spinach I just consumed, but I can do it just the same.

And while I can easily dismiss a series of diagonal stripes from my visual acumen (not to mention red, yellow, and green buttons therein), I would be horribly upset if that for some reason the addition of said stripes were to disable the dragging of a window around on my display, or if it broke double-clicking to minimize to the Dock, or simply displayed the wrong window title completely.

I'm like that. Pretty easygoing so far as the colors/styling quotient lies. Wasn't always this way, I distinctly recall working on the inspector icons for OmniGraffle 4 and getting pretty worked up on getting a good consensus as to what they should look like, what colors to use, etc. Debates such as that one have led to the UI team taking a much more proactive role in application development.

I'm not on that team for good reason: I'm at that point where an application icon is something I poke to switch to an application, nothing more. Of course I'd like it to look all sorts of swell, but in the end I don't even notice it anymore. It's a click target for me to get something done. A title bar is a thingy that has a title in it. A toolbar button has to advertise its function, and little more.

Now, on the other hand, those folks ON the UI team? They have to think about this stuff. Rather constantly, to boot. Not only due to the Omni Group as a whole being pretty vociferous about personal preferences concerning user interface and experience (yours truly excepted only a little bit), but because our users are pretty darn discerning as well.

If they weren't, they wouldn't be using our software, I should think.

Oh, I try to add my feedback, however obliquely, to the UI effort, but in the end it's only a couple of pennies at a time. But really, I'm glad that I'm not on the UI team here at Omni – Not only is it work cut out for them that's horribly involved, we also have the good sense not to include content (as in the opposite of discontent) users of OS X such as myself on such teams, which is what helps considerably in pushing open the envelope of overall user experience with our applications.