Yahoo Borrows Microsoft’s Blade Interface

Yahoo is toying with the idea of adding a “blade” (or more commonly known as a horizontal accordion) interface to some of it’s search results. The blade interface’s claim to fame was its use in the original Xbox 360 dashboard (2005-2008).  I’m not confident this feature will last very long. Microsoft moved away from it with subsequent dashboard updates for the Xbox 360. Maybe Yahoo will have better luck.

Grooveshark 2.0 Keeps Getting Better

My favorite online streaming music service just keeps on getting better. Today Grooveshark gave their VIP members a peek at their new 2.0 release.

Grooveshark 2.0 Screenshot

According to their blog post these are a few of the major enhancements.

  1. A brand new interface: almost everything has changed in the visual look and feel
  2. Add any song on Grooveshark to your library without uploading
  3. Sorting: You can now sort lists by Song Name, Artist Name or Album Name
  4. Drag-and-drop playlist editing
  5. Themes: Make Grooveshark look the way you want
  6. Improved player: more room for your songs
  7. Better caching: back and next should be much faster now
  8. Seeking: now you can skip to your favorite part of a song with the click of a mouse.

Seeking in Grooveshark 2.0
The seek bar lets you jump to any point in a song.

Left side navigation Grooveshark 2.0
The left side navigation lets you seperate different groups of music for easy access.

Bigger album art Grooveshark 2.0
Bigger album art puts the current playlist front and center.

The new interface is a joy to use. The new sorting options and the ability to jump around to any point in the song make Grooveshark like an online version of iTunes that has an Internet-wide shared library. Bigger album art is a nice upgrade over the thumbnails used in the old interface. It used to be a pain going through your favorite songs but now you can add them to your library (which has much more robust sorting options) with the click of the music note icon. New themes are interesting to keep things fresh. I imagine there will be dozens more added over the next few months.

One of the new features I stumbled on that wasn’t mentioned everywhere were RSS feeds. Right now there are three: Songs I Favorite, Songs I Listen to, My Zeitgeist (which is empty at the moment). It would be nice to see Grooveshark automatically send song info to your Last.fm account.

The only other feature really missing from Grooveshark is a hook in the player for controlling it with global shortcuts. I would really love to set up a key combo to play/pause, skip tracks, and favorite tracks without ever bringing the app into focus. The best part is how Grooveshark listens to their community through Get Satisfaction.

I’m confident this is only the beginning of improvements and I’m glad I plunked down my $30 for a year of VIP membership.

Firebug Gets A Little Buggy

Firebug is the web developer equivalent of a hammer to a carpenter. In other words without this valuable tool hundreds of thousands would not be able to do their job and make the web what it is today. So even small changes to the interface are going to ruffle some feathers.

I spent a good half day trying to figure out why my precious Firebug wasn’t behaving like its usual self. For one thing, it wasn’t showing JavaScript errors in the status bar icon like it usually does. It also displayed a message saying “Reload to activate window console” whenever I would bring it up. This makes debugging impossible if I have to keep refreshing the page everytime.

It turns out the Firebug developers made a teeny, tiny tweak to the interface. The screenshot on top is the newer Firebug, version 1.4. The bottom half of the screenshot is from an earlier version. See the difference?

Screenshot of Firebug 1.4 vs the older 1.3 interface.

The ‘X’ used to hide the Firebug window in older versions has been replaced with an Off button. Unfortunately the Firebug developers changed the behavior as well. The Off button deactivates Firebug for that website which explains why JavaScript errors disabled in the status icon. The button that I have come to accustomed to for minimizing the Firebug panel is that circular down-ward arrow about 50 pixels away.

This is a usability nightmare!

  1. The hide Firebug functionality isn’t where the user expects it, especially for long-time users who have developed a muscle memory
  2. The Off button is ambiguous to what the action does (a better word would be deactivate, though that doesn’t quite fit)
  3. The Off buttons breaks away from the rest of the paradigm of the interface (icons are for actions like inspect, and pause while words are for different tabs)
  4. and the Off button is a much larger than the minimize button even though the minimize button is used far more frequently than the off button

Firebug 1.4 interface paradigm

I now have to focus in order to minimize Firebug taking mental energy away from my task. If I’m not paying attention I can turn-off Firebug for the site I’m working on and then I would have to reload the page to get it working again. These sound like little things but compounded one hundred times and it can drive you batty.

So while the latest Firebug update is not technically broken, a poor interface decision sure makes it feel like a buggy mess.

Timelapse Of iPhone Interface Design

87 snapshots taken during the design process for the iPhone app Beats. It’s interesting to see something like this come together.

(via bobthecow)

Turn Your Fridge Into Photoshop Using Magnets

Have you ever waned to turn your fridge into a graphic designers computer screen? These $25 magnet kits from meninos.us will transform any plain, metallic surface into an industry-standard graphics app. There’s a kit with Adobe Photoshop panels and a kit with Adobe Illustrator panels so no graphic designer will feel left out. Because if you spend most of your day in front of the interface, getting up for a quick snack might seem a little confusing without the familiar screen.

Adobe Photoshop Magnet Kit

This reminds me of my first, and only, drawing class in college. I’m not much of a physical media guy so when I made a mistake on my sketch pad I immediately made a gesture to undo. It took me a second to realize I wasn’t in front of Photoshop. I suppose these magnets wouldn’t help, but that’s besides the point.

(via s2999.com)

Mozilla Shows Off Firefox Mobile Interface

I stumbled across this Mobile Firefox Interface Concept video today over at Aza Raskin’s blog. Taking a cue from Apple’s iPhone, the Mozilla team envisions a browser controlled by finger gestures. But rather than just being able to zoom and “throw the page around” the mobile Firefox guys built an interface around simple actions. For instance, if you flick your finger slightly to the left a navigation sidebar appears revealing the back, forward, bookmark, and page info buttons.

The beauty of this design is it maximizes every pixel available on a tiny mobile screen for the content itself. The interface only appears when you need it and neatly tucks away when you don’t. Here is the full video to show these ideas in action:

I really like where this is going and wait in anticipation for the official release of Firefox mobile in the next year or two. For now though you can play around with the limited web demo.

Microsoft’s InkSeine Offers An Intuitive Tablet Interface

I was churning through my array of video podcasts this morning on my commute when I came across this 3 minute demo of InkSeine which stopped me dead in my tracks. InkSeine is a prototype ink application designed from the ground up to completely rethink how people interact with tablet computers. Gone are the menus that run across the top and instead are replaced with contextual gestures that can appear anywhere on the screen. Take a look at the video to see what I mean.

Technology like this would be really useful on a touch-screen mobile device, say maybe like an iPhone? At any rate it is interesting to see new interactions with a computer minus the mouse and keyboard.