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Edward Tufte Weighs In on Apple's iPhone 170

Posted by Zonk
from the word-from-on-high dept.
An anonymous reader writes "Via Daring Fireball, a post from design guru Edward Tufte's site discusses his views on the interface used by the Apple iPhone. The post includes a video presentation by Tufte on the subject of video resolution on the phone. His argument is primarily that while the iPhone does a lot of things very well, Apple hasn't quite realized the platform's full potential by making screen real estate all it could be. "
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Edward Tufte Weighs In on Apple's iPhone

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  • by JonTurner (178845) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @04:07PM (#22173086) Journal
    Sure, it's easy to say, with 20/20 hindsight, would could be better or different, but unless he's privy to all the design trade-offs which were invariably made, then I'd say the product is probably as good as it could have been, given the various pressures. Besides, it's always easier to critique someone else's work than create something novel yourself.

    Chinese saying -- step too far, fall on face. A little more familiar is the phrase "perfect is the enemy of good". Attempting to release a 1.0 product that has everything absolutely perfect and without compromise is the surest way to never ship.

    Perhaps iPhone2 will address some of these issues?
    • by gEvil (beta) (945888) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @04:12PM (#22173178)
      Actually, I wouldn't be the least bit surprised if a few of his suggestions get incorporated into future updates. For instance, his comment about the bottom toolbar in the web browser is exactly the same as what I thought when I first used it--"They should either make this thing transparent or just get it out of the way." And while his suggestion for the weather app is okay, it would make sense as a user-configurable advanced option. Many people get confused by looping radar images.
      • by Crazy Man on Fire (153457) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @04:18PM (#22173252) Homepage

        Many people get confused by looping radar images.


        I really hope this is not true.
        • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

          by gEvil (beta) (945888)
          Sadly, it is. I've known a few. ("I don't care what the weather was like an hour ago. I want to know what it will be later tonight. Why don't they have a picture of that?")
        • by rthille (8526)

          National Science Foundation Survey shows people are scientifically ignorant:
          http://www.nsf.gov/statistics/seind04/c7/fig07-06.htm [nsf.gov]

          That is a horrible graph (should be properly labeled), but it shows the percentage of correct respondents in the US and Europe.

          Note that only a little over 55% answered correctly that it takes the Earth a year to go around the Sun, and fewer than 80% know the Earth actually goes around the Sun, rather than vice-versa.
          • by geekoid (135745)
            Didn't that study catch a lot of heat for it's method?
            I seem to recall it did.

            • by rthille (8526)
              Not sure. I just went looking (google) for anything I could find about flaws in the studies (they apparently do the same one each year) and I didn't find anything.

              If you've got something, I'm certainly open to reading it.
          • Some of those questions (assuming that was the form they took on the survey) don't actually have true/false answers.

            For instance, I would have answered, "The oxygen we breathe comes from plants" with false if I had only two options, since the vast majority of it comes from cyanobacteria in the oceans.

            And as for radioactive milk, while the statement in general is false, One can imagine some conditions under which boiling would reduce "radioactivity" albeit at the risk of contaminating the are with volatile i
      • by madsenj37 (612413)
        Sounds like the Toolbar could learn a lesson from Os 9s Control Strip.
      • by ceoyoyo (59147)
        I thought it should disappear and appear like the controls in the picture viewer. The only problem is, how do you distinguish between an "I want the controls" tap and a "go to this link" tap?

        I didn't like his suggestions for the weather app and the stock app. Those two present exactly the information that you're most likely to want, in a simple, easy to read form. Yes, if you've got to have more info, his suggestions are masterpieces of cramming in tons of information, but they're definitely not the thin
    • I think Tufte would agree with you. His opening remarks at least (I'm still waiting for the video and illustrations to make it here against the slashdot stream) seem quite favorable to the device.
    • by kellyb9 (954229) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @04:24PM (#22173348)
      He's not making a point about the technical limitations. In fact for the most part, it seems as though he actually likes the interface. Truth be told, the idea is so novel that it deserves some examining. A multi-touch interface is a unique concept by itself. Combined with the way it's being used make it stand out from its competitors.

      I'm sure when you first saw an OS GUI thoughts went through your head on how to improve it. Perhaps YOU should have thought of something more novel than critiquing previous works.
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Hognoxious (631665)

      Sure, it's easy to say, with 20/20 hindsight, would could be better or different
      I thought the point of doing user trials was that you get the hindsight before it's released?
    • by Knuckles (8964) <knucklesNO@SPAMdantian.org> on Thursday January 24, 2008 @04:35PM (#22173508)
      Besides, it's always easier to critique someone else's work than create something novel yourself.

      Did you read on below the video?

      In 1994-1995 I designed (while consulting for IBM) screen mock-ups for navigating through the National Gallery via information kiosks. [...]

      The design ideas here include high-resolution touch-screens; minimizing computer admin debris; spatial distribution of information rather than temporal stacking; complete integration of text, images, and live video; a flat non-hierarchical interface; and replacing spacious icons with tight words. [...]

      The mock-ups are included, too.
    • by syousef (465911) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @05:57PM (#22174728) Journal
      I'd say the product is probably as good as it could have been

      That's a stretch. My understanding is that to record video with an iPhone, you have to hack the thing. I don't know what other oversights were made but a new high end phone with a video camera that won't record a video clip in 2008 is a joke.
      • by Sepodati (746220)

        I don't know what other oversights were made but a new high end phone with a video camera that won't record a video clip in 2008 is a joke.

        No, it's called marketing or "version 2.0". You don't think Apple left enough features "in the bank" for generation 2 and 3 of the iPhone?

        ---John Holmes...

    • Your comment may well apply to TFA (which I haven't read), but it doesn't take hindsight to figure out that people are going to want to use this for everything, including plenty of things Apple never thought of.

      So, why did they limit it so severely that the exploit is called "jailbreak"?

      Oh, and by the way, your Chinese saying doesn't apply here, either. It takes less effort to leave it open (and refuse to support custom apps, if you must) than it does to lock it down.
    • by jddj (1085169) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @06:16PM (#22174964) Journal

      Besides, it's always easier to critique someone else's work than create something novel yourself.

      I'd call both sparklines [wikipedia.org] and the data-ink [infovis-wiki.net] ratio [tbray.org] pretty good and novel innovations.

      You can't credit the man with "creating" information design as a discipline, but he's done a great deal to evangelize it, and you certainly have to give him plenty of credit for its currently elevated profile.

      Tufte is not just some crank. Intelligent, useful, compelling information display is what he's all about. You don't have to agree with him, but his thoughts are usually worth weighing.

    • by tgibbs (83782)
      Nothing is set in stone; there have already been major upgrades. So Tufte's suggestions (which are excellent) may well be implemented at some time in the future--if not by Apple, then by a third party developer.
    • by WillAdams (45638) on Friday January 25, 2008 @04:19AM (#22179216) Homepage
      Edward Tufte has done a great deal of novel and ground-breaking work, and has done a great deal to share his insights w/ others in the field, starting w/ his seminal _The Visual Display of Quantitative Information_.

      For my part, ``good enough, isn't'', and I far prefer the Zen parable of the archers --- three archers compete for a prize, all strike the mark, a fish, and are then asked ``At what were you aiming?''

      The first answers, ``The fish.'' as does the second, but the third?

      ``The center of the fish's eye.''

      You can't be any better than you try to be and I'd much rather wait for the efforts of a person striving for perfection than accept those of someone willing to be mediocre.

      William
       
    • by SnowZero (92219)

      Sure, it's easy to say, with 20/20 hindsight, would could be better or different, but unless he's privy to all the design trade-offs which were invariably made, then I'd say the product is probably as good as it could have been, given the various pressures. Besides, it's always easier to critique someone else's work than create something novel yourself.

      So, we should never review anything unless it hasn't been released yet? I think feedback is good; Especially since you can incorporate the best of it in the next iteration.

      Chinese saying -- step too far, fall on face. A little more familiar is the phrase "perfect is the enemy of good". Attempting to release a 1.0 product that has everything absolutely perfect and without compromise is the surest way to never ship.

      "Perfect is the enemy of good" applies to a particular release. It doesn't mean you should stop trying to improve once something is already "good enough".

  • by ad454 (325846) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @04:23PM (#22173324)
    Kudos to Edward Tufte for providing good detailed constructive criticism on the iPhone, including specific examples of improvements. I hope that Apple will pay attention to the FREE ADVICE that Tufte is giving and incorporate it into their next iPhone firmware update. I am sure that the UI advice that Apple pays for is likely not as good.

    Personally as a product developer myself, I would welcome such good detailed constructive criticism for free from a UI guru such as Tufte. Remember that there are all innovation is based on prior innovation, so it is good to have analysis done on existing products in order to improve on future versions.

    BTW, on a side note, I hope that someone at Slashdot deletes the offences racist postings above.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by LordLucless (582312)
      I don't. Moderate them to hell, yes, but one of the defining features of Slashdot is that they don't censor posts (or at least, seem not to...I seem to remember an incident a few years ago...)
    • by lymond01 (314120)
      I am sure that the UI advice that Apple pays for is likely not as good.

      Well, Apple's forté is the User Interface. It's certainly not famous for it's "Walmart pricing coupled with tremendous centralized networking capabilities!" So I'm pretty sure it's the UI in all its aesthetic efficiency where Apple gained its following. Follow the shiny OS with shiny computers, and now they're stealing market share!
    • by madsenj37 (612413)
      Apple gets a lot of their design ideas from IDEO, the people who brought you the TiVo remote and interface. But remember, one company cannot come out with all the evolutionary or revolutionary ideas themselves. This goes for Apple, IDEO and Tufte.
  • by toomim (492480) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @04:27PM (#22173382)
    ...where the name of the game is cramming as much information as possible into a small amount of space. Paper's dominant limiting factor was space. He says the iPhone's stocks widget could fit more information on-screen than it does. He criticizes the web browser for not using transparent buttons that would let the user see information on the web page through them.

    But with dynamic displays, the game is all about minimizing the amount of retrieval time, not space. Users can tell the computer to pull up a graph for a new stock, or scroll the page downward with their finger to view the info under the buttons, or completely off-screen, with minimal effort. The biggest limiting factor is interaction. Let's keep the buttons visible, because they enable far more information than they hide.

    If we sacrificed usability for screen real-estate, we'd end up with marginless documents and 4-pixel icons, which incidentally would look like windows mobile.
    • by 644bd346996 (1012333) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @05:19PM (#22174168)
      Your assumption that the time taken to select, load, and display new information is minimal not only is false, but laughably so in the case of anything operating over a cellular network.

      When you are trying to browse a web page on a screen that is an order of magnitude smaller than what the author expected, it is absurd for a full 10% of that precious space to be permanently devoted to a mere 4 buttons, only one of which sees frequent use. In the case of the stocks, once the user has selected what they want to know about (be it a single stock or a set of stocks) it makes sense to display as much information as possible about them. After all, the user has already asked for the information. The only reason to leave relevant information out is if it won't fit without sacrificing the readability of the report. Tufte has never failed to understand that point, and he certainly didn't leave it out of TFA.

      You are right that paper's primary limitation is space, and that this is not the case with digital displays. This is not because the digital displays are less limited in space (they never are, and in this case, the computer display is downright tiny). The reason is that the resolution of digital displays is so much lower than that of paper that the overall size doesn't really matter anymore.
      • by shilly (142940) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @09:46PM (#22177052)
        Although to be fair, if your stock market widget is going to start pulling down 14,000 datapoints and assembling them into a graph, or your weather widget is going to start displaying complex radar images, then it's quite likely that retrieval times are going to be substantively worse. The key word that you're ignoring is "relevant". I doubt many people will find all 14,000 datapoints of relevance when looking up a stock price on their iPhone. They're probably only interested in a general sense of the trend. Kind of like asking how old someone is and getting a reply accurate to the number of days, it's not clear that more information is always more clarity, despite what Mr Tufte says -- at least for me.
        • by tgibbs (83782)

          Although to be fair, if your stock market widget is going to start pulling down 14,000 datapoints and assembling them into a graph, or your weather widget is going to start displaying complex radar images, then it's quite likely that retrieval times are going to be substantively worse. The key word that you're ignoring is "relevant". I doubt many people will find all 14,000 datapoints of relevance when looking up a stock price on their iPhone. They're probably only interested in a general sense of the trend

        • by tfoss (203340)

          14,000 datapoints and assembling them into a graph

          Trivially solved by having the server generate an image on the fly.

          weather widget is going to start displaying complex radar images

          Or, say, a six-frame animated gif.

          I doubt many people will find all 14,000 datapoints of relevance when looking up a stock price on their iPhone. They're probably only interested in a general sense of the trend.

          Which is *precisely* the point of using sparklines. [wikipedia.org] With a sparkline you can summarize a huge amount of data into a useful little graphic while retaining a huge amount of information.

          it's not clear that more information is always more clarity, despite what Mr Tufte says -- at least for me.

          So, but more information presented clearly, concisely and efficiently will almost always provide more clarity. That's his whole bag.

          -Ted

    • It's true that dynamic displays are different from static ones. But there's another reason besides the staticness of paper that you might want to put a lot of data on the page/screen simultaneously: you might notice something interesting about the data if you can see more if it at the same time.

    • No interaction is almost always preferrable to interaction. If you can display the information the user wants, display that information instead of making the user act to see the information. Every user interaction is a source of errors.
  • by chowhound (136628) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @04:27PM (#22173384) Homepage
    I enjoy Tufte's I.D. lectures quite a bit, I went to one last year and it was very informative.

    I liked the video as well, with a couple of exceptions:

    1) In the video, Tufte has to bust out his Sparklines (the infographics that look like lightning bolts that he mentions in the section on stocks.) He claims these have thousands of pieces of information in them but the reality is that they're merely zig-zags. As the inventor of the sparkline, Tufte thinks they're the be-all and end-all of I.D.

    2) I found it hilarious when Tufte showed how he would redesign the Weather program to show more information. He said something on the order of, the only bad information design is that which leaves out important information. Sorry, holmes, I don't need to see a time lapse of cloud patterns. The Apple weather design is elegant and succinct, yours is crowded, ugly and excessive.
    • by venicebeach (702856) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @04:41PM (#22173590) Homepage Journal

      2) I found it hilarious when Tufte showed how he would redesign the Weather program to show more information. He said something on the order of, the only bad information design is that which leaves out important information. Sorry, holmes, I don't need to see a time lapse of cloud patterns. The Apple weather design is elegant and succinct, yours is crowded, ugly and excessive.
      I totally agree with this, I had a similar reaction. He seems to be concerned with the representation of information without regard to the how the device is being used - the purpose of that information. Most people use the stock app to see if their stock is up or down today and how much. They don't need yearly graphs with min and max's, this isnt a tool for that kind of analysis. With weather, we want to know if its going to rain tomorrow, we don't go to this app to examine the cloud forms and come to our own meteorological conclusions.
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SnowDog74 (745848)
        One of the best posts I think I've read in a long time on Slashdot. Eloquent, humorous, and a total smackdown, all in one.
      • The only 3 things I look for on the web re weather are

        1) 4 day forecast in the morning
        2) radar if its raining to decide if to go now or later (people with cars dont care)
        3) hourly temps for the past 24hrs

        If in doubt, make a damn advance config option to specify "are you a technical geek and want more techy info" how hard is it for dynamic screens, static designs are so 1985 like DOS.
      • With weather, we want to know if its going to rain tomorrow, we don't go to this app to examine the cloud forms and come to our own meteorological conclusions.

        You make a good point. I think part of the issue is that Tufte is used to working within technical fields in which documents need to express high levels of detail to highly skilled people to make complex decisions. But in this case, the extra information is not likely to be particularly useful or wanted for the average iPhone user. As always, it is important to know your audience.

    • Yah, and he's not the only one who's come up with a neat idea that isn't really as widely applicable as he thinks. He's also really not understanding the capabilities of interactive interfaces... rather than throwing all the information on one page, you drill down from the summary into detail.

      For example on the stock market page, drag stocks over each other to compare them, dragging a stock all the way to the top of the page would give you more information on that stock and let you drag the screen left or right to get other stocks, flip it sideways to get the graphs, and drag left and right to compare with other graphs.

      On the weather page, use the same approach, and flip sideways to get the weather map, drag up and down to see different maps.

      A video screen isn't a static device, and you don't need to cram data into a single static view. Data clutter is as bad as administrative clutter.
      • need my rain coat on the way to the mall and on the way back 2 hours later.

        That's why we have those whirly, swirly weather maps with "projections'. AKA "FutureCast"
      • He's also really not understanding the capabilities of interactive interfaces... rather than throwing all the information on one page, you drill down from the summary into detail.

        That is generally a bad idea. Interaction should be considered as a compromise if not other solution can be found, not as a good idea in itself. Every time users have to interact with your application, a certain amount of users will fail. If you can show every information the user has to know without him interacting with your application, you've killed that source of errors.

        You should read this paper [worrydream.com] on why interaction is bad, and how interaction can be avoided.

        Quote:

        The ubiquity of frustrating, unhelpful software interfaces has motivated decades of research into "Human-Computer Interaction." In this paper, I suggest that the long-standing focus on "interaction" may be misguided. For a majority subset of software, called "information software," I argue that interactivity is actually a curse for users and a crutch for designers, and users' goals can be better satisfied through other means.

        • There's a classic Dilbert cartoon that shows some sales guy trying to sell Dilbert a non-interactive computer. It's easy to use. "There's only one button, and we push it at the factory." "What does it do?" "Whoa! Let me get an expert!"

          If you just want to make phone calls, the iPhone itself is a waste of time. I want a phone that has only a keypad and a small monochrome display, with no games, no internet access, no maps, no weather, no music, no ringtones, just a damned phone. I have a separate PDA that isn
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      I used to have an account here /. ages ago. Sadly that PW was lost. I registered again to simply say: Tufte is no genius, his lectures/seminars are overpriced, and I'm tired of hearing about "sparklines". I heard Tufte speak here in Houston not too long ago. I'd really like to send him a bill for the hours of my life that I wasted. If I wanted to hear someone rant and rave about PowerPoint, I'd pay a kid in high school. If I wanted to hear some guy with an over inflated sense of self-worth talk about
    • by cruff (171569)
      If the time lapse is the radar loop, that can be really useful. I look at the radar loop when it might rain or snow to determine if I should be leaving work early because I rode the motorcycle. If the main precipitation is headed somewhere else, I know I can ignore the clouds or light rain.
    • In the video, Tufte has to bust out his Sparklines (the infographics that look like lightning bolts that he mentions in the section on stocks.) He claims these have thousands of pieces of information in them but the reality is that they're merely zig-zags. As the inventor of the sparkline, Tufte thinks they're the be-all and end-all of I.D.

      They are mini graphs, and I'd find them highly useful. I get annoyed having to go through and touch each stock to see how it has been doing. Sparklines would give me the

  • I have to disagree (Score:5, Interesting)

    by E1ven (50485) <(moc.nev1e) (ta) (nev1e)> on Thursday January 24, 2008 @04:30PM (#22173430) Homepage
    If you look at his examples, his primary argument is that you can cram more information on the screen because of the iPhone's high resolution. I can't agree with him that this is a good idea.

    Part of the reason that people BUY the iPhone is that it's simple and stylish, rather than the existing information heavy devices like Pocket PC phones. In particular, look at his example about the Weather- Apple's widget is small and sleek. It shows you the vital information, and it does it in strong fonts and bold styling. It's clear, and it's easy.

    He squishes all of that information into a tiny corner, so that he can add a large repeating satellite view- Sure it's useful in some cases, and it's certainly a neat demonstration of the iPhone's abilities, but it fails when it comes to the task of quickly giving me the important information.

    It makes me squint to see the tiny version of the temperature, and shows off, rather than helping.

    Sometimes developers fall into the problem of working so often because they can, not wondering if they should.

    Note- He dismisses this argument, saying that information density isn't the problem, it's laying it out clearly. I agree with him in general,in that complex information can often be presented simply, but in most of his cases, increasing the density would diminish it's usefulness.
    • by Geoff (968)

      Absolutely. If I'm on the go, what do I want to know about the weather? "What's the temperature?" and "Will I get wet?" That's about it. Give me that information (in a nice easily readable format like the iPhone provides). Don't clutter the display and put the temperature (the main thing I want to know) in a tiny font so that I now have to hunt for it on the screen.

    • Part of the reason that people BUY the iPhone is that it's simple and stylish, rather than the existing information heavy devices like Pocket PC phones. In particular, look at his example about the Weather- Apple's widget is small and sleek. It shows you the vital information, and it does it in strong fonts and bold styling. It's clear, and it's easy.

      Part of the reason I bought it (and one that has been promoted in Apple's ads) is that the browser does not display a "simplified" version of the Internet as d

  • Oh, the irony! (Score:5, Insightful)

    by mangu (126918) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @04:36PM (#22173528)
    I have three of Tufte's books, and I used to respect him, but now I'm forced to review my opinion.


    How is it exactly that, in the same page where he tells us "Better to have users looking over material adjacent in space rather than stacked in time.", he puts most of his information in a fscking video?

    • Re:Oh, the irony! (Score:5, Insightful)

      by vux984 (928602) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @04:53PM (#22173760)
      AMEN. I HATE VIDEO for precisely this reason. Not only is the information stacked in time, but its totally and completely unindexed and nearly unnavigatable... sure I can drag a slider around but I have no information about where I am or where I'm going, and I have to get their and start watching before I know where I've gone.

      And above all, I have no interest in taking MINUTES to have information spoon-fed to me in real-time. I can read orders of magnitude faster than I can listen. And if I'm reading something that doesn't interest me I can easily skip ahead, because any decent author will include titles, section headings, paragraph breaks... and other cues to allow skipping ahead and finding the interesting parts.
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by MacarooMac (1222684)

      he puts most of his information in a fscking video?

      Tufte's books concern interactive interface design. This primary purpose of this video is not to be an interactive interface. Instead it is a pre-recorded ('stacked in time') presentation designed to demontrate specific features of the iPhone's interface.

      For example, the ability to touch screen and drag the iPhone's screen 'real estate' and the subsequent transition between interfaces, can only be demonstrated effectively in a video like this.

      Note this v

      • by vux984 (928602)
        Tufte's books concern interactive interface design. This primary purpose of this video is not to be an interactive interface. Instead it is a pre-recorded ('stacked in time') presentation designed to demontrate specific features of the iPhone's interface.

        That's the point: Its a terrible interactive interface for the purpose of demonstrating specific features of the iPhone interface. It crams the entire set into a linear interface stacked in time without even so much as a chapter selection function, leaving
    • To be fair, it's a bit hard to demonstrate some of he dynamic qualities of the interface in static images.
  • armchair UI ideas (Score:4, Interesting)

    by escay (923320) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @04:59PM (#22173874) Journal

    Tufte makes a good point about the hidden potential of iPhone's brilliant display. But I feel the answer lies less in resolution, and more in depth. We have been exposed to much web content that is layered (for example, pop-up windows that appear on top of existing screens that fade into the dark) that we can now discern depth on a 2D picture provided it is clear, sharp and bright. There is this 3D real estate that is not exploited in iPhone (and something that it is quite capable of).

    As an example, I sometimes find it a tad annoying to keep going to the Home screen on the iPhone when switching between applications (typically when I am viewing a website and quickly need to look at maps). A dock with all Home icons down the side that appears overlaid (and magnifies each icon on fingerscroll, just like on a mac) would eliminate the intermediate step of going to the Home screen. To take it a bit further, the Maps can open in a 75% window on top of the Safari, so we can get back to Safari by one fingerstroke (Tufte's idea would be to open two windows each 50%, because there's resolution). This is, as you can see, nothing new - just something that iPhone doesn't currently have but can quite possibly do.

  • MIRRORS! (Score:3, Informative)

    by appleguru (1030562) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @05:01PM (#22173926) Homepage Journal
    Grab the coral cache mirror of the page here: http://www.edwardtufte.com.nyud.net/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=00036T&topic_id=1 [nyud.net]

    Also, I've mirrored the video, as that was the slowest loading element of the page, here:

    http://g.appleguru.org/iPhone_Resolution-desktop.m4v [appleguru.org] (58MB)
    • The video is hosted on S3, Amazon's file hosting service - I doubt any mirror you can provide is going to be much better for anyone else. The discussion around what do do wit the video from the first time Daring Fireball linked to the post, was actually almost more interesting than the iPhone video itself.

  • Anyone else notice he's put "WiMax" as the operator identifier on his iPhone / iPod Touch? Seems a bit weird.
  • I don't have an iPhone, but if you look at the video provided, his network provider says 'ET 3G'. I thought that there was no 3G iPhone yet. Is Mr. Tufte privvy to pre-release products, or is that just a generic network identification that doesn't reflect how the data moves?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by jonesy16 (595988)
      As he states, he's using a jail-break version to make his video. Therefore, he can change the banner to say whatever he wants. It actually changes several times throughout the video showing 3G, WiMax, 700MHz and others. This is NOT a leak of a new version of the iPhone. Sorry, I would have been happy too.
    • I'd pay zero attention to that. People can change it to anything. Operators, too, can and do. I remember my provider a few years ago changed it to "HAPPY NEW YEAR" from 6pm on NYE til 6am New Year's Day.
    • He just enjoys playing with his carrier tag ;) Present in the video are: ET 3G, WiMax, 700 MHz, and DoCoMo
  • by KevMar (471257) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @05:27PM (#22174288) Homepage Journal
    The whole point of the IPhone is to be dead simple with out clutter.

    now people want to clutter it up.
  • text is too small (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mzs (595629) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @05:30PM (#22174340)
    I am only 30 but I had trouble reading the text in the weather page he mocked-up. Maybe it was the compression in the video, but I much preferred the larger text.
  • Tufte... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by multimediavt (965608) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @05:52PM (#22174652)
    I've been a Tufte fan for almost 20 years. I was introduced to his work, The Visual Display of Quantitative Information, while an Architecture student and multimedia developer in the early 1990s. This man is to graphic design what Newton was to gravity. He really defined the rules and explained why and how they are applied, technically. His statement, "Thus the iPhone got it mostly right," is him basically saying, "It's great, but I would have done some things a little differently." From a man that knows what he knows, that's the highest praise any contemporary could ever hope to get! I don't mean that sarcastically, either. I'd be ecstatic if he said anything like that about my work. Of course, I'd think it was a prank, but I don't think I'm that good anyway.
    • by geekoid (135745)
      Ironically, his books a laid out like crap.

      Good information, and they certianly had a very strong influence in the way I think about interface design. Also make me think about how information is presented.

    • "It's great, but I would have done some things a little differently." .. that's the highest praise any contemporary could ever hope to get

      Unless the contemporary takes it to mean "I'm being polite, but actually it fails on several counts". Real praise is when you say someone did a better job than you could do, or introduced new ideas and broke new ground or somesuch. At the very least you should judge a work on its own merits, and not apply your expertise (in data visualisation) to another's (in interface

  • by e**(i pi)-1 (462311) on Thursday January 24, 2008 @06:34PM (#22175160) Homepage Journal
    Tuftes mantra: To clarify, add detail. is exactly, what makes most interfaces f... up. Both his new weather and stock information examples are what one will probably see on a Zune clone soon. Tasteless clutter. The apple mantra is: To clarify, hide detail Thats what I like at the interface. I did not have the iphone interface, it is almost obvious.
    • by MrWa (144753)
      When Tufte said that the old Excite homepage, which was nearly a wall of text and links, was a greate example of data-space ratio on the web (or something like...basically praising the design layout) I realized his ideas needed to be taken in context and applied sparingly to computers.
  • by rbrander (73222) on Friday January 25, 2008 @12:57AM (#22178320) Homepage
    I'm surprised and disappointed to read comments from people who've read Tufte's books and agreed with them, and then say the opposite about this case. I wonder, did they ever 'get it' ?

    Tufte's view, consistent for decades, is that the information display should be designed around the human visual system's abilities and preferences, not the designer's prejudices or what's easy for the display system.

    The human eye automatically "drills down" in an information-rich visual field by focusing the fovea on anything that is noticed as being of interest. Further information on the subject of interest is gained in a dozen milliseconds by the act of focus. No jumping to new pages over a second later.

    A couple of posters offered the absurd assertions that

    a) Tufte is stuck in the paper era - when he's been commenting on computer displays for 20 years. His criticisms of the screen real-estate forgone to 'computer administrative debris' in Mac and, later, Windows, go back to their inception.

    b) That space is limited on those paper pages when they are far more information-rich than screens. Multiply 8.5x11x300x300 and get over 8 Mpixels, guys. (And an open magazine is twice as big; an open newspaper, 10x that!) Why do you think most people prefer to read on paper even now? Richer colours, too; compare TIME print edition photos to the web pages printed out.

    People who think information-thin combined with drill-down is the way to go are responsible for those frustrating answering-machine menus.

    And definitely have never taken a look at Craigslist, where there are a maximum of index words per page, using smaller print, and every piece of information in the index is also a 'control'. a link to another information-dense page. You rarely have to go more than three clicks in until you are looking at a list of the things you want, out of all the country and all the products and services there are.

    Bottom-line: provide the user with as much information as possible, use visual cues (size, colour, position) to prioritize, and have trust that they will pick out what they want. Providing them with less information so as to lead them by the nose down your little trail insults their intelligence and human abilities.
  • by ContractualObligatio (850987) on Friday January 25, 2008 @01:20AM (#22178414)

    I get the distinct feeling that Tufte understands data visualisation, but not interface design. These are different things, and he's letting his expertise in one area make him think he can make pronouncements from on high in other areas and comes out with some real bullshit as a result.

    His "to clarify, add detail" rule could be applied to his comment on the photo browser. He says they should be grey not white, and only one pixel wide, but gives no reason why. I'd like some detail to clarify why he says that! It would not fit more images onto the screen, it would add no information content, it's barely even an aesthetic change to the design. It's news to me that arranging images against a plain white background is a bad approach. I've met a lot of smart people that like to "show off" by making detailed comments like this, without any actual substance or empirical evidence to back up what is simply their own preference. Tufte seems to be doing so here.

    He criticises the stock app for being "cartoony" and "PowerPoint" like, which seems again a mere preference rather than an objective comment, uses words designed to provoke an emotional reaction rather than an intellectual one. He claims his app has more detail - which of course it should when it only has three stocks, not six. But I don't see how x thousand points of data points in a tiny little graph is of use. First of all, if you fit thousands of data points into a single graph, it's going to need a damn big piece of paper before I'm capable of distinguishing them, combined with a ruler and a set square if I want to get the value for a specific data point. Second, why would I want this level of detail on a phone app? Personally, I find the iPhone's red light / green light view combined with percentage points useful - it jumps out at you when e.g. the market crashes as it did recently. In Tufte's example, it's impossible to tell what recent market changes have taken place, and there is no obvious way to quickly see data for e.g. the last week. The "modest data graphic cartoon" conveys just as much information to the viewer as his "image resolution" with thousands of data points, and is the kind of thing a portable stocker checker would be used for. Tufte is letting his expertise get in the way of understanding the use case - all his catchphrases are there for the converted, but his use of them here just annoys me.

    Here's a nice little piece - take a look at his site at http://www.edwardtufte.com/bboard/q-and-a-fetch-msg?msg_id=00036T [edwardtufte.com]. He criticises the iPhone browswer for having 10% of the screen used for buttons, but in his own designs he comments "about 90% of the image is substance". Clearly he's happy with that 10% sacrifice when it's his own work. And if you look at the designs, you'll note that in each case there is a navigation bar of some form at the top or bottom of the page. What a hypocrite.

    Finally, he's very keen on getting rid of computer admin debris. The problem is, he treats looking at a web page the same as looking at a picture. But when I'm looking at a picture, I don't want to bookmark it (it's already in my collection), and I don't want to make a webclip of it. I don't need the back button with photos, because I can navigate via the photo collection. But I do need those functions in the browser, and I need them large enough to easily hit with my finger. We're all used to scrolling down webpages, so having a mere 90% of the screen available, and an intuitive flick of a finger to scroll down, is perfect. Commenting that the button bar should at least be transparent strikes me as just one of those condescending little compromises some people like to make when they know they won't convince the other side of "the right answer". It would be bad interface design to have application buttons hovering over hyperlinks, making it distinctly ambiguous what would happen when you touched that bottom 10% of the screen.

    In particula

    • by tgibbs (83782)

      His "to clarify, add detail" rule could be applied to his comment on the photo browser. He says they should be grey not white, and only one pixel wide, but gives no reason why.

      He probably thought it was obvious. So do I. Smaller borders mean the thumbnails can be larger and clearer. There is no real need for a wide border, since different pictures usually look different enough that the borders are obvious, and the eye will extend the grid where they aren't.

      First of all, if you fit thousands of data points i

  • I agree with Tufte that the buttons at the bottom of the screen in Safari take up too much real estate, and I like his solution, having them transparent. They could fade after a minute or two, with a tap at the bottom of the screen bringing them back to full intensity.

    I also agree that the iPhone can't afford to leave the address bar at the top of the screen like a PC browser, and that Apple made a good choice in having it scroll off with the page. But it does highlight a problem: With very long pages (many

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