MacStories 4.0

Viticci and co. have unveiled the long-awaited redesign of MacStories, and I must say, it looks great.

“We spent probably too much time trying to get many details just right, but we’re satisfied with the end result because the new design (and technology behind it) allows us to do a series of interesting things for our readers, with many more in the pipeline.”

The new design is much more readable and a pleasure to navigate, so I'd say it was worth the extra work.

Diet Coda 1.5

Diet Coda is the code-editing app to get if you have to maintain websites from your iPad, and it just updated with some great new features. Files can now be stored locally and synced with Dropbox, and the app now supports a slew of new syntaxes, including Markdown. It's a $20 app, so only serious coders need apply.

'Designing Unread'

Speaking of Unread, Jared Sinclair wrote a post detailing his decisions behind the app's design:

“I decided that best way to make Unread a comfortable app was to let the reader directly manipulate each screen anywhere her thumb might land. This freed me to remove interface chrome and focus on the text. It’s now a trite idea for design to focus on “content,” but in Unread’s case it really was an essential goal. I wanted readers to get their minds out of the email rut that has trapped their expectations of what RSS can be.”

I think he nailed the comfort aspect. The gestures in Unread feel so natural that I'm finding myself swiping around and exploring every corner of the app just because I enjoy the sensation of flicking things on- and off-screen.

On Squarespace's New 'Logo' Feature

Earlier today, Squarespace announced a new feature called Squarespace Logo that allows users to create simple logos with some text, a tagline, and an icon. Pretty innocuous, right? Might even help a few people add a little personal touch to their site that they might not be able to create for themselves (or can't afford to have made by a professional).

But to a bunch of designers out there, this was a personal affront, a direct attack on their livelihoods. Do a simple Twitter search for 'squarespace logo' and you'll see this sort of thing:

I could keep going, but you get the idea.

The problem I see here is that these designers think that Squarespace is now in direct competition with them for their client base. On the contrary, I highly doubt this tool will affect the livelihood of any designer worth their salt.

If a person or company decides to make a logo with this tool and is happy with the result, then you can bet they were never going to hire you anyway. Maybe they're not interested in Building a Brand™, or maybe they just don't have the means to pay for a professional logo. Whatever the reason, the fact that they have tools to make this process easier for themselves is a good thing. Only a completely selfish person would think otherwise.

It's also pretty silly to say that these sorts of tools "devalue a profession". Professional photographers have been moaning for years about the rise of portable cameras and layman editing tools, but there's still a vibrant and necessary market for pro photographers. In the same vein, the advent of home video-editing tools hasn't done away with movie studios.

Maybe photographers and videographers and designers (and even writers!) will be made obsolete someday. Maybe. But I think that day is very far off in the future, and a designer scared of a tool that produces nothing more than a basic shape with some text is perhaps a designer not worth hiring to begin with.

So no, I don't think there's any cause for concern. Squarespace didn't kill the web designer market, and Squarespace Logo is not going to kill the field of icon design.

'What Screens Want'

Frank Chimero wrote a sprawling, wonderful essay that reflects on the web as we know it, concluding that it has become too impersonal, cold, and calculating:

“We used to have a map of a frontier that could be anything. The web isn’t young anymore, though. It’s settled. It’s been prospected and picked through. Increasingly, it feels like we decided to pave the wilderness, turn it into a suburb, and build a mall. And I hate this map of the web, because it only describes a fraction of what it is and what’s possible. We’ve taken an opportunity for connection and distorted it to commodify attention. That’s one of the sleaziest things you can do.”

This is one of those pieces that I recommend reading on the web and not with Instapaper or Pocket. Frank created a special page just for this essay, and it's too pretty not to be enjoyed in its intended state.

Jony Ive Biography by Leander Kahney

Released just this morning, Jony Ive by Leander Kahney — editor of Cult of Mac — explores the early life and meteoric rise of Apple's famous product designer. It's not based on direct conversations with its subject in the way that Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs was, but it looks pretty interesting nonetheless.

Jony Ive is available from Amazon in both hardcover ($17) and Kindle ($12) formats, as well as from the iBooks Store ($12).

The App Design Handbook

Nathan Barry and Jeremy Olson have put together an excellent resource for anyone looking to get started with app design.

The full package – which includes 9 video tutorials, 9 video interviews, and a handful of resources such as Photoshop files and Xcode samples – is $199 for a limited time to celebrate the launch, and will go back up to $249 soon. The book can also be purchased by itself for $29 (soon $39) or as a middle-ground package that includes fewer resources than the full package.

'How Designers Destroyed the World'

Mike Monteiro of Mule Design gave an impassioned (and profanity-laden) talk at Webstock 2013, in which he discusses the importance of speaking up when a project is about to head downhill. I think it's a must-watch for anyone in the design world, and probably people outside of it too.

If you like Mike's talk, be sure to also check out his book.

A Guided Tour of Brett Terpstra's Blog

I honestly had no idea that so much work has been put into all the little nuts-and-bolts that run Brett's site. It's basically a mix between a blog and a webapp, which tickles the geeky side of my brain.

Currently, I'm just enjoying what happens when I hover my mouse cursor over the 'Donate' button at the bottom. Sometimes it's the little touches.

The Great Discontent Interviews Frank Chimero

Frank Chimero is a designer and the author of The Shape of Design, an excellent book I talked about on Tools & Toys recently.

Frank always has fantastic things to say about design and freelancing:

“It’s more important to do good and interesting things than it is to make money. If you do good and interesting things, then you have to trust that the money will follow.”

He also delved a little into the age-old "fake it until you make it" method:

“I learned to make websites because I agreed to do something that I didn’t know how to do and then I had to figure out how to do it. That seems to be a pattern that comes up all over the place because nobody knows how to do what was invented last week. You have to say you know how, then figure it out under the gun.”

and

“As soon as you start writing like you know what you’re talking about, then you have to back it up. But, I’ve always been very clear that I am making it up as I go along. I’m learning on the job.”

There are a hundred other things I'd love to quote, but instead I'll just tell you to go read the whole thing. Great interview.

The New Instapaper is Live

The beta is over, and the new design has been rolled out to instapaper.com proper. I still love the way this looks, and according to their blog post about the new design, reading progress now syncs on the web. This has been one of my longest-running wishes for Instapaper's web client (the iOS versions have had this capability for a long time).

"Someone Finally Opened the Blinds"

Matt Gemmell's astute take on the design of iOS 7:

“iOS 7 is much, much lighter – in the colour sense, and consequently also in visual weight. Breathable whitespace is everywhere, and is used to unify and homogenise previously disparate interface styles.

The overall impression is of brightness and openness. The extent of the change (and its consistency of application) only becomes obvious when considered in aggregate.”

This is true, there is a certain lightness to iOS 7 that seems refreshing. Call me crazy, but I expect that in the coming years we'll all be describing Apple software this way, using terms like: refreshing, room to breathe, airy, clarity, calmness, fluid, and so on.

Seems pretty Zen, doesn't it?

'Choose Wisely'

Neven Mrgan looks at the photo-upload dialogs found within many iOS apps, and calls for a little uniformity between them:

“Does it matter if apps are consistent on matters of this sort? Decades of UI theory seems to indicate so. Having the same button say the same thing in all situations means the user has to do less parsing of the text, and can simply rely on quick-glance recognition.”

Like Neven, I've been bothered by these kinds of dialogs for a long time.

The problem is that so many apps use different wordings for these options, and in different orders from one another, that I can't always parse them immediately the way I should be able to. If I don't double-check the list, it sometimes ends with me accidentally tapping the wrong option.

Obviously the problem is avoided if I take an extra second or two to verify which option I'm selecting, but when you're having to do this all the time between all the various apps that allow photo uploads, those seconds really start to add up. It would benefit everyone if there were a standard button layout apps would adhere to.

Go read the rest of Neven's post to see his suggestions for other developers on this matter. I agree with every one.

'Designing Blogs for Readers'

Matt Gemmell discusses the way his blog's design has changed over the last decade, and lists some ground rules for making your own site more readable.

“I don’t think there’s any reasonable way, or any need, to separate vanity and ego from a personal blog. Writing is inherently about its author, and is a product of their personality and opinions – that’s not something to be shy about, and we shouldn’t try to change it either. So, write for yourself – and hold yourself to an appropriate standard, because you’d better believe that others are judging the person as well as the piece – but as soon as you publish your views, you’re inviting readers to take a look. I think that the needs of the reader and the author are more aligned than many blogging systems seem to believe.”

I went through the list and discovered that Unretrofied meets many of the criteria Matt calls for, which I'm kinda proud of because I'm not a web designer by any stretch of the imagination.

I've just always strongly believed that sites explicitly meant to be read should not be designed so as to interfere with anybody's reading experience. That would be stupid, and I'm glad I'm not the only one who thinks so.

There are a few little things that could be changed to meet his standards (such as making visited links more obvious), along with some items that have always bugged me but I haven't gotten around to fixing yet (like the way my Fusion ad can interfere with other elements on mobile devices), but overall I'm glad to know I've tinkered my way into a fairly readable site.