The Apple Design Awards 2010 recognize iPhone OS applications that demonstrate technical excellence, innovation, superior technology adoption, high performance, and outstanding design. Each year, winning products set new standards for the developer community to follow. Read about what made this year’s winners stand out above the rest.

Well-deserved, though I think there are too many games represented in the iPad group. Star Walk is particularly awesome.

(via Apple Design Awards – WWDC10 – Apple Developer.)

Moderator: Jeffrey Zeldman, founder of Happy Cog

Panel: Paul Ford, editor @ Harper’s; Lisa Holton, 4th Story Media; Mandy Brown, Creative Director @ Etsy; Erin Kissane, independent editor of web content (A List Apart, Happy Cog)

Abstract: In this panel we’ll explore the creative, strategic, and marketing challenges of traditional and new (internet hybrid) book publishing and online magazine publishing, and how these fields intersect with content strategy and client services.


  • Which will die first, newspapers or Flash?
    • Ford – the same a lot of ways, complicated to get started and all normally funded by advertising – says Flash
    • Brown – Flash; the industry is changing in many ways; one corner is changing quickly and the other is changing very slowly; NYT still makes money off print and will keep doing it for a while
    • Kissane – there are other ways to make things move around than Flash – the content is important and Flash is ephemeral
    • Zeldman – trick question as neither one will go away, but Flash is going to become less important as a platform
  • Given that newspapers and books seem to be in trouble, is this a good time to start a publishing company?
    • Brown – an industry transition is a good time to jump in, so yes – people will be trying new things and that’s exciting
    • Holton – started a new company a while back to marry books with digital media, but a good time because (1) small companies can react to the market, (2) people don’t provide just services anymore, now they teach as well
    • Ford – terrible time to try and shoehorn existing content models into the web (that day is over); really interesting time to leverage the extraordinary ecosystem of what’s out there
  • What’s the web good for as a platform?
    • Ford – not so much a publishing platform, but as a customer service platform – talking to people, giving them what they need, helping them understand what they need, and reaching them in that way – how do I serve and interact with people and give them value for their money?
    • Brown – this is like a return to the independent bookstore – a human connection, conversation, and personal recommendations
  • Zeldman – when publishing traditional books, you’re also providing a unique experience and interaction through the web
    • Holton – “The Amanda Project” as an example – users make a game out of it and create a story as a collaborative experience – weekly publishing of a really good idea to extend the narrative; give the users props for the ideas that you use; two forms of the craft of publishing: editing for print and writing/editing on the web; more specific prompts give you better results
    • Kissane – some of the web participant ideas and such make it into print books – print book schedule is so long, but publishing online happens once per week – provides better engagement for the reader; a sequel takes 1.5 years to bring out, and the readers are 1.5 years older!
  • Zeldman – people who are Tweeting *as* characters from shows (Mad Men) as a social zeitgeist – these are unrelated people who create these things and enhance the experience for those who are watching; we know our users are going to do these things anyway, so why not bring those people in to help the project succeed?
  • Who owns the book in new publishing?
    • Brown – example of Amazon and the 1984 issue – when you buy an ebook, it is likely not going to last as long as a paper book because you really don’t own it, you instead pay for access for a time, but you are gaining the ability to access things you might not normally be able to access
    • Zeldman – it’s also DRM that messes up this relationship
    • Kissane – one of the great things about right now is that you can have both; search and discovery is easier with electronic forms of publishing (Google Books)
    • Zeldman – libraries have been doing this for a while, especially because older documents and manuscripts are damaged every time they are handled and with electronic media you remove that limitation (and limitations of space/geography)
    • Ford – How would this device work after the apocalypse? – there were no Kindles in “The Road” – there is a sense with permanence with paper; so many problems with licensing and ownership now
    • Brown – eBooks are currently by-products of print publishing
    • Holton – different kinds of publishing will be prevalent in different publishing methods
  • Zeldman – does the format affect what we buy?
    • Ford – publishers have an opportunity to play around and figure stuff out – don’t outsource this stuff
    • Brown – a lack of curiosity on the part of a lot of publishers – don’t want to engage, don’t want to learn new things
    • Holton – sympathetic towards big publishers
    • Brown – in a model of expensive distribution, it makes sense to have broad product range and try to reach broad customers
  • Zeldman – the problem for traditional publishing is the loss of control, but we still need editors
    • Kissane – in web content, we have much to learn from traditional publishing, especially long-term planning and content plans
    • Ford – this is a good time to broader the editorial tent
  • Audience questions – I have no notes because I asked one :)

Moderated by Dan Oliver

Panel: Jina Bolton designer @ crush+lovely; Brendan Dawes, Creative Director @ magneticNorth; Dan Mall, Senior Designer @ Big Spaceship; Shane Mielke, Creative Director @ 2Advanced

Abstract: Is WordPress killing web design? Leading creatives from the world of web design debate whether CMS tools have made designers lazy, and created a new set of design conventions that designers feel obliged to follow.


  • Not just talking about WordPress – all CMS platforms
  • What is the problem with designing with a CMS?
    • Some people say it makes designers lazy
    • WordPress is something everyone on this panel has used
    • Problem – when people lock on to it as a sort of sitemap or a planning tool for what you will design
      • Focus on the tool over the design
      • Not all sites need to feel like they have a CMS behind them (and shouldn’t)
    • What’s killing web design is a lack of imagination, not an abundance of tools
    • Dawes – WordPress not for large sites with lots of different types of content
    • Bolton – left WordPress for a while because it wasn’t enough for desired use and began using Reflect (never released) and on a site relaunch decided instead to go back to WordPress – known quantity, easier to make what she wanted
      • WordPress is *not* difficult to customize – documentation is out there
  • Moderator comment – WordPress has made web publishing ubiquitous and this is a good thing – Are designers becoming too reliant on CMS themes?
    • Mall – CMSes remove a lot of the overhead for people starting something; designers sometimes just default to a theme and then try to squeeze that theme into what they are trying to do
    • Dawes – this depends on the situation: themes are really good for people who don’t know how to code and can’t make their own designs; how you say something is as important as what you say, and themes take the personality of the site away – it’s not something that expresses you
    • Dawes – WordPress takes the pain away from content management
    • Mielke – Impressed by any sort of creativity that makes you wonder how something was done and obscures the tools used in order to make it
  • Moderator – when building a site, there’s a lot of broken apart duties – do CMS tools widen the gap between graphic and web design?
    • Mall – helps people who might not know much about Web design to get the gist with very little work – enables play
    • Dawes – where the more interesting work is being done is with designers who also use coding as part of their toolset – these people are hard to find; thinks there is a problem with people who come from print trying to impose their concepts on web design (big fonts)
    • Bolton: a perception issue – if you want to think of the CMS as a constraint, then it will be
  • Moderator: what have the major effects of CMS tools been on web design?
    • Mielke – we emulate others – if the big people out there have simplistic CMS-tool-looking sites, then other people are going to do the same – not as much diversity in design anymore anyway, not necessarily because of CMS use
    • Dawes – little design touches are what make the experience for people – design in general has become homogenous – users don’t necessarily care what the CMS is, they are only looking at the front-end
  • Modreator – have CMS tools such as WordPress made web design homogeneous?
    • consensus seems to be yes, but not because of the CMS
  • Moderator – what can we do to inject new life into web design?
    • Bolton – Art in My Coffee – gets a lot of questions about how that’s a Tumblr site – use CSS to your advantage
    • Mall – designers should get away from the computer and create things that aren’t necessarily digital once in a while; don’t be afraid to screw something up
    • Bolton – if you have other skillsets, try to find ways to bring that into your design work – it adds an investment and a personal touch
    • Dawes – read about things that you know nothing about – broader your horizons
    • Mielke – one web site can’t possibly express everything about you at once – have more than one and practice on each
  • Moderator – what’s to blame for increased use of CMS tools by web designers?
    • Mall – sometimes it’s because it’s easiest for the user to figure it out – should have more reasoning behind the choice than your own comfortability
    • Dawes – where it goes wrong is when the CMS begins making demands on the design
  • Moderator – as experienced designers, what can you do to improve things?
    • Dawes – if your frame of reference is wide and you are learning new things every day, you have the ability to do good things – read things that increase your knowledge, and not just about design – curiosity
    • Mielke – personality is the key – have one and put it into your designs
    • Mall – one question asked in every interview – if you are singing karaoke and closing out the night, what song would you sing – this showcases people’s personality and creativity
  • Moderator – how do you stay creative?
    • Mielke – pursue your other interests and hobbies because they enhance the other things you do, including design
    • Mall – the emerging theme here is to express yourself and be yourself – tap into your creativity and personality
    • Dawes – slow down, don’t go from A to B as quickly as possible all the time

Presenter is Josh Knowles, a freelance designer who has worked on both game designs and other application design (

Abstract: Tricks and techniques from the game design world can be applied to non-games — social apps, creative tools, etc. — to improve user experience, user enjoyment, and results. We’ll look at traditional UX in a new light: from the perspective of games and gamers (and zombies, aliens, and goombas).


  • How to get people to sign up for something or participate in something?
    • Often, approaches to UX for these things tends to be a bit dry
    • The idea is to create passion in users to get them to want to participate
  • Game design is starting to work its way into other things now
    • American Idol
    • Million’s Poet
    • Toyota Prius efficiency leaves in the dashboard
    • Target checkout terminals – grades/scores
  • Game design can be a big part of interaction design, but right now it’s often a novelty and not something core to design
  • Games take a task and apply rules to give the participants enjoyment and satisfaction
    • Classic arcade games are this boiled down to essentials – basic tasks with applied rules and risk/reward structures
    • Galaxy Zoo; Solar Stormwatch – astronomical phenomena turned into a game
    • Google Image Labeler – the timed tagging and matching tags from two random strangers
    • Faux stock markets
    • (my note) is kind of game-ish
    • Slashdot comment moderation and granting mod points to random users to help improve comment displays to random users (and Karma)
    • StackOverflow applies this to Q/A (10 points to rate up, 100 points to rate down, 200 points to see fewer ads on site, 1k points to delete questions)
    • thesixtyone – music filtering system
    • Foursquare, Gowalla, and MyTown (duh)
  • Basic concepts
    • Points (especially public points and high scores)
      • Number of friends
      • Percentage completion of participation (Shelfari, LinkedIn)
    • Badges and Achievements (specific defined activities)
    • Unlockables (site or application features you receive as a reward for participation)
      • Individual unlockables versus global unlockables
    • Game boards
      • Visual representations of what’s available or what you can do
  • You can learn from:
    • Classic video games
    • Board games
    • Sports
  • Basic game concepts have universal appeal and people can recognize them quickly
  • Education (games are excellent teachers)
  • Invitation (give users an explicit invitation to participate – these are ways to nudge users towards certain actions)
  • Pitfalls
    • Don’t use points in a way that will distract users from what’s most important on the site
    • Don’t put a number on a bad behavior
    • Don’t oversimplify what’s important to your service
    • Don’t let people game the system – avoid anything that can be automated to success (challenging to avoid)
    • Avoid blocking people in to the point where they can’t build on top of your service or innovate new ways to use it (Twitter)
  • Reasons to do this stuff
    • Educates your users and makes them better users
    • Creates better differentiation for users
    • Users are more willing to collaborate

(Photo credit: Thermometer by flickr user slayer23.)

(Photo credit: My new netbook from flickr user yurukov.)

Well, actually, Google is all about the advertising, but that’s another article.

From the Twitter blog:

We went back to the original sketch and made everything far more awesome. Currently, a small subset of Twitter users are trying this new search feature in the sidebar of their Twitter home page. When you do a search, you don’t go to another page, the relevant tweets instantly show up where you’d expect them to—right on your home page where tweets love to be.

Take a look at the whole article. It’s awesome to see the design process boiled down to a simple sketch on a legal pad. Sometimes, the best ideas have very simple beginnings.

There’s been a small flurry of Kindle 2 and Kindle iPhone activity today:

Publishers Weekly says Kindle iPhone is a good app with flaws:

First, the good: the iPhone app gives you access to all of the books you’ve purchased at the Kindle store. It also syncs to the furthest page read in an e-book, so, in theory, firing up the iPhone app will take you to the exact spot where you left off reading in your Kindle. When it works, it’s pretty slick. But it doesn’t always, and the annoyed user then has to manually thumb through pages to find where they left off. Also, strangely, there’s no search functionality.

Their final words are also notable:

Amazon’s promotion of the iPhone app as a complement to the Kindle is spot on. It isn’t the most feature-packed reader and has irritating limitations, but it loads quickly and displays text as sharply as you’re going to find on a small LCD screen. Its kinship with the Kindle will make it the go-to ereader app for Kindle users, while its extensive catalog of e-books—nearly a quarter million—is the largest available and will certainly attract users.

I think that’s about the best appraisal of the Kindle iPhone app’s usefulness I’ve seen. The application certainly has flaws. I’ve been trying it out and playing with how it works, and I also have been comparing it to the Stanza reader, which I believe is the current front-runner for iPhone applications. Kindle iPhone is either rushed to market or intentionally gimped out of the gate, because it’s missing several key features that would have made it the de facto eBook reader on every iPhone.

Continue reading “Kindle iPhone/Kindle 2: Usability”