The Big Reveal

I think I'm seeing people who understand that computer UIs are part of a continuum, and the other people who still see stuff in a "big reveal" sort of way.

The ones who understand motion and calm....and the ones who understand big damn guitar solos.

Somehow the Microsoft and Adobe UIs have that big, guitars-screeching, moment where everything violently comes together, the moment you say, Ah, where you say, oh I'm glad I spent all this money. It's the TV channel ID animation 2% of the time, and the rest of the time it's kinda clunky.

And Apple has that moment of calm in between all the other smooth responsive intuitive stuff, they believe the reveal has to be all the freaking time, that making something continuous and animated and smart is better than the big progress bar with a clunk at the end. Or the other thing, that when you want it to be still is showing you tickers and motion, and when you want it to be responsive is totally locked up.

I think the truth is that it takes a lot more work to be calm. It takes a whole bunch of people saying, what if we sand this edge, and what if we make this a curve instead of a hard corner, and what if it felt like this? It's much easier to have a couple big important people say, we're going to spend our juice here...the rest can be old and boring, but we're going to make you really happy right now. It will look great on TV.

The crescendo, end of the world moment, where something distinctly unnatural happens, isn't how I want to interact with my world. The place with all the motion curves thought out, that leaves me calm is much better.

And I think people don't understand why this is better. But it is very easy to interrupt the human brain. You surprise me or make me feel grateful or create that emotional moment? You make me forget my goals, what I was doing, what the next step interrupt flow.

If you make a simple machine that works perfectly....a door that closes so it doesn't rattle, even a bit, just clicks, then I go on with my life and do the next thing with my own focus intact and a continuity that matters. If I close a Microsoft Door, it wiggles a little bit to get my attention, and then it kinda sticks at the end because nobody really figured that this part of the animation would matter. If I close an Adobe Photoshop Door, it is kind of like closing my takes a while, and you have to watch it before you go through it. The Javascript door could work fine, except it's jerky, like 5 frames per second. There are even worse doors than this, ones that get stuck and ones that squeak so you think, wow I have to fix that, so compared to these old doors Microsoft and Adobe have done something interesting.

But yeah, Apple's doors are getting better every month. Sometimes you don't even have to say you want to close them, they just do. And other times they have the perfect motion curve so that if you're carrying something they close right behind you without touching. And that little click at the end is delightful.

And amazingly, they keep working on their doors because it seems to matter to them. They don't use the same one as last time.

But yeah, no more big reveals. Life isn't a slideshow, it's a continuous experience, and the little things matter, and it takes years and years to get this stuff right. Don't allow your user experience people to be disconnected from using and tweaking the software people actually use. If you don't work this way, you won't, um, know what door hit you in the butt on the way out.

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