Flash mock-up for iPhone app design

Some of our classes are overlapping (as they should) in a project to design an iPhone app. Designing an iPhone app can be done using Flash. In doing research, we watched a video about it by Edward Tufte. Here is my response.

“If the information is in chaos, don’t start throwing out information, instead fix the design.”

“To clarify, add detail.”

Those seem to be Edward Tufte’s crucial points about the iPhone interface. But they are just words. And I am feeling more and more like good design is a feeling, a skill that can’t exactly be taught.

What does he mean by detail? Because obviously it’s not a good idea to just keep adding more information to an interface. As he points out, it can begin to feel cluttered. Plus the text says that information should only take up 18 percent of an interface. So he says, “add detail.” How does one add detail? Does he mean the way the screen is such a high resolution? Is that the way the iPhone added detail? Or the way a toolbar that takes up too much space is made transparent? Is the transparency the detail?

I’m worried that detail is just another word that doesn’t quite convey what true designers do to assess whether a design needs to be fixed. Many people can see when an interface isn’t working, but it takes a deeper understanding or intuition to understand how to fix that.

Unfortunately, “add detail” doesn’t deepen my understanding.

I liked the second option he showed for a weather interface. But I couldn’t tell if he was supporting that or not. I could interpret his words to mean that it was too cluttered. He seemed to think the weather app was “elegant” and a good thing to show off to friends? So what was wrong with the detailed map? I would think that the animated weather map would suck the iPhone battery dry more quickly, but I don’t really know. I wonder if that’s something that is considered in iPhone app design.

Tufte did point out a few things that I found valuable. It’s the resolution of the iPhone screen that makes a drastic difference. Design looks better with the added detail. Hm, maybe that’s all he meant by “add detail.” But somehow I don’t think that’s the case…

The other thing I understand better now is how effective the disappearing administrative buttons (or whatever he called them) are. They’re there if you need them, but they fade away if you’d like to focus on the information. Genius.

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