The Rise and Fall of The Desktop

This is Not my Beautiful House: Examining the Desktop Metaphor, 1980-1995

This essay by Everest Pipkin examines the rise of the ‘desktop’ as the dominant UI in the 80s and 90s, the various ways it was implemented, as well as attempts to remake it to be more user-friendly, rather than merely business-friendly.

Ultimately, though, it was the World Wide Web that would provide that user-friendly interface, by giving the users the power to make their own environment. And in many ways, the web would subsequently drive the evolution of the user interfaces we have today.

The War on Bezels

Removing bezels from TVs, phones and tablets can cause rather than solve problems in tech

Craig Grannell:

In phones, removing the bezel now appears to be some kind of holy grail, and, frankly, this baffles me. Sure, I don’t want a massive chunky bezel that makes a device seem like it’s rocked up from a 1985 concept video. But most of the time, I want a bezel in a screen-based device. A frame around content provides focus. And with a tablet, it provides somewhere for your thumbs to go, rather than them covering what you’re looking at and interacting with.

It’s also notable that in the Android space, attempts to remove the bezel have resulted in some horribly ugly creations. Companies triumphantly boast about stripping the bezel back, but on devices that retain a ‘chin’, thereby resulting in something that looks visually imbalanced. At that point, the breathless rush to remove the bezel has not only impacted on user experience, but also visual design.

I have an idea. Persuade the designers to make the phone thicker, so that the screen can curve over the edges but there’s still a bezel the user can hold. (Bonus: makes room for larger battery, less need to push rear camera out from body of phone.)

The End of Indie Web Browsers: You Can (Not) Compete

Samuel Maddock:

In 2017, the body responsible for standardizing web browser technologies, W3C, introduced Encrypted Media Extensions (EME)—thus bringing with it the end of competitive indie web browsers.

No longer is it possible to build your own web browser capable of consuming some of the most popular content on the web. Websites like Netflix, Hulu, HBO, and others require copyright content protection which is only accessible through browser vendors who have license agreements with large corporations.

As someone who remembers the many different web browsers that were around in the early-to-mid-90s, this makes me very sad. 🙁

The W3C and the main browser makers (with the exception of Mozilla, who did put up a fight against this at the time) all share responsibility for allowing the ‘entertainment’ industry to shackle the open web.

Reminder: Technology Can Empower You

Embrace technology that empowers you

Adrian Vila:

Today’s technology gives us incredibly powerful tools to create and express ourselves, and many options to share that art. I believe this is the golden age of photography: there’s a lot of noise but people are creating amazing images nowadays, much better than they used to be, and they are more accessible than ever.

We tend to romanticise the past and we forget that photographers like Ansel Adams lived on the edge of technology, using the latest cameras and film stocks, trying to perfect the medium, always experimenting with new techniques. He didn’t idealise photographers or technologies from the XIX century, he strived to improve them.

My Inbox, My Rules

Today, I came across 98 Voices via Chris Coyier’s Email Is Good.

This amuses me on so many levels. The presumptuousness of these ‘thought leaders’ (good grief, I hate that phrase!) The continuing (un)helpfulness of Gmail. But most of all, the petitioning of Google to allow this app to reverse reality and declare promotional emails not-remotely-promotional-no-siree.

I receive a few promotional emails in my inbox. One of those is from Seth Godin, one of the 98 voices. I do get to see his emails, because a) I use FastMail, b) FastMail doesn’t enforce filtering of my inbox for me, c) I can do my own filtering, so I read it when I want to.

Added irony: the reason I’m subscribed to Seth’s newsletter is because his blog doesn’t have an RSS feed.

You probably won’t be surprised to hear, then, that I get a lot more insightful commentary from my RSS feeds than I do from my email inbox.

My inbox, my rules. If you think that you can dictate to me how I receive your message, you’re probably not going to stay on my radar. Sorry.

I got some text messages and emails over the last 24 hours to let me know that my direct debits have been changed over. So fingers crossed, that means that my bank switch is going without any hitches!
Two mobile phone handsets side by side. Lenovo PHAB2 on the left, iPhone SE on the right.

The Little iPhone That Could

It’s coming up for a year since I switched from a huge Android phone to the tiny iPhone SE. So I wanted to write a bit about why I switched and what my experience has been like.


Before getting the Android phone (a Lenovo PHAB2) I’d owned an iPhone 4S. The 4S had served me well but was now showing its age and was no longer supported by Apple. I know from experience that app support tends to tail off, and those apps that still run have a harder time operating.

Continue reading The Little iPhone That Could

Gripe about Medium

(This was originally posted as a comment to @baldur on Micro.blog.)

Opening the link caused Medium to open their ‘helpful’ overlay inviting me to create an account. Thankfully, Reader View kicked in so I didn’t have to glare at it for long. However, because of the ‘clever’ lazy-load way that Medium loads images in their articles, I then had to turn off Reader View, and close the overlay, in order to see any of the images in full rather than fuzzy low-res. Another reason why I tend to avoid Medium as a source for reading or inspiration.

The Perils of Assuming Google is Good at Design

Listen To Me And Not Google

Heydon Pickering, from his critique of Google’s Material Design:

Here’s the thing: Google are not successful because they know how to design inputs. Astonishing, I know, but Google are not the artisan purveyors of fine forms for which you may have mistaken them. They make their money by other means.

This isn’t a new problem, either. While it’s great that a company will ‘dog-food’ its own products to prove that they work, that just proves that it works for them. Failing to take the needs of your users or customers into consideration, or worse still adopting a not-invented-here attitude, is just storing up problems that could come back to bite you, hard. Microsoft should know that by now. So should Apple.