A cartoon in the New Yorker a few years back shows a lady of the night leaning into the window of a luxury car, saying to the potential customer "...and for an extra $50, you can show me your Palm Pilot." Yeah, I get that. Perhaps only the pretensions of wine enthusiasts are more stultifying than the enthusiasm of iPhone early adopters. At the risk of worsening my reputation in this realm, I offer an essay and short video clip brought to my attention by my friend Joe Kerchen. It is done by perhaps the leading visual information architect of our age, Edward Tufte, and explains the aspects of the iPhone that make it a transformational piece of technology. Oh... and a few of its faults, as well.
What struck me about this worthwhile GuruTube video is that it answers the question that many have asked me, but for which I had no satisfactory answer: "is it better than other Blackberry-like devices, and why?" I have always disclaimed experience with other such, and muttered about its intuitive user interface. Uh huh. Tufte articulates reasons that support the intuited virtues, and argues convincingly their value beyond phones.
One point has to do with reduction of computer administrative clutter, and the importance of keeping the ratio of content to administrative debris high. Navigational operations reside in the user's hands (fingers) not on the screen.
He criticizes some of the iPhone screens as cartoonish and Powerpointish, and illustrates how they might be improved. To close, he evinces the general (and somewhat startling) principle:
Clarify by adding detail: clutter is a failure of design, not of data.
If you haven't seen this video, and are interested in user interface design, it is worth a look.
An image of Rainier-San with a contrailed lenticular cap approaching from the southwest, taken early on a morning during the spectacular winter rain-respite of late January.