Posts tagged "Apple"

Apple design guide

Notes From Apple’s 1980’s Design Guide

April 30, 2019 Posted by Design 0 thoughts on “Notes From Apple’s 1980’s Design Guide”

Software and the languages used to write them change over time, but the principles behind software design often remains intact. This is proven out when looking at any guidelines written in the 80’s. The languages and technology are all outdated, but the basic problems of design are easy to relate to. If, for example, you read Apple’s design guide for the Apple II, you could be convinced that it was a design guide written for the modern audience.


Here are some notes I’ve taken from the guide:


There are two primary functions of a good human interface design: make the product easy to learn, and make it easy to use. We all know that our customers can learn to use our programs faster if they look and act like other programs with which the customer is already familiar.

This design pattern is more about reigning in experimental design people who want to innovate rather than follow convention. It’s usually better to use interfaces that people are already used to using to lower the barrier of entry.


Human interface design should come into play from the very beginning. A good design is no mean task: expect to expend a great deal of design and programming effort toward a smooth interface. For most programs with a good human interface, the design of that interface consumes more design time, is more prone to bugs, and is harder to test than any other part.


This point still holds today. Human interface design includes both UX research and UI design. Those respective feilds have steps that start out at creating user stories and end at A/B testing designs till you get a perfect fit. Due to the nature of the process, a better design can be had if design is handled at the beginning of development so that designers don’t have to work around tools that have already been built by developers.


Human interface testing is quite different from the kind of exhaustive “boundary condition” testing used to uncover bugs. You should begin testing as early as possible, using drafted friends, relatives, and new employees, to uncover the really big holes in your design. As you get closer to a finished product, try it out on larger groups drawn from the target population.

It is imperative that the designers actually watch people use the program. Do not just send off copies of the program and expect written responses. Get the users and designers in a quiet room together.


It can be very tempting to limit usability research to surveys, but designers and users should be able to have a two way communication that allows for immediate feedback. UX researchers can even gauge a user’s impressions of a design simply by looking at a user’s body language, information that cannot be extracted from text.


User interaction should be simple and easy to remember. Spend the necessary time to design a user interface that presents the best trade off between alternate design issues.

Once the user has become basically familiar with the human interface, if she guesses at an unknown response, she should be correct 95% of the time.

This point is the most obvious, but one of the hardest to implement. Different people have different learning curves, and overall simplicity depends on the type of application. For example, a classical book web app(Libbri) that I partially designed attempts to simplify online reading by grouping chapters into an accordion menu. Interacting with the menu is simple and the plus UI is familiar to anyone that has interacted with a similar interface.


However, enterprise apps may deal with farm more complex interactions that are completely unique to a company. Simplicity for that app may mean something completely different. It may simply mean automating a tedious task.


Here are some bonus points to take away from Apple’s design guide:


Consistency: All programs written for a given computer should have as great a commonality as is practical.

Efficiency: The user should be able to perform a desired task in as little perceived time as possible.

Speed: Actual speed of operations is important, but perceived speed is even more important. React to user’s input immediately. A user will interpret any delay of more than a few tenths of a second after he has pressed RETURN to mean that either the program or the user has made an error. If you need to make a computation, first acknowledge that you have accepted the input.

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What Elizabeth Warren’s Big Tech Agenda Fails To Consider

March 8, 2019 Posted by News 0 thoughts on “What Elizabeth Warren’s Big Tech Agenda Fails To Consider”

It’s safe to say that most folks in the tech industry now know that Elizabeth Warren plans to break up big tech companies. That piece of news has created a firestorm within the tech industry. But the issue of big tech monopolies is nothing new. In 1998, around the time Microsoft was busy burying Netscape, the US Department of Justice filed an antitrust suit against Bill Gates, then the richest man in the world, and the richest tech company in the world in a case that is known as U.S. v. Microsoft.

Since Microsoft had such a dominant control over operating systems, the suit alleged that Microsoft was using its advantage to push its Internet Explorer browser in front of every PC user. In the end, the DOJ won the case. Though Netscape never recovered, we do now have Firefox and Chrome thanks to the open browser market.  There’s a great New York Times opinion piece that talks about a world where Microsoft was allowed to monopolize the tech industry. It’s a frightening one, if you know how buggy Microsoft’s products tend to be.

The point is that Warren has a point. There was something insidious about Facebook being able to tank Snapchat’s growth after the upstart company refused to bought out. One may call that a free market, but when Facebook has such a long arm in that market, it creates a ceiling for aspiring entrepreneurs.  The problem with Elizabeth Warren’s platform is not its goal, but the means by which she wants to achieve this goal. She wants to break up mergers without outlining the nuances between them and the economic ramifications of breaking up parts of a company.

Current antitrust laws empower federal regulators to break up mergers that reduce competition. I will appoint regulators who are committed to using existing tools to unwind anti-competitive mergers, including:

  • Amazon: Whole Foods; Zappos
  • Facebook: WhatsApp; Instagram
  • Google: Waze; Nest; DoubleClick

Unwinding these mergers will promote healthy competition in the market — which will put pressure on big tech companies to be more responsive to user concerns, including about privacy.


A major question that would have to be asked is, what type of merger occurred between company X and company Y? And how integrated have these companies become? In the tech world, it’s not uncommon for companies to acquire the talent and abandon the company they acquired. According to Alastair Rimmer, a writer for strategy+business, “Unlike other M&A cases, deals in which an incumbent acquires a tech startup are less about cost cutting and more about leveraging the target’s technical expertise and know-how.”

If that is the case, Facebook itself has now benefited from the talented know-how they acquired from WhatsApp and Instagram. Though Facebook claimed it would give the companies it acquired autonomy, the founders of WhatsApp and Instagram, to their dismay, found out that Facebook reneged on their promise of autonomy and began taking ownership off the app, pushing their product ideas onto them. For example, they started monetizing WhatsApp by placing ads, though WhatsApp’s founder, Brian Acton, vehemently disapproved. This led to him leaving Facebook.

However wrong this practice may be, it proves that Facebook has become more and more dependent on monetizing its acquisitions to remain highly profitable. Simply divesting the company of all of its acquisitions, may put it in a free fall that it may not be able to recover from. A Facebook in dire straits will be in no position to promote privacy, because it may have to lay off an entire division of R&D workers whose job is to research ways of improving privacy.

 Warren’s platform fails to consider the consequence of disrupting companies that are at the forefront of innovation. The money these companies are able to spend on researchers and highly skilled developers gives the development ecosystem at large the opportunity to use their well-crafted APIs. How many small dev shops have benefited from open source technology released by many of the big tech companies like Google? We have to remember that  U.S. v. Microsoft laid out practices that were evident of a monopoly.

Microsoft owned one of the few Operating Systems in town and had significant market share at the time. With that market share, they were able to create a high barrier of entry for Netscape’s Navigator by encouraging others to market Internet Explorer and by bundling it along with their OS free of charge. Article V, section E of the Facts and Findings says,

 136.In addition to improving the quality of Internet Explorer, Microsoft sought to increase the product’s share of browser usage by giving it away for free. In many cases, Microsoft also gave other firms things of value (at substantial cost to Microsoft) in exchange for their commitment to distribute and promote Internet Explorer, sometimes explicitly at Navigator’s expense.

While Microsoft might have bundled Internet Explorer with Windows at no additional charge even absent its determination to preserve the applications barrier to entry, that determination was the main force driving its decision to price the product at zero.

Furthermore, Microsoft would not have given Internet Explorer away to IAPs, ISVs, and Apple, nor would it have taken on the high cost of enlisting firms in its campaign to maximize Internet Explorer’s usage share and limit Navigator’s, had it not been focused on protecting the applications barrier.

137. In early 1995, personnel developing Internet Explorer at Microsoft contemplated charging OEMs and others for the product when it was released. Internet Explorer would have been included in a bundle of software that would have been sold as an add-on, or “frosting,” to Windows 95.

Indeed, Microsoft knew by the middle of 1995, if not earlier, that Netscape charged customers to license Navigator, and that Netscape derived a significant portion of its revenue from selling browser licenses.

Despite the opportunity to make a substantial amount of revenue from the sale of Internet Explorer, and with the knowledge that the dominant browser product on the market, Navigator, was being licensed at a price, senior executives at Microsoft decided that Microsoft needed to give its browser away in furtherance of the larger strategic goal of accelerating Internet Explorer’s acquisition of browser usage share. Consequently, Microsoft decided not to charge an increment in price when it included Internet Explorer in Windows for the first time, and it has continued this policy ever since.

In addition, Microsoft has never charged for an Internet Explorer license when it is distributed separately from Windows.


Microsoft’s practise of leveraging its current market advantage while undercutting its competition with the intention of gaining dominance in a new market was brazen enough to warrant Microsoft’s defeat in court. Yet, Microsoft wasn’t dismantled. The fight that will ensue if you threaten a company’s life by calling for its break up will take years to resolve.

You only need to look at U.S. v. IBM to realize how futile breaking up all of these big tech companies within two terms of office may be. According to a New York Times article written in 1981,the DOJ charged IBM with “monopolizing interstate trade and commerce in general-purpose digital computers.” The complaint was filed in 1969, went to trial in 1975, and ended in 1982 because the government withdrew the suit.

The tech industry is unlike any other industry in that time is counted in dog years. What proprietary piece of software did Facebook embed into Instagram’s code to make it more efficient and how has that software been iterated over the years? Does Waze even exist anymore? Do the developers there consider themselves fully-fledged Google employees? What will these companies look like after being broken up?

Questions like these and much more is something that Warren’s campaign must address. For now, the proposals just seem like a knee jerk reaction to the Facebook drama that has made for interesting water-cooler talk over the years.





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Apple wants app developers to use a subscription model (Video)

September 14, 2018 Posted by News, Video 0 thoughts on “Apple wants app developers to use a subscription model (Video)”

Apple is encouraging app developers to make the switch to a subscription model, rather than a one-off purchase cost or in-app purchases to unlock features.

It’s now continuing this push with a new video on its developer site …

The developers behind Elevate, Dropbox, Calm, and Bumble share how they create great customer experiences by continuing to provide value throughout the subscription lifecycle. Featuring: Jesse Germinario, Elevate; Ly Nguyen, Dropbox; Tyler Sheaffer, Calm; Sarah Jones Simmer, Bumble.

The appeal for developers is obvious: subscriptions generate the holy grail of tech businesses, recurring income. But users appear less convinced. A survey back in July found that the majority of iOS app users prefer a one-time payment to a subscription.

However, developers appearing in the video – likely shot at WWDC – argue that subscriptions benefit users as well as developers. They suggest that a subscription model gives user an opportunity to assess the value of a service without a larger one-off payment; that you’re funding continual development of the app; and that developers are incentivized to ensure that they continue to offer what customers want.

Apple advises developers to make a clear pitch and ensure the sign-up process is simple.

When communicating your subscriptions in your app and marketing materials, use clear, consistent messaging to make it easy for users to recognize the value of the offer. Include the value proposition of your subscription, a succinct call to action, and clear pricing and subscription terms.

Keep the purchase flow simple and only ask for necessary information upfront. Having too many steps or taking too much time for a user to sign up will lower your subscription conversion rate.

Provide prompts to subscribe in your app’s onboarding, and consider providing a persistent subscription button throughout the app interface.

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