Archive for 2009

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Making an iWork-style toolbar icon

Posted on 31 March, 2009 at 9:44pm with 10 comments

In Mac OS X applications, toolbar icons are the illustrative UI shortcuts that appear beneath the title bar. You’ll see a few different styles of these depending on the application, but generally speaking they are relatively small and colorful, meant to be easy to remember. If you plan to design toolbar icons, you should start with the section devoted to them in the Apple Human Interface Guidelines.

While the HIG has a lot of good information, it doesn’t go into the details of implementation, so I’m going to go through the process of how I would design a toolbar icon. I’ve chosen the iWork style because I really like how crisp and clear they are, and I think they are a good model to work towards.
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The keyboard is a crutch, or why web design is boring and irrelevant

Posted on 6 March, 2009 at 6:41pm with 50 comments

Ah, spring. Another Webstock has passed and SXSW is coming around the corner. I remember a time when I dreamed of going to the big web conferences, talking to exciting people working on exciting things, and meeting people I admired: Tantek Celik, Molly Holzschlag, Doug Bowman, Dan Cederholm. I started out in web design right as CSS was taking hold as a great way to make beautiful and flexible layouts. As my career unfolded I saw the growing popularity of Google, the introduction of Firefox, the beginning of the standards movement, and the explosion of AJAX, Rails, and web 2.0.

It’s easy to think I work in an an exciting, dramatic field that’s always pushing the boundaries of what’s possible, and continually reinventing itself in new and better ways. Users love the web, right? We’ve done a great job, haven’t we?
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How to survive in a Star Trek episode

Posted on 19 February, 2009 at 1:50pm with 6 comments

expendability_star_trek

We all know where this is going.

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Working with your designer

Posted on 18 February, 2009 at 6:56pm with 1 comment »

One thing I’ve noticed as I work with clients is that many people, especially engineers, have little to no experience working with creative professionals. Sometimes this can lead to a tense relationship, so I’ve found it helps to lay out guidelines for interaction in a nice, explicit way. Here are a few of the more general points I end up repeating a lot.
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Anne’s Picks for Totally Awesome Interactive Fiction

Posted on 3 February, 2009 at 12:11am with 5 comments

Being a computer nerd growing up in the 80s, I was lucky enough to have first-hand exposure to some of the greatest interactive fiction games of all time. My parents played Colossal Cave together on our Apple ][ and it was my mom who figured out the answer to the insidious final puzzle. Our basement was (and probably still is) full of Zork maps, notes, and drawings from a time before FAQs were plentiful and free on the internet. Some of those games took us six months or more to solve (Suspended, I’m looking at you) and required collective effort from our entire family. It was awesome.

Many computer folk were IF players back in the day. But what you may not know is that there is still an active community of people writing and distributing these games. And best of all, both the games and the interpreters are free! I don’t think the quality of these “amateur” games is any lower than the Infocom games I played in my youth. If anything, I think the genre has grown in incredible ways, and you can find some truly unique stories and play experiences in the IF archive.

So, let’s dig. I’ll tell you about a few of my favorites, and you’ll go play them. All you need is an interpreter (I recommend Spatterlight for the Mac).
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