Niki Tonsky: Hardest Problem in Computer Science: Centering Things

Niki Tonski with a very well-illustrated post on centering text, icons, and UI elements.

The problem is explored in great detail. Every big company fails at this. Type (font) design and UI design and icon design are all part of the problem.

After the build-up, this part killed me:

What can be done: icons fonts






I recommend looking at the pictures to spot all the annoying alignment problems and have a good time with this.

Facilitate Non-Artists to Sketch

At my work at university, I was often a facilitator for groups in workshops to produce unique insights and interesting visualizations. We experimented with a lot of things – one particularly successful idea was pair-programming, but for presentation-making. Not every pair thrived, but all pairs found out something new in the process. So I’m – well, not “on the hunt”, more like: passively fishing for new ideas like this all the time.

Just this week I came across Nielsen Norman Group’s newsletter edition about sketching of diagrams, user interfaces, and stuff like that: “How to Get Stakeholders to Sketch: A Magic Formula”. Their formula boils down to 4 key components to encourage non-artists to participate, reduce their averse feelings, and create visualizations:

  1. Use fat markers: thick strokes look more sketchy than thin lines, so they’ll think about the general picture more;
  2. Tiny spaces: folded paper or note cards can help to overcome the fear of the blank paper;
  3. Time Limits that are enforced by the facilitator can help to encourage high quantity output.
  4. Ugly Examples that are very lo-fi encourage participants to draw ugly stuff as well

There’s no real magic involved, but this is useful advise to keep in mind when you prepare the next brainstorming session or meeting.

Switch VS Checkbox in User Interface Design

Teaser image
switch and checkbox

On the Mac, toggle or switch widgets aren’t very common, yet. On iOS, you don’t see lots of checkboxes. This article on UX Movement points out that switches are for immediate actions while changes to checkboxes require a submit button to be pressed.

Now I think about preference panes in Mac apps. They usually perform changes to NSUserDefaults immediately. But using switches on a Mac still feels wrong. Maybe just because I’m not used to it, but still.

macOS’s Notification Center has a switch to toggle “Do not Disturb”. It works, but I don’t use it a lot, so there’s not much opportunity to get accustomed to it.

Check Boxes in AppKit

Check boxes in AppKit are realized with buttons. The API reads kind of weird, because the NSButton.state property does so many things, so here’s a simple subclass I do sometimes employ: Now it’s easy to use checkbox.isChecked = true. I’d even consider check() and uncheck() commands if I used this in many places to reduce the noise and clarify what’s going on further, maybe.

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