The Transcendental GUI (was a thread from REALbasic vs. Revolution)

Richard Gaskin ambassador at
Sat Oct 12 02:48:01 EDT 2002

Chipp Walters wrote:

> Sticking to the interface was important up until...the advent of multimedia.
> Then button rollovers, sounds, effects, beautiful revealling interfaces
> changed it all. Kai Krause showed interfaces could be different, beautiful,
> intuitive and still work. Though Apple still would like to see you stick
> with their interface guidelines, the reality is that it's no more a
> necessity. Good interface design *is* good interface design -- on any
> platform (throbbing buttons notwithstanding;-).
> The web came along and changed completely the interface paradigm. People
> learned to 'search' for features and use 'back' buttons, be modal
> etc...things the early Apple I/F authors would deplore! In fact a selling
> point for some very high-end software is a ubiquitous interface across
> platforms (Lightwave,Alias,Avid come to mind).
> One thing I do admire about Windows, is the lack of a 'holy ordained look'
> (just my opinion).

Very important topic, Chipp.

I'm writing an article on application design, and I could use some help from
the folks on this list.

The article has a working title of:

   The Transcendental GUI:
   The case for platform-independent application design

The article will examine the UI differences between the four major desktop
OS families (Mac Classic, Aqua, Win32, UNIX/Linux), and explore ways to
design GUIs with a single interface which comforms to the spirit of the
respective OS Human Interface Guidelines, but transcends some of the
specifics in favor of greater interoperability.

If Apple realy wants people to switch, "not invented here" or "lickable" are
no substitutes for user testing.  Sooner or later the various window
managers in the Linux world will have to come in from outer space if they
want a share of the desktop.  And Windows is simply noisy and garish.

Driven by the Web (where folks spend most of their computing time) and
multi-computer households, the desktop is already in a state of flux whether
we acknowledge it in our designs or not.

The needs of OS vendors differ from the needs of users.  OS vendors derive
value from the very differentiation that hinders trans-OS adoption.  In an
increasingly interoperable world, we have an opportunity to provide guidance
to OS vendors by encouraging independent thought that's user-centered rather
than vendor-centered.
One of the challenges I've had in researching this article is finding
examples of popular platform-independent GUIs which take liberties with
OS-specific guidelines.

LimeWire is an obvious example of even extreme disregard for convention
failing to affect popularity, and of course there's Kai's work (although I
have some personal problems with much of his stuff).  But I'm having a tough
time finding others.

If you know of an application that is popular, runs on at least two
platforms, and takes significant liberties with the native UI, I'd love to
take a look at it.

PS: good article on these issues from '96:

The Anti-Mac Interface
by Don Gentnera and Jakob Nielsen

 Richard Gaskin 
 Fourth World Media Corporation
 Custom Software and Web Development for All Major Platforms
 Developer of WebMerge 2.0: Publish any database on any site
 Ambassador at
 Tel: 323-225-3717                       AIM: FourthWorldInc

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