Information Density and Edward Tufte

From a dry (college professor style) video from Edward Tufte regarding a common data density design issue on the iPhone.


(screen shot taken from his video)

He mentions the cartoony interfaces and how many applications on the iPhone do not properly take advantage of the 163 DPI screen.

Looking at the weather example though, I’m not sure that his “fix” is what the average person wants as is. His suggestion, which does get me thinking (the whole point of his books and lectures), is that he’s blown the “at a glance” weather and temperature feature of the original design by making the graphics and fonts too small. When I’m looking for the weather, I’m most commonly interested in today’s weather (or the current weather). A 5 day forecast, although interesting, becomes less useful as general data as the number of days from today increases.

Although I appreciate a good satellite image as the next person :), the image is too big. I see no reason to not have a full size version available as a single “click” or gesture, and thumbnail the image for the rest of us. Increase the font sizes of everything else on the screen, and hopefully return the small weather icons to a usable, again, at a glance size.

How would you change the UI? (Or do you like Edward’s as-is?)

Cool looking WPF application on dnrTV

image Billy Hollis on Getting Smart with WPF

I didn’t watch the whole video from start to finish as I wasn’t too interested in the functionality as a whole — just the general feel. I’d suggest skipping to about 3 minutes in or so …

I’d be interested in seeing how they handle a lot of the edge cases — a lot of the screens look nice, but what happens if there are too many notes?

It’s an interesting and nice looking application — it’s hard to tell how keyboard friendly it would be though. It looks like it’s a mouse/keyboard/mouse/keyboard style interaction.

Although seeing a video of the application doesn’t necessarily do it justice, the animations seemed unnecessary and would be distracting after a few hours of use. Anytime you’re building something for someone else who has to use your product for many hours, consider whether the ‘glitz’ and animation you’ve added will become distracting or annoying.

One challenge we’ve noticed with WPF is that it’s hard to do high quality focus and validation elegantly. There are lots of options — but few that a good match for many data entry centric applications.


Although interesting that they have these little notes — and shows off the power of WPF, I’d twist them around to be horizontal so they’re easier to type into (it’s not natural to read or type at an angle like that and there’s no reason to do that to the user).


How difficult would it be to create an effective version of this for the web (not a clone, but a web-ized version of this application)? Thoughts?

Thanks to indyfromoz for the suggestion to watch the video detailing this WPF application.

Some WPF stuff…

From Chris, WPF Photo Print.

The joke at work is often, “Microsoft designed WPF to fit two niches, photos, and RSS readers.”

Not that there’s anything wrong with a photo printer. WPF seems to be good at “media”, less good at line of business applications. Bil discusses this very issue here.

I love DataTemplates in WPF. The rest — ah, isn’t as interesting to me anymore. Unless I needed the media features or DataTemplate feature, I wouldn’t use WPF for a line of business application anymore. I’d do web with a rich client (as needed) or WinForms. The barrier to entry for a large LOB application in WPF is too high for most.