23 Mar
   Filed Under: News   

I’ve been writing on this little blog — the blog with the name nobody can pronounce — since 2007. I’ve posted about user interfaces, procedurally generated art, typography, games, my life, and many more things. But all good, hilariously poorly coded things come to an end.

Later, guys.

Cocoia, as a company, was retired last year when I joined doubleTwist and moved to the United States. Today, this blog, too, will be retired, in favor of dewith.com, my personal blog. Sebastiaan de With’s blog, I call it.

I even posted a list on the new blog of stuff you may be looking for when you look me up on Google. I’ll keep this place online, but it’ll be in stasis. It’s been a fun ride and I’ll remember and preserve the good times we had on this old website (remember when the original creators of Photoshop came by? Ah, fun times). I am happy I’ll be able to finally write again.

On to new adventures.

17 Nov
   Filed Under: Design, doubleTwist, News   

So today, I read this post showing Samsung’s current product lineup. It reminded me of my lovely mother-in-law (no, she really is lovely!) asking me about Android phones a few weeks ago. And of course, it *is* confusing to the average consumer what phone to get. I mean, there’s a lot of options. Do you want the Samsung Galaxy S™ II Epic™ 4G Touch (this is an actual product name. No, seriously, someone actually calls their phone that.), a Kyocera Milano? How about a Huawei M835? The Shenyang J-11? Whoops, that last one is actually a Chinese air superiority fighter, not a phone. I get confused sometimes.

So how many options are there exactly? Let’s limit ourselves to the US. And AT&T, MetroPCS, T-Mobile and Verizon. And I won’t show all the options of colors.

Take your pick.

15 Jun
   Filed Under: Announcement, Commercial Work, doubleTwist, News   

On March 30, I raised quite a few questions on Twitter when I changed my handle from the old @cocoia to @sdw — a shorthand for my full name, Sebastiaan de With. I also bought (and put some pages up for) domains like dewith.com and sebdw.com. I mentioned that I’d announce my motives sometime in the future. Some people speculated I was going to expand Cocoia, others (interestingly relevant today) assumed Cocoia was acquired.

It’s none of the above. I’m putting Cocoia in carbonite for a while as I start my first full-time job in the United States: I will be joining doubleTwist as Chief Creative Officer, responsible for overseeing and working on the design, interaction and polish of all their apps and services. I’ve been working with the awesome people at doubleTwist as a freelancer for years now and I’m really, really stoked to give them my full attention. We’ve been working on some extremely cool stuff.

I’ve interviewed with over a dozen companies early this year, and my joining doubleTwist is the conclusion of a long period of weighing all the awesome opportunities I had. You may have seen me traverse all the valley campuses on social networks as I ‘shopped’ around. A luxury problem if there ever was one: picking a job from all these kickass companies. doubleTwist is undoubtedly the best choice, though: working with Jon (– of ‘DVD Jon‘ fame) and Monique has always been a pleasure, and the other staff are some of the most detail oriented and talented I’ve known in the industry.

In related news, I will be moving to San Francisco soon. As a city, it’s a fantastic place to live. As a place, it’s where I truly feel at home out of all the places in the world. I can’t wait to be living and working there.

What does this mean to you, my reader and / or customer, and my ‘behavior’ online? Icon Resource and other Cocoia products will still be supported and developed. I will still work on side projects, UI breakdowns, speak at conferences and (loudly) voice my opinion on things. I will be working more with Android (and possibly, as they emerge, more mobile OSes).

I will, however, no longer accept freelance work. After six years of freelance designing, this is truly the end of an era. Thanks to all my awesome clients, large and small, and my ‘competitors’ for being awesome inspiring designers I was proud to share a market with. You know who you are. I’m sure we’ll work together again in the future. For now, goodbye.

And, of course, I’ll be showing off some of the awesome things I’ve been working on for doubleTwist very soon.

28 Feb
   Filed Under: Apple, Design, News, webOS   

There’s some discussion on Apple-centric and tech news websites about a video that’s doing the rounds with a new approach to notifications for iOS. While the system in the video is really nothing new (there’s been at least one alternative notification system in the App-Store-for-jailbroken-phones “Cydia” since 2010) it is getting a lot of attention, presumably because iOS users are quite satisfied with almost all the interactions of the OS except those dang stacking modal dialogs that interrupt your game of Angry Birds every time you get a text message.

And I can relate: when I am abroad, with my three email accounts, whenever I open Mail on my iPhone, I have to dismiss three ‘data roaming is off’ dialogs, and three ‘cannot get mail’ dialogs ( — that’s one per mail account). On an iPad, it can be even more jarring, with a tiny alert disabling the whole 9.7″ screen until you act on it.

This is a real issue. I have no doubt Apple is aware of this, like they were aware of copy and paste and multi-tasking.

This is not a post about what Apple will or should do to improve notifications on iOS. It’s a post talking about what solutions other platforms currently use to notify the user, and why Apple is (possibly, probably) taking such a while to create an optimal solution to the notification problem.

Continue reading…

11 Feb
   Filed Under: Interface Design, News, Unfiled, webOS   

It’s not a big secret that I’m a big fan of webOS’ design and premise. While my primary phone for daily use is an iPhone, I’ve used Android and webOS phones alike for extended periods of time and I always miss some of webOS’ interface polish. It’s simply a delight to use intensively.

Yesterday, HP (fare ye well, Palm) announced its summer device lineup, far in advance of release. Presumably, to let developers start working on apps early and show consumers they might want to hold out on getting that Android or iOS tablet. Leaving discussion about the (lack of) wisdom of announcing now and tea-leaf reading of when we might see the competition show up out of things, I want to focus on the new devices’ hardware and share some thoughts on their user interface.

The TouchPad:

Gesture Area / “Home Button”: The TouchPad actually lacks the familiar (and brilliant) Pre / Pixi ‘gesture area’, which lets you swipe left or right and up to respectably go forward or back in navigation or open the launcher for opening apps. Several employees familiar with the matter told me that in the development phase of the TouchPad, the gesture area (or having even four of them on each side of the screen) didn’t hold up as a usable solution. The real question for developers and interface designers is how going back and forth in apps is handled now. I suspect it would be a button in the UI, much like in iOS.

Panes: While some bloggers are quick to dismiss parts of the TouchPad UI as ‘rip offs’ of iPad’s, more study reveals there’s a lot of clever work in there. Personally, I never use my iPad in portrait because Mail, for instance, is barely usable without a list of emails to easily jump back and forth for triage.

The TouchPad solves this problem with ‘grabbers’ on the toolbars of each pane. The user can easily rearrange the UI layout, either showing the email content completely, or showing a both the source list and the content. Further scrolling the email content away reveals the Mail accounts, similar to the navigation stack of the emails column on iPad. It’s a clever solution that’s implemented in all multi-pane apps on the system and never locks you in to a layout.

Notifications: Obviously, the notifications UI is one of webOS’ core strengths. Not even Android handles incoming information and user notifications this elegantly. On the tablet, they settled with bringing them up in the status bar. Android (on phones) also puts notification icons in the status bar, and with the status (wifi, battery, network, alarm) icons, it quickly turns into a bar literally filled with icons and badges. This made me a bit pessimistic about the notification handling on webOS for tablets.

Fortunately, it’s actually quite great. Notifications slide in from the top, separate from the clock and status information: something like an email would come in, show sender and subject and then slide right and fade out into a subtle white email icon. The notifications get their own, clearly demarcated area in the status bar and some can even be swiped through from there:

Overall, a very nicely designed experience. Once again, iOS looks rather bad with either only using badges or tiny, yet modal dialogs interrupting your workflow.

The Pre 3: (image by Engadget)

The Pre 3 has an IPS LCD (valuable information I got loose yesterday) screen at 800×480. I am very happy that it doesn’t use (SAM)OLED technology, as in my opinion they’re a bad stopgap to solve the LCD pixel density and power usage problem. You start to wonder what kind of contracts Apple has with Sharp, considering only Sharp and Apple currently ship devices with 960×640 pixel IPS LCD displays. I bet some of the billions in cash they spend was used to buy a lot — if not all — of Sharp’s manufacturing capacity for these extremely advanced screen panels.

That out of the way, the panel on the Pre 3 is beautiful. Its viewing angles are great, the colors pop, and it has a great black point. Representatives from Palm were very pressing in letting me know the hardware wasn’t completely final, but I believe we won’t see changes to the display quality at this point.

Size-wise (I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of it next to my iPhone) it’s almost the same size as the iPhone. It’s slightly thicker but quite slim, which is a feat considering the built-in keyboard. The screen is slightly larger (3.6″) than the iPhone 4′s. There are no plans to enable an on-screen keyboard.

The Veer:

At the hands-on area it seemed the Veer is pretty much done. It’s an impressive device: it has absolutely no lagginess, the build quality is extremely impressive. Not much to say on designing for it, as it’s the device I am least interested in, but the display quality looked good: standard density (comparable to, say, the Pre / Pixi) but nice viewing angles. Nothing to write home about.

Miscellaneous Design Thoughts and answers to Twitter questions:

When you dock your webOS device (wirelessly), it goes into ‘Exhibition’ mode, which can show things like a clock, upcoming events, notifications and photo slideshows. It’s said webOS will include a feature to intelligently switch between what to show in Exhibition based on your physical location.

Touching a webOS phone and tablet lets them ‘push’ information to each other, like sharing a webpage. This is an impressive technology — I couldn’t get any answers on what is being used for this. Presumably NFC.

TouchPad can take calls and texts from webOS phones thanks to Bluetooth pairing.

No official word on it, but HP aims for ‘global availability’ of new webOS products.

No word on UI conventions for PC / Laptop webOS.

App dock icons (and dock height) for the TouchPad / Pre 3 are 63 pixels. They’re smaller on the screen of the Pre 3, obviously, due to the much higher pixel density, but an interesting bit regardless.

It seems current icon guidelines call for realistically rendered (OS X-style) app icons, glyphs in circles for toolbar icons and colored, more detailed icons for source lists and source panes.

Designing for various screen sizes is made easier through Palm’s development model and tools, which are obviously based on web technologies like CSS. With non-pixel units it’s quite easy to ensure widgets and text scale right. Apps can be built with Palm’s new ‘Enyo’ framework to scale a multi-pane tablet view to a simple one-column view on phones. Truly a ‘universal’ approach to developing applications.

And that’s all. Feel free to leave more questions in the comments.

27 Jan
   Filed Under: Interface Design, News   

When Sony presented its “Next Generation Portable” device (which I’ll refer to as ‘PSP2′ for the rest of the post) and other plans for portable gaming yesterday, they proudly started their presentation with a bold slide: (images courtesy of Engadget)

Now, when Sony does a bold claim like this, I get very excited. The interface they introduced in 2003 with the mediocre “PSX” product and later used as the main UI for their flagship consoles like the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation Portable was known as the “XrossMediaBar“, and despite its awkward — ‘X-treme marketing’ — name, it was (and still is) an amazing piece of work. In fact, Sony managed to innovate in the stale and extremely unfriendly gaming console interface and create something that was devoid of useless flashy crap, extremely scalable, discoverable, elegant and intuitive.

That’s why it’s no surprise that Sony has decided to outright kill the XMB in its PSP2 console and replace it with an absolute train-wreck UI that shows they lost all sense of what a good interface looks like.

Continue reading…