Google Interprets Material in Many Ways

Material Design isn’t one single thing, even at Google.

I spent about 5 minutes taking some screenshots of different Google properties and their interpretation of Google Material Design. None of these are “pre-material”. Quick looks:

The new Google Calendar is much better than the original mess. However, they are stretching material in new ways. Notice the blue SAVE button on the top right. Also, the fields have background colors and icons on the left.

Google Inbox (to me) is a nice improvement over GMail. Notice the blue SEND button on the bottom left. Form elements are transparent with gray lines.

The new Google Contacts is very material-y. Notice the form elements and the SAVE button at the bottom right with no box around it.

In Maps, Adding a place is pretty lame. This feels pre-material, but notice the slightly different button at the bottom right.

The sign in is a big NEXT button with material form elements.

The edit home address in maps has a SAVE button on the top to the left of a cancel link. No background box here.

The new Google Analytics is still pretty old. Yuck.

Google keep has a DONE link (not SAVE) with no button box on the bottom right.

I could go on and on.  What is the point?

The Point
The point is that there is no such thing as perfect Material Design. If you are using it at all, you must realize that even at Google, they are making it up as they go along. They have rough guidelines, but even things as simple as form elements and SAVE buttons are done in a wide variety of ways. The shadows aren’t consistent, the placements aren’t consistent. Nothing is consistent.

If you use Material at all, you are in danger of looking “off guideline” because Material is not a robust enough system to cover every case.

You need to make your design be different enough to claim it is YOUR style. Don’t just ape the material guidelines. Have a style that is unique to your situation and case. One day Material will seem old and dated. Don’t be a slave to the fashion.

My Dog has Pancreatitis

Pancreatitis happens when the pancreas becomes inflamed. That’s an organ near the stomach that helps digest food and control blood sugar. (Source)

Leroy was not eating and passing blood all over the floor. It’s freaking me out.

The treatment is not really a treatment. You give him fluids and hope it goes away. Modern medicine is amazing and can do crazy things, but doctors will also admit that they really don’t understand 99% about how our bodies really work.

One colleague was talking about anesthesia that his child had received. The doctor said they know that certain drugs will knock you out for some period of time, but they really don’t understand WHY they knock you out or why some people react more or less to certain drugs.

Our bodies are incredibly complicated. This doesn’t mean we won’t understand them one day, but for today, it’s mostly a mystery. I remember my wrist odyssey being so frustrating because no one really knew what was wrong.

Doctors often look for the usual suspects and then give up or start experimenting until they stumble upon the right answer.

Health Care is the most amazing thing and the most frustrating thing in modern society. No wonder people get so riled up about it.

Axure RP Revisited 2017

Just for kicks, I downloaded Axure RP. I have been using Figma and thought, “I wonder how long it would take me to make this in Axure. 10 min later, I was giving it a try.

Meta Point
Whenever you are curious about something, just do it. Don’t wish for it, don’t hem and haw. Just follow Shia LeBeouf’s advice.

It’s amazing to me how many people think curious thoughts and then refuse to act upon them. OK, </soapBox>

Axure Review
Bottom line: Axure is by far the most flexible prototyping tool short of actually programming the UI. It is so ridiculously powerful that the limit is truly your imagination. <fullStop>

Design principle #3: Simple things should be simple and complex things should be possible.

Unfortunately, Axure does not follow this design principle. Everything is complicated. Everything.  The perfect use case for Axure is “Big company, lots of people, need to test the shit out of the UI”. For example let’s say you wanted to test the software that controls a big piece of medical equipment like a MRI machine. Axure is a great way to test a very realistic experience. The operator is likely NOT a designer. It’s probably a web developer taking designs and using Axure to turn them into a prototype.

If you are a SaaS designer, Axure is complete overkill. The learning curve is crazy high and the usage is quite clunky. Here is an example modal of making an interaction or as they call it a “case”.

That’s alot of stuff to look at. The main screen is pretty intense as well.

I finished my evaluation in about 20 minutes. I am uninstalling it, but that doesn’t mean I think it’s bad. It’s actually quite good for a different person in a different case. (Web developer in a big company that needs to heavily test).

I would suggest to them that an information architecture and graphic design update is needed. No one should use Arial…ever. Other than that, they could redesign the tool from the ground up for a more designer friendly case. Either way, they have not innovated since I reviewed Axure in 2010.

Maybe I’ll give it another try in 2023.

Top Gun Revisited

I haven’t watched Top Gun in decades, but I just watched it again. Its such a classic. However, I have a major complaint.

Goose dies and they send him back up with a new partner. The partner yells at him and he loses his temper. Viper says, “Its only been a few days.” WHAT?? They sent him back up literally a few days later? He doesn’t get to mourn the loss of his best friend?? What kind of sick shit is this? Goose’s wife says “He loved flying with you but he would have flown anyway.” Then Charlie (the girl) finds him in a bar and basically calls him a loser and a quitter. His best friend just fucking died a few days ago, give him a break for crying out loud! Why are they rushing a grieving man to be in a multimillion dollar aircraft?

Ok, so he goes to graduation and they say there is an emergency. They call Mavericks name. WHAT?? Why would they call his name? He said he can’t fly. He proved he can’t fly. His best friend (have I mentioned this yet) JUST DIED!!

Then they go back to the original ship in the beginning of the movie. Ok that is dumb, but whatever. And the bad guys wait until the Top Gun team get there (halfway around the world) before having a firefight. Ok, that doesn’t make sense either, but whatever.

When I watched this as a kid, I loved this movie. Why didn’t I ever notice this before? Such a classic movie, but give the guy at least a week to grieve.

Talk to me Goose. Talk to me.

Last thing, near the end “launch Willard and Simpkin!” Are those their call signs?? Im Iceman, Im Maverick. I’m Willard! What the hell? How didn’t I see this before?

Come on Goose. Talk to me.

Social Anxiety

According to the Social Anxiety Institute:

Social anxiety is the fear of interaction with other people that brings on self-consciousness, feelings of being negatively judged and evaluated, and, as a result, leads to avoidance.

I am absolutely familiar with this feeling. Although I can be charming, outgoing, and gregarious in group situations, I constantly have this feeling of being negatively judged. Although it surprises some people, I am an introvert. Spending time with people makes me uncomfortable and tired. To recharge my batteries, I need to be alone. I can “bend” my introversion when I need to be on stage or give a presentation, but it is always hard work.

Next week is Dreamforce and there are events being thrown all about town. One example is the MoMa party being thrown by the best event person I have ever known, Sandra. (Those who know her, know this is true) I could go to the party, but all I can think about is how tiring it would be. I know I would meet up with colleagues and friends and probably have a good time. I also know the artwork at the MoMa is terrific. However, on the other hand is my social anxiety whispering negative thoughts into my inner ear.

Sometimes, the good guy wins this internal battle and sometimes the bad guy wins. You might be asking, “Glen, who gives a shit? Why aren’t you blogging about Design Tools and UI Patterns?”

Good question.

I guess the reason is that I want to give an example to the people who have social anxiety issues that you can still prosper and still advocate for yourself. I want to bond with my tribe, wherever they are. I often call them Misfit Toys.

If you want to be a great designer, you have to understand yourself and others. If you are a misfit toy, there is always room on my island and I would be happy to help.

Startup People

What makes someone a really good employee for a startup?

I was at a company culture outing a few years ago (small startup) and some people said they wanted to work there because they wanted to be part of a rocket ship. They thought the previous experience of the leadership team was such that the company would obviously be part of a huge new success story. This really freaked me out at the time.

Every startup is exactly like a rocket ship, except that there is no place to sit, no engine, no wings, no navigation and no idea how rockets work. In other words, it’s just a dream, a vision of the future. It’s not a rocket ship at all. You don’t want to hire people who want to be on the ship. You want to hire people who want to BUILD the ship, because it doesn’t exist yet.

Imagine you build half a ship and start flying it into space and then realize that you completely forgot oxygen masks and everyone is going to die in moments. You want people who can build an oxygen system out of random parts, while flying a thousand miles an hour. You want people who climb out on the wing and jerry-rig a new kind of engine just because it is needed at the time. You want people who think quickly, collaborate together and figure it out. You don’t want the people who manage a large organization effectively. You don’t want solid B+ workers. Each person needs to be the A-Team, with a specialty and a mentality of working through problems.

We all know these sorts of people. They create systems from scratch. They find the one vendor who can unlock a huge use case. It’s not scalable at all and won’t survive the long-term growth, but it gets the job done in the short run. A startup needs these people desperately. You don’t break out of orbit without them.

Of course, as you grow and get into orbit, you need a completely different set of people. We all are perfect people if you just adjust the situation and timing. Are you in the right position at the right time?

Removing Backgrounds from Photos

I have been an ongoing customer of Photoshop for the life of the product with steady upgrades every year. However, today, I canceled my Photoshop subscription. My main reason is that I just don’t use the program frequently enough. I basically use it to crop images or eliminate the background on photos. It’s not like I am an avid photo manipulator or a creative services production artist.

I Googled Photoshop replacement and found two options that look fine to me. and GIMP. I am trying the development version of GIMP right now. It’s taking a long time to boot up for sure. OK I’m in.

I hate it.

Ok to be clear, my use case is simple. I want to take a photo and remove the background. Here is the original:

In Photoshop, this is pretty easy with their selection tool. I tried in GIMP, it took a while to figure out the method. (Yes, I looked in the help system) The magic selection tool has thresholds, but I found it very difficult to find the edges in a way that wouldn’t take me an hour per picture. I gave up after ten minutes.

Next I tried Paint.NET. It’s a much smaller download and a nicer looking interface. It also had a magic selection tool, with tolerances. I followed their instructions but found it extremely hard to manage. You have to drag the tolerance and keep adding to your selection.

Finally, I just googled: Remove background from photo. Do you know what came up?  My old friend Microsoft PowerPoint. It has a tool called Remove Background under format.

First one on the left. Holy Buckets! I had no idea this was there. Again, I feel like Microsoft has this awesome design tool that NO ONE KNOWS ABOUT!

It took about 20 seconds of fiddling and voila.

In fact, I could have reverted to the original image at any time. It works like “crop” – non-destructive on the image. See, I can keep the rock below.

I could have messed around with the bottom a little more to make it smooth, but this was fine. It’s not a perfect feature. It could use a tolerance spectrum to make it less/more sensitive. However, this is WAY more power than people realize is inside PowerPoint.

Good on ya Microsoft!