inessential by Brent Simmons


The NetNewsWire private beta testers don’t mind (or at least tolerate with grace) all the user interface experiments that go on during development—and there were quite a few experiments on the road to NetNewsWire 2.0. (We like to iterate: get ideas, try them, change them, lather, rinse, repeat.)

At one point we were considering moving the unread count to a flush-right “chiclet.”

However, before we finished the feature, testers convinced me that this approach has a problem: the eye has to travel too far to associate a subscription with its number. (I could have said, “So what! Everybody else is doing it, why not NetNewsWire!” but I didn’t. Or maybe I did, but they still convinced me.)

Anyway, here’s a screenshot which shows my first cut at it. You can look at it and say, “Oh, I’m glad that didn’t ship”—but remember, this was just experimental, not intended to ship as-is, just a rough draft of an idea.

So then I re-did it so the chiclets were right next to the subscription name—and that wasn’t good, as you can see here.

And then I thought—let’s move the numbers flush-right again, but use alternating row colors in the subscriptions, and only display a chiclet outline for the selected sub. And that didn’t really work out, either. And then another version had a line going from the sub name to the unread count. Arf!

Finally—last version—dots!

So then we figured this was enough time futzing with this particular feature, and we shelved it, to possibly revisit it later.

Why am I sharing this? Just for a peak behind the scenes at the development process. If you had to classify my approach to UI, you’d call me an experimenter/gatherer: try things and get feedback, then try more things. And get more feedback.

And now for something completely different... random old graphics found on the webserver...

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