Fresh Blurbs

Scalable User Interface

The dominant question popping up in a pragmatist's mind, observing the Web ~~2.0~~, is: how come people get so much free time in an increasingly hyper world? With the amount of blogging going on, either half of the literate population is procrastinating or the sales of Red Bull has to be booming.

Either way, even a child knows, these days, that it's all about content. If you got content - you got audience, with which comes influence, network effects, possibly money and vast amounts of bloated ego.

The thing about content is - presentation is every bit as important as the substance. Therefore, it is no surprise that the boom of Web 2.0 was inevitably followed by the revolution in the user-interface aesthetics.

The rarely addressed, yet important feature of the user-interface design is - scalability. If scalability for a software system means its ability to take ~~brutally~~ high user traffic without major changes to the source code, scalability for a user-interface means the ability to display vast amounts of content with the same crispiness which it handles just a handful of entries with.

You may think it is no big deal, but if even a mogul of the ergonomic design like Apple gets it wrong, occasionally, - it must be challenging enough to be worth a blog post.

When Apple added movies to iTunes, it was a long-expected move. Apple made video iPods available in a timely manner to make the user experience complete. Yet, Apple customers had to hold their breath - there was painfully limited amount of movies to choose from. For whatever reason, Apple was not able to secure enough movie content to make the experience truly complete.

Having such limited amount of content, Apple designed the user interface accordingly. Browsing in iTunes Movies is as simplistic as it gets - plain listing with some "paging" and filtering by a handful of categories. Granted, what else do you need for slightly more than hundred movies?

The problem - scalability. A year later Apple was finally able to cut deals with more movie studios and bump up the number of available movies by an order of magnitude. Unfortunately, the user interface design stayed the same and in the new reality - unusually useless for something Apple.

Another interesting case-study is the recently introduced - Joost. The user-interface is slick and sexy - well in-line with all the latest trends. Yet, Joost, being beta and all, has limited content right now. If it is to grow and live up to its promise - the amount of content will soon go through the roof. Will the user-interface scale?

The way Joost interface is currently designed, it does not look particularly scalable. Hopefully, this is one of the main aspects Joost team plans to address before the official launch.

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