Monday, February 28, 2005

Blogger Testing and UI Ruminations

The Blogger thing is elusive and hard to reproduce when I need it to. I might release 3.0.2 regardless tomorrow or Wednesday just so it's not delayed any more. I'll try more tonight. After a lot of testing, I may be prepared to blame the OS on this one. It seems to happen a lot more often if you have an ampersand in your text, which is supposedly an illegal character for the protocol that it uses to transmit (XML-RPC). I think I might have a fix though: the ampersands were getting encoded twice, leading to badness. In fact, if you see this message then it means that things are working better because there are a bunch of ampersands near the end.

On the UI front, I spent some time Sunday working on some prototype UI for a future version. The interface of the main part of the window has not really changed in a long time. I'm referring to the area excluding any drawers and toolbars. Just the text view, topic field, and elements around there. Someone a while ago suggested integrating the topic field into the text view as that's more like how it is in a real journal. So I was able accomplish a prototype of that during the Oscars. I was considering posting a test application with it, but you can get a good idea of what it's like by just looking at a Mail message window. I don't know if I like it though for a few reasons:

1. Mail only uses that kind of view when the data it is representing is not editable; when you can edit those fields (sender, subject, etc.) they are shown in real text fields, like MacJournal does. So the user might not know that these fields are editable.
2. In the prototyped appearance it is a decent amount smaller, which is both good and bad.
3. What is good for Mail isn't necessary good for the rest of the world; this is probably not the appropriate design for this kind of data (see #1).

What I'd really like to do in the future is provide a more realistic journal view. So the topic and date might be integrated into the text view, but not in the way Mail does it. In addition to the current appearance settings you could also set a "Journal" view that would look like a hard-bound journal with the topic and date at the top of the "page." I had also prototyped a "lined paper" view that looked pretty good at the time. I don't know what I'll do about this yet but it looks like something will happen like this. The Mail-like view wasn't all for naught; I can easily rearrange things to look like the "Journal" I was talking about and will probably do that. I might revisit the lined paper view, but that's a little farther out for various technical reasons. In addition, the whole lined paper thing doesn't really add anything to the UI; it's just eye candy. And while eye candy is not inherently evil (if you can turn it off somehow), it does get a much lower priority when compared to "real" features. But the "Journal" view might be useful because it would be a lot simpler visually and might end up more usable because it is laid out in a more logical fashion for the app. What is there now would continue to be available of course.

Just thoughts for the future.


Just because Blogger loves them, here are a bunch of ampersands: &&&&&&.