This quote from Lukas Hermann’s review of the National Parks app sums it up quite nicely:
The app lets you discover American national parks in a way you’ve never seen before. You can rush through images, park information, secret tips and much more in a trip of pure joy and wonder.
National Geographic’s new app is one of the most unique and well-designed apps I’ve come across for the iPhone. Not only does the app do a spectacular job at capturing the true beauty of America’s parks, but it also illustrates what really good UI design is and should be.
Lukas’ review explores this app and its design even further, and I recommend you give it a quick read or throw it into Instapaper. If anything, just download the app and take it for a spin yourself.
Paul Miller on 53’s new iPad app, Paper:
Paper doesn’t overload me with options. In fact, it severely limits them. There are no layers, only nine color choices… there aren’t even multiple brushes until you pay for them. But it helps my drawings look pretty. The brushes autocorrect for my “mistakes” making my lines look smooth, graceful, and elegantly varied. The watercolors blend gently, and aren’t precise enough to make me spend my entire day on coloring — they promote sketching, and the reward of being
I haven’t had a chance to try out Paper yet, but when I purchase my new iPad, it will be, for sure, one of the first apps I download.
What fascinates me about Paper are the limitations of the app itself. Unlike other typical drawing apps with hundreds of different options, Paper is constrained to only a few brushes and a handful of colors. Yet the drawings that come out of Paper far surpass the quality of the drawings that are produced with other, similar drawing apps on the iPad.
For one, Paper does include an “autocorrect” function where the app will automatically smooth lines and brush strokes. Even then, the limitations in Paper force the artist to do more with less, which often seems to result in a more thought-out and higher-quality image.
Paul also makes an interesting comment about Paper being the ‘Instagram of drawing apps’. Instagram allows anyone with an iPhone (and now Android device) to become a semi-decent photographer. Similarly, Paper allows anyone with an iPad to become an artist that can draw decent images.
There’s a growing market and interest for iPad (and iPhone) apps that allow for anyone to excel in a certain skill area, such as drawing or photography. It’s another reason apps like Paper and Instagram have caught on.
Clear is the First Intuitive To Do App
I’ve never been satisfied with a to do app, whether it be on my iPhone, iPad, or Mac. What I’ve discovered the problem to be with all of them is the fact that they require regular maintenance and thought. It often reaches the point where tending to my to do list becomes another item on my to do list.
For instance, take Things–one of the more popular prosumer to do apps. In addition to the ability to add tasks in Things, there seems to be a million and one other ways to customize, tag, and file away a specific item. Adding up the time to do the same with all the tasks, I probably could’ve finished a few items on my to do list.
And yes, I could just add tasks and leave them alone. But with the other options sitting there in my face, I subconsciously feel the obligation to utilize the other options. Thus, I’m still spending extra time deciding whether or not to add tags, drag the task into a folder, etc. It’s counter-intuitive.
Clear lays these problems to rest. Currently exclusive to the iPhone, Clear is a new to do app that’s enjoyable to use and doesn’t require constant maintenance. The app has a natural user interface and intuitive gestures that allow for ease of use and require little thought.
When I use Clear, I feel as if I’m using a traditional pencil-paper to do list. The only options I have are to add a task, delete a task, or mark a task as complete. And instead of having buttons or other elements present in the app to perform these actions, Clear is completely gesture-based. Pull down to add a new task, swipe left to complete, swipe right to delete, and drag to move. It’s amazing.
Clear allows me to get in and out of my to do list quickly, and start getting things done again.
The Draw of Apple Stores
Despite my negative post about the Genius Bars in Apple Stores, I still love the Apple Store itself. It’s more than just a retail store — it’s a place where people come to hang out and socialize with others, a place where people come to work, and of course the best place to appreciate the design of Apple, both of their products and stores.
Apple Stores have such an amazing culture and environment that fascinates me. When you pass by an Apple Store, it’s hard to forgo paying a quick visit inside.
I’ve done a lot of thinking about this, and I’ve concluded that there isn’t just one thing that draws me to an Apple Store. It’s the combination between the wonderful spontanaity of visiting one, the possibility that I might see a few people I know and could converse with, and the diverse culture that seems to always lie within the store.
I think, above all, though, my favorite thing to see is how Apple is influencing our culture today, and how wide their target market is. I love seeing a little kid finding joy in a game on the iPod touch or an older lady that’s been a Mac user since 1984 waiting for help at a Genius Bar.
The Change in Apple’s Genius Bar
Walking into an Apple Store Genius Bar appointment even two short years ago was an exciting and fun experience. I knew I wouldn’t have to wait more than five minutes to talk to a Genius, and I knew my problem would be fixed.
In between waiting for an update to install or a diagnosis to finish, I was able to make conversation with the Genius. We’d often talk about things that were of mutual interest to us, and as a customer I appreciated this personal interaction. It’s one of the many things that the Apple Store is known best for.
The past many visits to the Genius Bar unfortunately haven’t been this enjoyable. Half of the time when I walked into the store, I had to look around for a staff member in order to check-in for my appointment, for which I arrived five minutes early for. After checking in, it was at least another 15-20 minutes minimum after my scheduled appointment time until I was able to talk to a Genius.
Since Apple typically overbooks the Genius Bar, the Genius that was helping me was also helping two other customers. This made me feel rushed and pressured, and there was no time nor opportunity for even a quick personal chat with the Genius.
Today’s Genius Bar verses the Genius Bar of two years ago is one that is a lot less personal, and a whole lot more rushed and overbooked. I don’t like it, and nor does anyone else.
I understand that Apple is experiencing a major growth period right now, but that’s no excuse to let the service in their retail stores to dramatically decrease.
I Love Pinterest
For a while, I had a bulletin cork board hung in my room where I would pin up interesting things I saw on magazines or websites. When people would visit my room, they’d instantly get a glimpse of what I was interested in. It was a neat way, I thought, for people to learn more about me. Over time, as more and more items were pinned to the board, I was able to see how my interests changed.
I would also look at the board reguarly to spark ideas and inspiration. My favorite environment to work in is one that’s filled with things that interest and inspire me. It helps inspire and motivate my work.
When I first heard about Pinterest, I dismissed as just another no-name social network to fill a small bit of space on the internet. A few days ago, I had heard enough positive talk about it that I decided to give Pinterest a chance, via an email invite since the service is still in invite-only beta.
The site instantly intrigued me after I signed up. I spent the next three hours browsing and using the site. It’s set up in a neat way, and a similar way to my bulletin board in which I could “pin” any item or post that I found interesting to my virtual “boards”. Each board is essesntially its own category or interest that you can pin items to. Any user can “re-pin” or like any other pin on the site.
I feel Pinterest is filling an empty void on the internet. There are plenty of sites out there where I can share what’s on my mind, there are plenty of sites where I can share and edit photos and videos, but there’s no good website to curate a collection of my interests and inspirations. Until Pinterest.
I really love Pinterest. It’s refreshing to use a social network that is unqiue and isn’t a complete copy of all the others. If you’d like to try out Pinterest, you’ll need an invite to do so. Luckily, I have a few invites I can give out.
If you’d like an invite, simply send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a reply on Twitter, @alexleiphart.
Continuing my series about coffee on The Geeks Companion, I talk about the various kinds of coffee drinks and detail the differences between each one.
If you’re even the least bit interested in the vast world of coffee, I recommend you read this article. And if you’re the least bit geeky, you’ll love the site.
The Personal Network
Path is truly the first “personal” network out there. Instead of sharing updates with anyone who wants to read them, Path is about capturing and sharing life’s moments with your closest friends and family.
Twitter and Facebook put a strong emphasis on quantity rather than quality. The number of followers or friends a user has is promintently displayed on their profile. It’s really just a place to show off.
Path is different.
The average follower on Twitter probably wouldn’t care that I just arrived home from a trip or am out eating at a restaurant my close friend recommended to me. The average friend on Path probably would be interested in that.
Path is about quality and real human interactions. It feels more personal and genuine. A user is limited to only 150 friends, which requires a little bit more thought about who you’ll add to your friend list. Naturally, you’ll be more inclined to friend people that are closer to you (i.e. close friends and family), and because of that, you’ll find yourself capturing and sharing more personal moments on Path.
I also like that I can post private moments that no one else can see. It’s a way to curate your own private journal. I don’t use the feature that often, but it’s nice when I want to jot down a quick thought or idea.
There are occassional times when I do want to share a moment with all my Facebook friends and/or Twitter followers. There’s an option for that, but you’ll notice that the share buttons are hidden and hard to find. They’re meant to be hidden to further the idea that Path is designed for more personal, closer conections and moments.
So many social networks have tried to create a sense of personality and real human interaction. Path is the only network that has succeeded in doing such.
If you’re still not convinced, Path’s promotional video does a great job at conveying what it’s all about.
I recently had the honor of writing a guest post on Devir Kahan’s The Geek’s Companion about how to make a great homemade latte.
The site is fairly new, but is packed full of interesting and insightful information for the everyday geek. Go over and check it out.
If there’s one place I visit the next time I’m in New York, it’ll be the new Apple Store at Grand Central Station. I’m all for sleek, modern, and all-glass store fronts, but there’s something to be said about the vintage look of the Grand Central store.
Go check out the store page for Grand Central on Apple’s website. The pictures are great.