watchOS 6: The BirchTree Review

Matt Birchler’s watchOS 6 review is absolutely stellar. If you use the Apple Watch and plan on updating to the latest OS give it a read.

Goodbye AirPower

Matthew Panzarino writing for TechCrunch:

Apple has canceled the AirPower product completely, citing difficulty meeting its own standards.

“After much effort, we’ve concluded AirPower will not achieve our high standards and we have cancelled the project. We apologize to those customers who were looking forward to this launch. We continue to believe that the future is wireless and are committed to push the wireless experience forward,” said Dan Riccio, Apple’s senior vice president of Hardware Engineering in an emailed statement today.

After a delay of over a year since it was first announced in September of 2017, the AirPower charging mat has become something of a focal point for Apple’s recent habit of announcing envelope tickling products and not actually shipping them on time. The AirPods, famously, had a bit of a delay before becoming widely available, and were shipped in limited quantities before finally hitting their stride and becoming a genuine cultural moment.

AirPower, however, has had far more time to marinate in the soup of public opinion since it was announced. Along with recent MacBook keyboard troubles, this has functioned as a sort of flash point over discussion that something isn’t right with Apple’s hardware processes.

Everything I’ve personally heard (Apple is saying nothing officially) about the AirPower delay has been related to tough engineering problems related to the laws of physics. Specifically, I’ve heard that they ran too hot because the 3D charging coils in close proximity to one another required very, very cautious power management.

As Stephen Hackett said on 512 Pixels said:

This is pretty unheard of when it comes to Apple, and I suspect the company won’t be pre-announcing hardware so far in advance any time soon. That said, I’d rather see the company kill a product than ship something that doesn’t work.

Honestly I am glad Apple made some kind of decision on this. I am sure the AirPower jokes won’t die anytime soon, but I would rather this era of Apple ends poorly than never end at all.

It also pains me to do this but…. #ChrisWasRight.

Why Today at Apple Made the Keynote

One thing I think that was most interesting on the new Apple Event Keynote wasn’t the new devices, but the fact that Today at Apple was given time on stage.

For those that don’t know what Today at Apple is, it’s a series of workshops that Apple Stores offer for anyone to come to for free and learn things you can do on the Mac, iPad, and iPhone. I am sure there are others as well, but it’s been something that hasn’t been talked much about in the Apple tech community.

The Today at Apple workshops may not be geared towards those who are tech savvy. With that said, Apple giving time for it on stage today in between the release of some much-needed updates (Mac Mini and MacBook Air) and interesting innovation (iPad Pro) shows that Apple isn’t just here to make you think that your iPad Pro 10.5” isn’t good enough anymore. They want you to harness that power with what ever device you have.

As Tim Cook said in the keynote after they announced 60 all-new sessions coming to Apple Stores, it is something that no one else has.

For me personally I have never been to a session, but after today I have been looking at upcoming events and workshops at my local Apple Store and am very seriously considering making the 55 minute drive to go to one of these.

Some sessions mentioned in the Keynote include Siri Shortcuts, and a session called Small Screen Magic which is all about making short movies with the Clips app. They also provided an interesting background with other new sessions that are intriguing to say the least.

Apple really outdid themselves today with the new devices. But I think they equally outdid themselves 18 months ago when they launched Today at Apple and made it possible for their users to learn from the team at Apple just what kind of things they can make on their computers.

It is also worth noting that when this part of the Keynote happened the entire audience at the Brooklyn Academy of Music went into an uproar of enthusiasm and excitement. It is indicative just how important sessions like this can be for users, and I can’t wait to see what I have been missing out on.

Apple’s Radical Approach to News: Humans Over Machines – New York Times

Jack Nicas writing for New York Times:

In a quiet corner of the third floor, Apple is building a newsroom of sorts. About a dozen former journalists have filled a few nondescript offices to do what many other tech companies have for years left to software: selecting the news that tens of millions of people will read.

One morning in late August, Apple News’s editor in chief, Lauren Kern, huddled with a deputy to discuss the five stories to feature atop the company’s three-year-old news app, which comes preinstalled on every iPhone in the United States, Britain and Australia.

National news sites were leading that day with stories that the Justice Department had backed an affirmative-action lawsuit against Harvard University — a good proxy that the story mattered, said Ms. Kern’s deputy, a former editor for The New York Times whom Apple requested not be named for privacy reasons. He and Ms. Kern quickly agreed that it was the day’s top news, and after reading through a few versions, selected The Washington Post’s report because, they said, it provided the most context and explanation on why the news mattered.

[…]

“We put so much care and thought into our curation,” said Ms. Kern, 43, a former executive editor of New York Magazine. “It’s seen by a lot of people and we take that responsibility really seriously.”

Apple has waded into the messy world of news with a service that is read regularly by roughly 90 million people. But while Google, Facebook and Twitter have come under intense scrutiny for their disproportionate — and sometimes harmful — influence over the spread of information, Apple has so far avoided controversy. One big reason is that while its Silicon Valley peers rely on machines and algorithms to pick headlines, Apple uses humans like Ms. Kern.

The former journalist has quietly become one of the most powerful figures in English-language media. The stories she and her deputies select for Apple News regularly receive more than a million visits each.

[…]

Apple’s executives grandly proclaim that they want to help save journalism. “There is this deep understanding that a thriving free press is critical for an informed public, and an informed public is critical for a functioning democracy, and that Apple News can play a part in that,” Ms. Kern said.

For me, I will always choose human over machine when it comes to getting news, and Kern seems to be the perfect person to lead the way for the Apple News team.

Categories
LIfe Style Marketing

7 Things Every Designer Needs to Know about Accessibility

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Accessibility enables people with disabilities to perceive, understand, navigate, interact with, and contribute to the web. Imagine a world where developers know everything there is to know about accessibility. You design it and they build it… perfectly. In this world, only the design itself can cause people with disabilities to have trouble using a product.

These guidelines will cover the major things you need to know in order for your products to be “design-ready” to meet the minimum of standards in Section 508 and the Web Content Accessibility Guidelines 2.0. The rest will be up to development and quality testing.

1. Accessibility is not a barrier to innovation.

Accessibility will not force you to make a product that is ugly, boring, or cluttered. It will introduce a set of constraints to incorporate as you consider your design. These design constraints will give you new ideas to explore that will lead to better products for all of your users.

As you read through these guidelines, consider that we don’t want to design for our design peers.

Design for the diverse set of users who will interact with your products.

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Design for everyone.

Eager to escape the tech bubble for a weekend, Designer Dude and his circle of start-up friends went to Yosemite, where he spent most of his time dribbbling on a slackline near their basecamp

Design for everyone.

This can include people who are blind, color blind, or have low vision, those who are Deaf or have hearing difficulties, people with mobility impairments which may be temporary or permanent, or people with cognitive disabilities. Design for people who are young, old, power users, casual users, and those who just enjoy a quality experience.

Embrace these accessibility guidelines as you would any set of design constraints. They are part of the challenge of creating amazing products.

2. Don’t use color as the only visual means of conveying information.

This helps users who are unable to, or have difficulty with, distinguishing one color from another. This includes people who are color blind (1 in 12 men, 1 in 200 women), have low vision (1 in 30 people), or are blind (1 in 188 people).

Use color to highlight or complement what is already visible.

Fields in an error state

How many fields are in an error state?

Most who see this in grayscale say the answer is one, the “human verification” field. That is because the triangle with the exclamation mark inside indicates that something is amiss.

Now look at this same screen in color. How many fields are in an error state?

Turning on the color reveals a different story altogether.

With color the answer becomes, “all four”.

There are many acceptable ways to make this form visually accessible. You could put the red triangle icon in all of the error fields. You could use text to indicate and explain why a given field is in error. You could use tooltips, thick borders, bold text, underlines, italics, etc. The choices are infinite, but the only rule is to use more than color alone.

How would you design this signup form so that color isn’t the only visual means of showing a field with an error?

Update: It turns out that the accessibility issue described above in the PayPal example is caused by the LastPass plugin in my browser. Thanks to Tony Amidei (@subface) from PayPal for pointing this out to me. As designed, the triangle icons should always appear on fields in an error state.

3. Ensure sufficient contrast between text and its background.

According to the WCAG, the contrast ratio between text and a text’s background should be at least 4.5 to 1. If your font is at least 24 px or 19 px bold, the minimum drops to 3 to 1.

This means that when text is 24 px, 19 px bold, or larger, the lightest gray you can use on a white background is #959595.

#959595 text on a white background.

For smaller text, the lightest gray you can use on a white background is #767676. If you have a gray background, the text needs to be darker.

#767676 text on a white background.

There are some great tools that can help you find an accessible color palette for your designs including Color Safe. There is also WebAIM’s Color Contrast Checker, which will let you test colors you have already chosen.

4. Provide visual focus indication for keyboard focus.

Let’s take a moment to give thanks for the reset style sheet and all of the utility it has given the modern web designer. Without reset style sheets, it would be much more difficult to create a consistent experience across different devices and browsers.

:focus {outline: 0;}

This single line of CSS makes it nearly impossible for a sighted user to use a website with just a keyboard. Fortunately, since the initial CSS resets were released, many popular ones including Eric Meyer’s have been updated to remove un-styling of the :focus pseudo-class.

Continue reading on medium.com

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Categories
Pschyology

Here’s Why You’ll Hate the Apple Watch (and the Important Business Lesson You Need to Know)

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Apple Watch

If you are among the 19 million people Apple predicts will buy an Apple Watch, I have some bad news for you — I’m betting there is an important feature missing from the watch that’s going to drive you nuts.

That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t buy one. In fact, I’m ordering one myself. However, this paradox illustrates an important lesson for the way companies design their products.

Rarely are v.1 products very good. How is it, then, that some products thrive despite flagrant shortcomings?

Meet Mr. Kano

To find out why you’ll likely be disappointed by the Apple Watch, meet Professor Noriaki Kano. In the 1980s Professor Kano developed a model to explain a theory of customer satisfaction.

Kano believes products have particular attributes, which are directly responsible for users’ happiness. He discovered that some qualities matter more than others. Kano describes three product attribute types — (loosely translated from Japanese as) delightful, linear, and hygienic features.

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Kano Model

A delightful feature is an attribute of a product that customers love but do not expect. For example, if the Apple Watch madeyou coffee every morning, that would be a delightfully surprising feature.

A linear feature, on the other hand, is one users expect. More of that quality increases satisfaction. Battery life is an example of a linear feature of the Apple Watch. You trust that it will last all day but the more juice the battery has, the less you need to charge it, and the happier you are.

Customers are typically able to articulate the linear attributes of a product — “I want it to have long battery life” — whereas by definition they can’t tell they want a delightful feature until they’ve seen it in action. Like knowing the punchline of a joke, if you know what to expect it fails to delight.

Finally, hygienic or “basic” features are must-haves. Customers not only expect these attributes, they depend on them. If the Apple Watch is bad at telling time, for example, you would undoubtedly be very ticked (tocked) off.

Ellen DeGeneres tweeted a sardonic comment that perfectly demonstrates what happens when we make a basic feature sound like a delighter.

Ellen
Ellen

Joking aside, Apple CEO Tim Cook knows just how important telling time is for an expensive timepiece. Cook emphasizes that the device is accurate within 50 milliseconds. In addition, when the battery is almost depleted, the watch kicks into “Power Reserve” mode, shutting down everything but the ability to see the time.

Obviously, Apple understands telling time is a hygienic feature. However, when it comes to this basic feature, something is still missing — which finally brings me to what will likely annoy you about the Apple Watch.

Inconspicuous Consumption

A basic attribute of any watch is that it allows wearers to see the time all the time. With a regular watch, checking the time couldn’t be easier. You only need to glance down to know what time it is — not so with the Apple Watch.

To save battery life, the watch goes dark when it thinks you’re not using it. To turn it back on, you have to shake the device with enough momentum to, in Apple’s words, “Activate on Wrist Raise.”

Early Apple Watch reviewer John Gruber, wrote about his experience wearing the device during the end of a meeting with a friend. “It got to 3:00 or so, and I started glancing at my watch every few minutes. But it was always off … the only way I could check the time was to artificially flick my wrist or to use my right hand to tap the screen — in either case, a far heavier gesture than the mere glance I’d have needed with my regular watch.”

Who hasn’t sat across from an overly gabby colleague wondering whether you’ll be late to your next meeting? If we’ve bothered to wear a watch, we expect to be able to see the time at a glance. But if telling the time on your Apple Watch requires a spastic wrist jolt, you’ll curse it.

Gruber continued, “… for regular watch wearers, it’s going to take some getting used to, and it’s always going to be a bit of an inconvenience compared to an always-glance-able watch. It’s a fundamental conflict: a regular watch never turns off, but a display like Apple Watch’s cannot always stay on.”

The problem is significant enough that other smart watch makers already see Apple’s failing as an opportunity. The recently announced Pebble Time for example uses a low-power color e-paper display and never goes dark.

Continue reading at medium.com

Categories
Marketing

How Technology is Tricking You Into Tipping More

My taxi pulled up to the hotel. I got out my credit card and prepared to pay for the ride. The journey was pleasant enough but little did I know I was about to encounter a bit of psychological trickery designed to get me to pay more for the lift. Chances are you’re paying more, too.

Digital payment systems use subtle tactics to increase tips, and while it’s certainly good for hard-working service workers, it may not be so good for your wallet.

A new report by the tech research firm Software Advice discovered that digital point-of-sale terminals, like the one in my cab, increase the frequency and amount of tips left by customers. What’s the secret behind how these manipulative machines get us to pony up?

The Power of Defaults

A recent Iowa State study cites a mobile payment company that effectively “nudges consumers” into tipping. Study author Kam Leung Yeung, writes, “Upon swiping their credit or debit card, consumers then need to choose among … preloaded tip amounts (e.g. 15 percent 20 percent, or 25 percent), or to enter their customized tip amount, or decide not to tip at all.” This simple interface “increased the proportion of tipping by 38 percent.”

How did tipping increase so dramatically? Clearly the service wasn’t 38 percent better. Patrons didn’t suddenly become more generous. Rather, the higher tipping is a result of a few intriguing design decisions by the payment processor.

For one, digital interfaces make it just as easy to tip as to not tip — a marked change from the way we used to pay in the past. When cash was king, anyone not wanting to give a tip could easily leave the money and dash. “Whoops, my bad!” However, with a digital payment system the transaction isn’t complete until the buyer makes an explicit tipping choice. Clicking on the “No Tip” button is suddenly its own decision. This additional step makes all the difference to those who may have previously avoided taking care of their server.

Making sure customers don’t forget to tip is certainly a good thing. But there is another subtle nudge that gets those who intend to tip to give even more than they otherwise would.

Tipping conventions say the appropriate amount to tip a taxi drive is in the range of 10 percent to 18 percent. However, making the default choices 15 percent, 20 percent or 25 percent bumps up the tip in two ways.

First, users tend to take the easiest route; they do whatever requires the least amount of physical and cognitive effort. In this case, you’re less likely to customize the tip because doing so necessitates more thinking and more clicking. Picking a preloaded amount is simply easier than changing the tip amount even if you know you’re overtipping.

Second, offering three choices utilizes the anchoring effect to nudge people into picking the middle tip option. The vendor knows you likely won’t pick the least expensive amount — only cheapskates would do that. So even though 15 percent is squarely within the normal tipping range, by making it the first option, you’re more likely to chose 20 percent. Picking the middle-of-the-road option is in-line with your self-image of not being a tightwad. Therefore, you tip more and you’re not alone. The New York City Taxi and Limousine Commission reported tips increased from 10 percent to 22 percent on average when the new payment screens were turned on.

Continue Reading at medium.com