UX & Design

3 articles

iTunes: another tale of woe in UX

Published by Marco on in UX & Design

I know that pointing out errors in iTunes is a bit passé but Apple keeps releasing new versions of this thing without addressing the fundamental problems that it has as a synchronization client.

The software has to synchronize with hardware from only one manufacturer—the same one that makes iTunes. I’ll leave off complaints about the horrific, very old and utterly non-scaling UI and just regale you with a tale of a recent interaction in which I restored my phone from a backup. In that sense, it’s a “user experience”.

In this tale, we will see that two of the main features of the synchronization part of the iTunes software—backup and sync—seem to be utterly misinterpreted.

Spoiler alert: it all works out in the end, but it’s mind-boggling that this is the state of Apple’s main software after almost 15 years.[1]

10 million new iPhones were sold over the weekend. Their owners will all have the pleasure of working with this software.

Restore from backup

Me: *attaches phone*
iTunes:... [More]

LESS vs. SASS: Variable semantics

Published by Marco on in UX & Design

This article originally appeared on earthli News and has been cross-posted here.


I’ve been using CSS since pretty much its inception. It’s powerful but quite low-level and lacks support for DRY. So, I switched to generating CSS with LESS a while back. This has gone quite well and I’ve been pretty happy with it.

Recently, I was converting some older, theme stylesheets for earthli. A theme stylesheet provides no structural CSS, mostly setting text, background and border colors to let users choose the basic color set. This is a perfect candidate for LESS.

So I constructed a common stylesheet that referenced LESS variables that I would define in the theme stylesheet. Very basically, it looks like this:

crimson.less

@body_color: #800;
@import "theme-base";

theme-base.less

body
{
  background-color: @body_color;
}

This is just about the most basic use of LESS that even an amateur user could possibly imagine. I’m keeping it simple because I’d like to illustrate a subtlety to variables in LESS that tripped... [More]

TrueCrypt: yet another organically grown user interface

Published by Marco on in UX & Design

This article originally appeared on earthli News and has been cross-posted here.


I use TrueCrypt at work to encrypt/protect the volume where I store source code for various customers. It generally works pretty seamlessly and I don’t even notice that I’m working on an encrypted volume.

The other day, Windows started complaining in the Action Center that my drive needed checking because errors had been discovered. At first, I thought that it was referring to my system drive—which is not encrypted—and I rebooted Windows to let it do its thing.

Windows was back up and running relatively quickly and I wondered whether it had even checked the drive at all. The little flag in the Action Center was gone, though, so all was well.

My TrueCrypt drive doesn’t auto-mount, though. When I mounted it a while later to do some work, the little flag popped up immediately and I realized that Windows was complaining about that drive rather than my system drive.

Windows’s advice to “reboot to fix... [More]”