In the category of “UI design has a new solution” . . .

“The Airbnb Tool That’s Changing UI Design”

Mark Wilson, writing for Fast Company:

There’s a hot new design software being used today by major tech companies like Airbnb and Google to build new apps. But the tool, called Lottie, wasn’t born from your typical designer.

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Frustrated by the same design-to-development bottleneck experienced across the industry, Abdul-Karim began to think. If he could use After Effects to build an app interface simulation or prototype, why couldn’t he just use After Effects to just make the real app itself? Now he can, thanks to Lottie–Airbnb’s own UX prototyping tool, developed by Abdul-Karim and a pair of engineers at the company.

This is the sort of creative problem-solving I love to see.

Lottie’s technical prowess is outpacing its user friendliness. And the Airbnb team needs to figure out how to translate complicated animation-meets-code capabilities into turnkey features inside the software.

This is the common progression in creative problem-solving: the more powerful the tool becomes and the more tasks it is capable of completing, the more difficult it becomes to keep it simple for the user. This is one of the things that has always set the iPhone and its iOS user-interface apart from its competitors; in general, the iPhone is easier to use, even for—perhaps especially for—the uninitiated. iOS itself has shown the truth of this, though, as the number of functions and the number of apps has increased. This is why there are so many new single-purpose apps in spaces where the established players’ apps were becoming too complex.

One of my favorite apps—and a great example of this—is iA Writer. It’s a brilliant piece of simplicity, originally created over five years ago as a single-purpose writing app. Originally, all you could do with the app was write and edit, but the stated purpose was to create a distraction-free writing environment. It does that very well and is still my favorite writing app. iA Writer has continued to add functionality, including a type of versioning, embedding or file-linking, and other design features. I don’t use most of these newer features, because I’m not yet convinced that the time and effort to learn them would be sufficiently rewarded. Another way of saying this is that iA Writer has either (a) not convincingly described the benefits of these new features or (b) not designed them in a sufficiently user-friendly way. I’m not picking on iA Writer. I think it’s a wonderful app. I’ve tried many writing apps, and in my opinion, iA Writer is the best app available for the act of writing. It is a perfect example of the principle I’ve described, though, because as it has added features, it has also added complexity, some of which now demands improved design to restore simplicity for the user. It wouldn’t be a good example if it were not such a brilliant design to begin with.

Our digital tools were constructed for another era, one that is fading away to obsolescence even faster than your current smartphone.



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