%HTMLlat1; %HTMLsymbol; %HTMLspecial; ]> Why widgets?
Roland van Ipen­burg
To be stolen or blogged

Why wid­gets?

Thurs­day 18 Fe­bru­ary 2010 16:24

Opera is try­ing it again. Ap­ple has tried with Dash­board. But it still has failed to de­liv­er that killer wid­get. Or am I just to min­i­mal­is­tic to ap­pre­ci­ate wid­gets?

The whole point of wid­gets seems to be that the cre­ator of the wid­get can use round­ed cor­ners, al­pha trans­paren­cy and drop shad­ows in a way that a reg­u­lar be­hav­ing ap­pli­ca­tion isn't al­lowed to have be­cause an ap­pli­ca­tion is sup­posed to fol­low the rules of the graph­i­cal user in­ter­face of the op­er­at­ing sys­tem it is run­ning in. So in­stead of a sin­gle sol­id gen­er­al pur­pose RSS read­er or me­dia play­er we're sup­posed to use half-assed cus­tom brand­ed RSS read­er or skinned me­dia play­er wid­gets for every sin­gle feed? That might be nice for the cre­ator of a wid­get or in a locked down brand­ed en­ter­prise en­vi­ron­ment, but no­body else cares.

But what wid­gets also show is that no­body cares about what the user in­ter­face should be of­fer­ing to ap­pli­ca­tions in terms of func­tion­al­i­ty. Part­ly be­cause it is bro­ken al­ready. If an ap­pli­ca­tion isn't very us­able when it's win­dow is less than 1024 pix­els wide, and makes no sense hav­ing it's win­dow over 1600 pix­els wide, why not just give up that il­lu­sion of flex­i­bil­i­ty and pick a fixed size for the win­dow and op­ti­mize for that sta­t­ic en­vi­ron­ment? And does the graph­i­cal in­ter­face of an ap­pli­ca­tion sur­vive all the cus­tomiza­tion that can be done on fonts, dpi, col­ors or even the win­dow­ing sys­tem it­self? So why keep try­ing to cater for that il­lu­sion of flex­i­bil­i­ty?

Be­cause what I do like could be con­sid­ered full-screen wid­gets: run­ning an ap­pli­ca­tion in full screen mode with­out any graph­i­cal el­e­ments of the in­ter­face vis­i­ble. The brows­er for ex­am­ple is then just the page, with­out tool­bars, scroll bars or any­thing. The in­ter­face is re­duced to key­board short­cuts, just like when run­ning ap­pli­ca­tions in 80x25 text in­ter­faces in the days of MS-DOS. Un­less you have a big screen or sev­er­al screens where it would make sense to view sev­er­al win­dows next to each oth­er, op­ti­miz­ing ap­pli­ca­tions to run full screen - and I don't mean in a win­dow max­i­mized to fill the screen - makes sense. That's why on the tiny screens of mo­bile de­vices that is the way to go. Switch­ing be­tween a cou­ple of ap­pli­ca­tions be­comes a more im­por­tant task for an in­ter­face than of­fer­ing to try to show them run­ning all at the same time. Win­dows as the graph­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion of a mul­ti-task­ing op­er­at­ing sys­tem is tech­ni­cal­ly more ad­vanced then what users can han­dle. They just get con­fused when you can in­sert any ap­pli­ca­tion win­dow­less in­side a doc­u­ment in an­oth­er ap­pli­ca­tion.

The log­i­cal com­pan­ion to a full screen ap­pli­ca­tion are small al­pha trans­par­ent pop-ups to re­ceive no­ti­fi­ca­tions from oth­er ap­pli­ca­tions, in a Growl like way, but they should be more wid­get like so they can con­tain more in­ter­ac­tive el­e­ments. A win­dows sys­tem and ap­pli­ca­tions that are aimed at pro­vid­ing this func­tion­al­i­ty, com­bined with strict guide­lines so the pop-ups don't grow into ap­pli­ca­tions them­selves and you end up with the same is­sues would be nice to have. While I don't like the iPad as it's cur­rent­ly pro­posed, it could be the first step to­wards sys­tems that lever­age full-screen fixed mode ap­pli­ca­tion de­sign for some­what big­ger screens. Ap­ple has the track record pull some­thing like that off, and else Steve has to do it like with the NeXT.


Book­mark this on De­li­cious

Add to Stum­bleUpon

Add to Mixx!



application away browser buy cool data days different flash game gta html ibook internet linux movie open play playstation possible run screen server side site stuff system train web windows work

Blog Posts (418)

Image Gal­leries

ipen­bug Last.fm pro­file

ipen­bug last.fm pro­file

Fol­low me on Twit­ter

Roland van Ipen­burg on face­book
Lin­ux Regis­tered User #488795
rolipe BOINC com­bined stats


Add to Google

Valid XHTML + RFDa Valid CSS! Hy­phen­at­ed XSL Pow­ered Valid RSS This site was cre­at­ed with Vim Pow­ered by Bri­co­lage! Pow­ered by Post­greSQL! Pow­ered by Apache! Pow­ered by mod­_perl! Pow­ered by Ma­son! Pow­ered by Perl Made on a Mac Pow­ered By Mac OS X XS4ALL This site has been proofed for ac­cu­ra­cy on the VISTAWEB-3000 Creative Com­mons Li­cense
This work by Roland van Ipen­burg is li­censed un­der a Creative Com­mons At­tri­bu­tion-Non­com­mer­cial-Share Alike 3.0 Un­port­ed Li­cense.
Per­mis­sions be­yond the scope of this li­cense may be avail­able at mail­to:ipen­burg@xs4all.nl.