By Matt Birchler
Topic: concept
Posts: 5
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My Simple Ask for Things 4

My Simple Ask for Things 4

I love Things 3, but there are some aspects I think could be improved in the (hopefully) inevitable Things 4, and today I wanted to address one thing that would make things much better for me personally, and hopefully a bunch of other people as well.

Here's the Things 3 today view we have today with a couple real tasks I have to do today:

Looks clean as all get out, but there's also a lack of information that comes with that clean design. The 3 things I need to do have a link in task notes, a checklist under another, and a due time in the last one. However, just looking at my tasks, I can't see any of that, I just get indicators next to each one telling me there's more there.

The Problem

To see critical information about these tasks, I need to click into each one. While not a catastrophe, this info could be easier to access.

The Solution

This isn't a full rethinking of the app, it's just a fairly obvious update to the existing design.

If a task has notes, then show the note (with fully clickable links) underneath the task title, show checklists below the title, and mark reminder times as a label next to the task.

This is the tip of the iceberg in terms of things I'd like to tweak about the app, so let me know on Twitter if this appeals to you, and what else you would like to tweak about Things!

Update: I thought it would be good to add what Todoist looks like for comparison. Task notes are displayed and links are clickable, and due times are shown so I know when I'm supposed to do things. But even here, sub-tasks ("checklists" in Things) are hidden and require a UI that takes over the whole window to see. There's also just a lot more UI going on here (there are 4 "add task" buttons visible!), so it's not 100% there either.

Concept: Using Maps to Fix Safari on iOS 15

Concept: Using Maps to Fix Safari on iOS 15

It would be fair to say I'm pretty skeptical about Safari's new design. There are issues across all platforms that I hope Apple addresses before the app launches to the public this fall, but today I wanted to take a stab at improving the iOS experience.

Pain Points

When I use the new Safari in iOS 15 on my iPhone today, these things bother me the most:

  1. The address bar alternates between covering too much of the site and then disappearing entirely.
  2. Websites with bottom navigation are wrecked. Asking every site in the world to update for this is not reasonable, especially in the short term.
  3. It's too much work to share anything.
  4. It's a pain in the ass to reload the page I'm on.

Taking Inspiration

Apple's own Maps app has a similar UI where they've moved the search field and bookmarks to the bottom of the UI, while letting the content (the map) occupy most of the screen. The search bar is always visible, a small swipe up reveals your favorites, and a full swipe up brings up the full functionality of that app's "start page".

Is this as adventurous as the new Safari UI? Nope, but it sure didn't spark the frustration that Safari has caused either.

Applying Maps to Safari

With the disclaimer up front that I did this in an hour and didn't do months of research that would have been expected for something like this, this was my attempt to basically paste the Safari features onto the Maps UI. Here's my layout vs the one that ships in iOS 15 beta 2:

Now a few things I should note that you may already be asking:

  1. When you scroll the page, the bottom bar could minimize just like it does in the real version of the app, and then expand when you scroll up, also just like the real app.
  2. A forward button would appear if you could go forward, just like the real app.
  3. Yes, the address bar is a little smaller, but Apple's already showing very little data there, so what's the loss?
  4. The reload button is back on the right side of the address bar, just like it has been for a decade on iPhones.
  5. The more, tabs, and share button order is negotiable, but that made sense to me.
  6. The "Favorites", "From Matt's iPad", and keyboard are all exactly the same as the real app, so if you have complaints with those, don't look at me 👀

Final Thoughts

Again, this was a quick mock up, and I'm sure there are things that could be improved if I spent more time with it and gave it to testers. The point of this exercise was to take a UI that appears to solve similar problems and see how it worked in Safari. I think it looks pretty good on the surface, and given how the UI was pretty universally celebrated when it came to Maps a few years back, I think there's something to be learned from it.

How Apple May Drop Lightning Without Upsetting Everyone

How Apple May Drop Lightning Without Upsetting Everyone

I was thinking about chargers today and came to the not-so-original conclusion that not only are we not getting USB-C on the iPhone, but eventually we'll have an iPhone with no ports as we know them today And since this site is fundamentally about solutions, not complaining about problems, I got to work on figuring out how this might actually work.

It starts with assuming that Apple doesn't hate us. I know, bold, but that's not the place a lot of people start, so it's worth noting.

Next, you have to look at MagSafe, which was reborn this fall for the iPhone, and it looks solid. It's also hard not to look at this and think this is clearly a big part of the iPhone's future.

But MagSafe 1.0 (can a reboot still be a 1.0?) only lets you lock on and charge over the Qi wireless standard. This is great, but it doesn't solve for everything, such as a car mount that locks my phone in with a magnet, but I still need to plug into Lightning to make CarPlay work since I don't drive one of the few super fancy cars in 2020 that support it.

So given that Apple would want to get rid of the Lightning port, but would not want to make people feel like they need to make choices like "well, I want a new iPhone, but I don't want to lose CarPlay, so do I buy a new car too or just skip the iPhone?" Then what do they do?

My solution feels pretty obvious, which either means it's correct or is terribly off because of some horrible detail I don't know about that makes it impossible.

I would suggest that the Apple logo on the iPhone should become a smart connector, and when the MagSafe charger/cable attaches, it lines up a connector on the charger as well. If it detects a smart connector, then it does everything through that, and if it doesn't detect one then it just wirelessly charges.

A major complication here are cases. In theory, Aplpe cases could be made to have a pass-through in the case to let the connection go from the MagSafe puck to through the case and to the phone. As for third party cases, in theory this should be basic conductivity, but the MFI profram to help make sure cases from the big names had this working well too. This is more complicated and more expensive than what we have today, but hey, if Apple is going to make things more complicated, then things that used to be simple are going to get a little dicy.

So what do you think? Do you think Apple will do something like this? Will they say "to hell with anything wired, including CarPlay"? I'd love to hear what you think!

iOS 14 Could Make Changing Your Wallpaper Much Easier

iOS 14 Could Make Changing Your Wallpaper Much Easier

In case you didn't know yet, iOS 14 lets you enter jiggle mode by holding down on any empty part of your home screen. This lets you delete apps, move apps to your App Library, add widgets, and even hide entire screens. It should also let you change your wallpaper.

For those who haven't used iOS 14 yet, here's the concept next to the current version of jiggle mode in beta 1:

Pretty subtle, but I'd love to see this be how you get to wallpaper settings instead of bundling it in the Settings app.

Making Control Center and Notifications More Discoverable with a Cursor on the iPad

Making Control Center and Notifications More Discoverable with a Cursor on the iPad

So this is a little janky, but I mocked up a quick idea to make the options to access notifications and Control Center more discoverable when using a cursor. Here's an animated version:

The currnet UI just highlights the date/time or battery/wifi/etc blocks, and clicking on them brings up notifications or Control Center. If you don't know how this works already, you may not even be able to guess which is which, since "what happens when I click the battery icon?" isn't natually answered by either option. 🙃

Apple should spend more than 30 minutes on it and make it prettier. Also, if you decide the menu bar can expand, then you don't need to keep buttons in the same place. Hell, you could even add more things up there if you wanted, so there's quite a bit of iteration to happen here. But this was my first stab at something I hope others will take further.

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