by Scott Shwarts and David Dunham
The gold rush is on. Publishers have announced their Newton applications. Developer's
fingers are dancing over their keyboards writing them. Unfortunately for each new
application that draws admiring praise, there'll be two that get a deserved boo.
Why? Because the marketeers and designers just didn't get what the Newton is all about.
The Newton is not a computer
The Newton is a consumer device. Oh sure the first wave of buyers will be technoids
like us, but if Apple is successful, we expect to see a lot of Newtons from the board
room to the shopping mall. Meaning that products need a consumer focus. We don't
mean you should design down to consumers-- they're not stupid. But they don't have the tolerance
many of us do for our computers.
Remember who your customers are
Decide early on who your customer is and design for them. Think about their entire
daily interaction with the Newton with your application as part of it. Too many applications
get designed as if they were alone on the Newton instead of one part of a Newton filled with lots of information and other applications. Remember today's Newton only
has one PCMCIA card slot.
Understand the interface
The Newton comes with its own user interface guidelines. It can be found in the built-in
Names, Dates and Extras applications. Use the Newton, and learn from those before
you. This is what your users will know too. Does the Newton have some inconsistencies? Yes, so try to understand them. If you're thinking of porting your existing computer
applications to the Newton, don't bother--it won't work and you'll only waste time.
Note to product development managers: Get your developers their own Newtons and give
them the time to play!
If you must, extend
Don't be too quick to invent some new screen gadget. Think first how to extend what
is there already. If you do invent something new, make sure it fits into the feel
of Newton. For example, the Names application allows the entry of lots of information
using little screen space. This is an obvious technique to extend.
Features are not sacred
Try really hard to keep your application simple. Users want to use your application,
not learn to use your application.The Newton team spent a lot of time taking things
out of the built-in applications to keep them simple and straightforward.
Don't make assumptions
Not all Newtons will have the same screen size. Not all Newtons are owned by Americans.
Elements that get user interaction should stand out. That's why the System font is
used for controls. Unless space is very tight, use text instead of graphics to label
buttons. Remember also that not all owners have good eyesight. Be sure to show your
users where they can tap with the button look or a diamond and if the user can write,
there should be dotted lines.
Be a guest
Consider your application as a guest in the user's home. Don't waste the homeowners
resources (like memory) and don't leave your laundry strewn about (leaving unneeded
soups around). Do be helpful to the owner though like remembering the state they
left your application in--just don't keep it around past the life of your application.
Be nit picky about your application. Fight over pixels if you have to. Hire a graphic
designer but don't accept form over function. Consumers expect your application to
have the same clean, effective look as the rest of the Newton.
Talk amongst yourselves
More than ever the Newton needs a community behind it. Agree on ways to share the
Newton's limited screen and memory resources. Want an example? How about a single
soup that all game developers put their high score frames in. Encourage other developers
to adopt your interface extensions.
Designing truly useful products that deliver a functional and attractive interface
is indeed a challenge. It's up to us in the development community (with the right
amount of nurturing from Apple) to rise to this challenge. Remember, people will
buy your program to do work, not so they can use the features. Your application, if successful,
will become an intimate part of their lives.
Copyright ©1993 Pensée Corporation
Scott Shwarts and David Dunham are principals in Pensée Corporation. Pensée worked for the past five years with the Newton team at Apple. They can be reached
at firstname.lastname@example.org and email@example.com
Last updated 14 Oct 96 drd