Apple TV Human Interface Guidelines

Very well put together. Worth your time both to better understand the new Apple TV interface as well as brush up on some universal principles like this on Navigation:

People tend to be unaware of an app’s navigation until it doesn’t meet their expectations. Your job is to implement navigation in a way that supports the structure and purpose of your app without calling attention to itself. Navigation should feel natural and familiar, and shouldn’t dominate the user interface or draw focus away from content.


What’s Your Web

Souvik Das Gupta

Meta Refresh 2015

Bangalore, Apr 2015

The beauty of the web is in its ubiquity. Its unparalleled reach isn’t a mere co-incidence — rather, a 26 year long journey of consciously embracing the principles of inclusiveness. The minimal hardware and software requirements have enabled most electronic devices today to connect to the web. At the forefront are mobiles which have surpassed their predecessors, laptops and desktops, quite emphatically.

Today, user experience on a mobile device affects way more people than any other device. With several low cost smartphones out in the market the web has been brought within reach of lower sections of the socio-economic pyramid — many for the very first time. In fact, for a large portion of the population, inexpensive mobiles connected to the internet over flaky mobile data connections are their only window to the web.

Mobiles are a hard problem — in many ways it’s like going back a few years in terms of device power and capabilities. Even though we – the web designers and developers – largely acknowledge that mobiles are omnipresent, the user experience challenge these devices pose is often conveniently reduced down to an afterthought. And as a result, the state of mobile browsing continues to be in a mess with endless examples of essential services like banks assuming that users have the privilege of accessing a desktop or a laptop over a fast and reliable connection.

We have ensured that key services are available to you on the mobile website. For other services, please continue to desktop login.

m.icicibank.com

At Meta Refresh 2015, I shared a peek into what constitutes today’s web eco-system. A check on the real world impact of poor mobile web experiences — something we perhaps underestimate. It’s a call out to the community to own up the unremarkable state of mobile web, make the right compromises going forward and refuse to budge even though it may sound unrealistic and drastic.


Web is Flux

Souvik Das Gupta

Meta Refresh 2014

Bangalore, Feb 2014

There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.

— Donald Rumsfeld

Earlier this year, in the month of February, I attended Meta Refresh in Bangalore where I emphasised the importance of progressive enhancement through a workshop and a talk at the conference. It is quite unfortunate that many web designers and developers continue to carry forth the old approach of designing websites for a known system configuration. Only later do they test their websites on alternate browsers / devices and patch issues that are detected. This practise is known as graceful degradation.

This site is best viewed in IE6, 800x600.

About a decade back there was very little variation in hardware and software and one could have got away with making assumptions about client systems – though that doesn’t really justify this practice even at that time. Over the years, the devices (and software) connected to the web have come a long way. New waves have swept across the ecosystem – frequently and unpredictably – bringing in newer hardware, device capabilities, screens, browsers and other software. Today it is hard to keep up with the speed at which things are changing. We don’t know what will storm the ecosystem next but something surely will. Assumptions about a system configuration, today, are far from safe.

At a time when technology is changing faster than what we can keep up with, it’s worth noting that the fundamental principles of the web have remained unchanged since its inception about 25 years ago. These principles have stood the test of time and can perhaps be described as strictly liberal. In many ways they have been responsible for letting the web evolve and improve over time without any major impediments. Even today the very first website on the internet works flawlessly across all standards compliant web browsers on every device.

The onus of embracing these principles lies on us. If we look closely, there are only a handful of knowns in a traditional web communication — the presence of a client and a server that talk over HTTP, and the fact that client is running a web browser that will understand a hypertext document. Everything else is either a known unknown or an unknown unknown.

Progressive enhancement is a fundamentally opposite approach to the widely adopted method of graceful degradation. It was introduced in the year 2003, by Steve Champeon and Nick Finck in a talk titled Inclusive Web Design for the Future. In short, start with healthy markup, add the styles around it, and finally layer the interactivity around it. How does that help? The outer layers do not interfere with the inner ones, and therefore basic systems can access the content in the markup layer and deliver a base experience to the user. More powerful systems can further take advantage of the outer layers to enhance the user experience. No one’s excluded.

The idea of starting with the most basic system was expectedly rebutted by many in the audience. After all, hardly anyone uses a vanilla HTML browser today. Pretty much everyone has the bells and whistles of CSS and JavaScript. But as the Principle of Least Power suggests, the less powerful a language the more widely it can be adopted. And further, if I may add, less powerful languages have low chances of failure. The fact that a system can continue working even if one of the technology fails is a huge benefit derived from adopting progressive enhancement. Christian Heilmann’s elevator vs escalator analogy perhaps best exposes the elephant in the room.

Last year, all of a sudden, there was a revival of the progressive enhancement debate on the internet. Since then, it’s been regularly discussed at many reputed conferences around the world. Having to defend the values of the web (such as inclusiveness) 25 years after we began this journey by letting go of control, and becoming flexible is a tad disheartening. I wish the community rests this debate and upholds the spirit of the web. This talk is an effort to urge everyone to do just that.


Summer Camp

Prateek Rungta

We’re delighted to have two new people working with us over the summer.

The first, Ayush Kumar Tiwari joins us as the web developer intern. Ayush has been dabbling with Python and Django while at college. More importantly, he plays the guitar and has brought it along to the office. Ayush had managed to stay sober at an engineering college for a full two years before finally succumbing to beer during his very first week at Miranj. This has led to some strange and funny side-effects, like showing up at work after guzzling 2 litres of milk in one go. We hope the effects are not permanent.

Our second intern is the soft-spoken but sharp-eyed Kamal Nayan Sharma. He joins us as a web designer. Kamal has been blogging at TechToll for a few years and is also a budding photographer. He possesses a mean (in a good way) sense of humour that will catch you unaware and render you incapable of a response both because of the fits of laughter you roll in as well as the brilliance of the attack.

It’s been great having new people in the team. More hands on deck, more people to help me pull Souvik’s (heavy) leg. Can’t wait to show you what we’ve been up to.


Passwords are Obsolete

Justin Balthrop:

Everybody knows that most passwords will remain unchanged. Yet our collective response to Heartbleed has been to patch our servers and email users asking them to do something we know most of them won’t do.

Here’s what our response should have been:

ALTER TABLE users DROP COLUMN password;

Justin goes on to suggest one-time authentication codes delivered via email and SMS as the replacement. Regardless of what you think of the suggested solution, if Heartbleed get us to re-evaluate passwords and adopt a better authentication protocol on the web, it might just end up being a net win for us all.


Summer Internship

Souvik Das Gupta

Over the past 3 years we’ve collaborated with amazing people and worked on plenty of projects. But every now and then an interesting project idea strikes us and gets parked for later due to the obvious lack of time and manpower. However, this summer will be braved differently. We plan to kickstart a new project, and expect interesting things out of it.

And since we’re setting up a ground for experiments, to learn and do, why not share it with others.

So this summer (May-July), we hope to work with two interns — a web designer and a web developer. We’ll conspire, design, build, play, party and learn. But fun and learning isn’t where it ends. We promise a stipend (duh!) of ₹20k a month and a trek (read: adventure) to the mountains at the end of the project.

Interested? We’d love to hear from you.


Preview: Embracing Progressive Enhancement

Prateek Rungta

We had a great time attending and speaking at Meta Refresh last year. Souvik has been given another opportunity and will be presenting once again at HasGeek’s annual web design conference. This year he is conducting a workshop that will revisit the spirit of the web to demonstrate what makes the web special, and show how to embrace the principle of progressive enhancement to build robust websites.

Here’s a short introduction:

If you design or build for the web, you should definitely try and attend. Come to the workshop and learn why and how to adopt this foundational philosophy of developing for the web, or participate in some of the other great workshops and talks on the roster. The most compelling reason to attend though is the chance to meet fellow peers in person — a rare privilege for us digital workers.

Meta Refresh 2014 takes place from the 11th to 15th of February. Souvik’s workshop is on the 13th (Thursday) at The Energy And Research Institute (TERI) in Bangalore, and tickets are still on sale.