Needed: Flash/After Effects Developer

29 December, 2009

Symbian^4 is the Symbian platform release that will be feature complete in the middle of 2010. Included within it is a planned UI refresh, to be contributed by Nokia, under the “Direct UI” proposal. Symbian Foundation releases its platform on a twice-annual basis. However, this UI refresh is an unusually substantial shift in the UI.

Symbian Foundation has a project that must be completed by 11 February. This project involves After Effects or Flash to create a realistic, animated set of sequences depicting the Symbian^4 UI, based on visuals and specifications provided by Symbian Foundation.

An RFP is available; please email Scott for more details.


Symbian Theme Creator Needed

3 December, 2009

Symbian Foundation is soliciting proposals to create one or more signature themes for Symbian^3, which will reach feature complete in the beginning of 2010.

If you or your company has experience producing Symbian themes, please email me.

A theme is a set of visual elements and specially coded instructions for a Symbian phone’s visual design. Themes include but are not limited to:

* Icons

* UI controls, like scroll bars, menu drop downs, etc.

* Colors for type used throughout the UI

* Wallpapers

* More…

If you would like to learn more about themes, take a look at the Carbide.ui Theme Edition tutorial.

More documentation:

Themes overview

Forum Nokia Detailed Introduction to Themes

Forum Nokia’s Themes Quick Start

If you are interested in participating in this RFP (Request for Proposals), please email Scott.

Open Source and User Experience

28 September, 2009

On 26 September 2009 I presented the following slides at Over The Air 2009 in London. The presentation is about how we do user interface design and development work, and otherwise improve the user experience at Symbian Foundation. The audience asked some interesting questions about our contribution process, and expressed a strong interest in a working group for the theming tool for Symbian.

I joined Symbian Foundation as UI Technology Manager in May. It’s been exciting, challenging, and great fun.

View this document on Scribd

PhoneFusion’s Great Intro Animation

19 July, 2009


PhoneFusion is a visual voicemail solution for Android, among several other innovative products, which they describe as User-Defined Communications. They have the coolest “history of mobile” intro Flash sequence. Play it with the sound on.

Mobile Widgets Business Issues

28 May, 2009

I gave a talk on Mobile Widgets for Over The Air in London on the 4th of April, 2008.

Widgets are small, vector graphic, data-capable, handset-resident, persistent data applications (at least within the widget environment, which can be the idle screen of the phone). Though they typically work as client-server setups, that relationship is not required. For example, a location-based gas station price comparison tool would necessarily be client-server, since the server would contain the price data, as well as the stations list. Another server would likely handle the geographic information transmitted from the phone. On the other hand, a widget that displays your text messages in a spiffy theme could simply run as a phone-resident client.

Widgets can be deeply embedded in the phone’s features, working with other applications, or they can be fancy RSS readers. A deeply embedded widget would be the text message display application described above. An RSS reader would be the gas station price comparison tool. Due to the extensive feature range in current widget concepts, a big worry is that widgets will present security threats and malware problems.

What makes up a widget

Widgets require cached memory, Internet access (nearly always), user interface support, and versioning. The widget rendering engine might need updating, or policy might change.

widget vs app

The ecosystem model for widgets is interesting. Consumers won’t create them, but they should be customisable. URLs are too long to type in, so they need to be available from some aggregation point (e.g., an application store), with a good, optimised search engine–probably accessed through the widget engine directly. It would be nice if they could be side-loaded too–through an SD card, Bluetooth, or USB cable.

Following is a map of the widgets value chain:

widgets value chain

The operator-oriented value chain differs. Operators are likely to want a store front that demonstrates their brand. They will pick the platform that suits their business needs, with heavy security, advertising support, and simple-to-the-consumer billing models. Developers may need to pay to play–not being visible without an up-front payment to the operator. Non-operator-built solutions will require complicated installation procedures and suffer trust issues. In either case, authoring is a serious issue, as widget systems will require new scripting approaches or APIs to compile against.

Data policy will be required. Will widgets have budgeted memory or will they be disposed of when inactive? Are they flat rate or by minute or by the byte? Flat rate widgets are likely to be more successful, from a user experience perspective. Power issues will be significant, as widgets may require a lot of processor activity. And let’s not forget the potential for network impact.

Security and trust are paramount, but there can be no guarantees. At the OS level, hooks will need to be provided so that widgets can interface with the core handset data and media modules. Crashing should never, ever happen. Malware needs to be prevented as much as possible, and stopped when it slips through the cracks. Disruptions will erode trust quickly.

With all these issues, who should the central authority be? The Open Mobile Alliance? And who should provide and control the engine? I think it’s the browser vendors, because widgets are most similar to web sites. I don’t think it should be a manufacturer, since each manufacturer would want its own solution. If the controlling entity is the operator, we’ll have just as much fragmentation, as each will choose a different engine vendor and format. However, without cooperation from the manufacturers and the operators, widgets won’t have proper placement within the handset’s navigation.

When I gave this talk, it was conceivable that Openwave would deliver a solution, though its browser assets have been sold to Purple Labs. Since then, discussions about widgets have gone very quiet–and Nokia’s Widsets platform has evolved into the Ovi Store, but not without hiccups. I think the concept of “widgets” will soon become a thing of the past as they may end up being called “applications,” but it would be even nicer if widgets, applications, and web sites became one user concept. Why complicate matters?

Check out the the Mobile Widgets Business Issues slides (PDF).

World’s First Mobile Phone Commercial

19 May, 2009

Centel sold the big “cell phone” bricks of yesteryear, which were objects of lust and envy. Following is what appears to be the world’s first mobile phone TV commercial, harking back to the heady year of 1989.

Mobile Phone: Self-inflicted Surveillance?

28 April, 2009

surveillanceOur mobile phones constantly poll the network, to check for missed calls, voicemail, text messages, and to harvest our location. We have privacy options to restrict friends and others from knowing where we are, but the mobile operators always know, especially when a phone is on a 3G network. If a phone user doesn’t want to be tracked, he or she has two options: switch the phone off or leave it at home.

David Mery wrote a great article for The Register, entitled, “The mobile phone as self-inflicted surveillance… And if you don’t have one, what have you got to hide?” In his article, he brings up the scary point of how:

On 31st July 2007, in Brandenburg and Berlin, Germany, the flats and workplaces of Dr. Andrej Holm and Dr. Matthias B., as well as of two other persons, were searched by the police. All four were charged with “membership of a terrorist association” and are alleged to be members of a so-called ‘militante gruppe’ (mg) … The fact that he – allegedly intentionally – did not take his mobile phone with him to a meeting is considered as “conspiratorial behavior”.

Scary. Not bringing his mobile phone was considered proof that this man was a criminal. We have gone too far.

Great Site: BBC’s Languages on iPhone

8 April, 2009


img_0002BBC Mobile on an iPhone, is very cool.

It helps travelers by translating and pronouncing phrases in five languages. It is a mobile web site that launches a QuickTime player that speaks hyper-linked phrases through the loudspeaker. It will be a brilliant help to travelers who have access to Wi-Fi or affordable roaming data plans.

BBC has established some interesting mobile design conventions for their mobile web applications.

Still, I have some suggestions for BBC. First, link the phrase to the player and skip the Listen links. I suspect that visitors will be adventuresome enough to try the links–and the design is clear enough that many visitors will hope for and be suitably rewarded with the clear, loud-enough pronunciations that result.

Second, Link the English phrase to equivalent playback. Yes, the audience is English, but it would be so nice and easy to help visitors to learn how to pronounce these phrases too.

These are pretty subtle suggestions. The site’s really well done.

img_0002 img_0003 img_0007 img_0008 img_0003 img_0004 img_0006

Pomegranate NS08: Hot Phone Preview

1 April, 2009


The Pomegranate NS08 is amazing. Aside from its iconic colour and shape, it’s thin, gorgeous, and has features only lusted after in current competitors: a pico projector and even a voice translator. Of course it has the usual bevy of required functions:

  • MP3 player
  • Email
  • Web browser
  • Touch screen
  • Camera pomegranate-projector

It’s the voice capabilities and the pico projector that really gave me pause. It’s cool-looking, attention-grabbing digital candy for the new season. Check out more details of the Pomegranate NS08. Take that, Palm Pre!

Mobile Journey Planning for Transport for London

7 March, 2009


Watching myself on video is super hard for me, but I just watched the nearly 30 minutes of video from a talk I gave on 23rd February in London for Mobile Design UK. There are some good bits and some bits I’d word differently, but overall it gives you a nice idea of where my team and I are going with a for-fun design we’re doing on the Transport for London Mobile Journey Planner. At the end of this posting is a link to the video.

I gave a talk at Mobile Design UK (organised by Bryan Rieger & Priya Prakash) on the continuation of HFI’s conceptual design for Transport for London. We carried forward my earlier World Usability Day London discussion about the mobile journey planner available from and turned it into a sweet design concept, including an XHTML prototype that I demoed using the dotMobi emulator.

You can see it all in the video below. It’s just shy of 30 minutes, so sit back and relax.

Play video