Edward Tufte has produced a nice video critique of the iPhone. There is much that he admires, but he also offers design suggestions in some places and pokes fun at the stock app.

With several applications, he notes that the paradigm of panning across a space that is larger than the screen of the phone allows is effective for quick access to many different options. In the photo app overview screen you can scan through 150 images on the same surface. In the weather app you can slide across cities. Likewise when looking at a collection of photos, it is not “one damn thing after another, as in a stack on images, rather you are sliding across a surface.”

Tufte's alternate stock app mockup

iPhone stock app

When looking at a single photo, web browsing or text messaging on the iPhone, “the content is the interface” with no “adminstrative debris.”

He critiques the stock app as having a cartoon interface, and suggests that they should use image resolution, instead it looks like a “powerpoint slide” with strong colors and zebra stripes and a “chartoon” stock graph. He has mocked up an alternative (below) that shows much more data by using image resolution: 6 graphics, 14,000 numbers worth of data accurate to 2 significant digits, 24 numbers accurate to 5 significant digits.

Although he likes the weather app, he also suggests that it would be more effective, if it provided more information, taking advantage of image resolution:

iPhone weather app (left), Tufte’s alternate mockup (right)

In general, I agree with many of Tufte’s critiques and suggestions, but I hear my grandmother’s complaints in my mind’s ear about print too small for her to read. I’ll bet the Apple designers were under pressure to make fonts large and lines thick. I do like many of the ideas in Tufte’s stock app mockup, but for the weather, I prefer the iPhone’s simpler, larger display — the large weather graphic doesn’t really add a lot for me.

I enjoyed Theresa Neil’s Seek or Show, where she details a number of approaches to search and contrasts those with an approach where all the data is shown upfront. (thanks scott)

In a related article, Stephen Turbek writes about Advanced Search. He discusses a number of alternatives to advanced search options, involving how the results are presented. By using categories or allowing the sorting and filtering of results, you don’t need to make the user narrow their choice upfront.

I’ve been thinking a bit about how smarter algorithms and faster processors give us more design choices. When the computer can be smart enough to give us the info we need presented in a way that is most likely to be useful to us, then we need to make fewer choices up front. We can focus more on the task and less on how to instruct the computer to give us what we need.