Balancing simplicity with complexity

Dylan McCall dylanmccall at
Tue Aug 21 08:08:25 CEST 2007

This is fantastic to read!
Thank you, Sean -- and Thomas, of course.

I must say, today I have had an interesting revelation of sorts...
One thing that gives me a bit of trouble with the open source community is
my ridiculous pickiness, and my wish to have everything smooth and unique.
(Not to mention extensible and powerful). It is quite problematic since
nothing ever seems to be appealing to my overly exacting standards. Today
has been very interesting for me, as I have come to appreciate the work done
by other people a lot more. Particularly that my favourite dream features
are not the only ultimate features; that those subtle features which already
exist are just as awesome as the subtle features I want to see.
Maybe I just happen to have been suddenly exposed entirely to the most
competently designed projects (combined with general happy vibes that are
moving through the air), but for some reason I am finally able to relax
under an acceptance that other people are Really Good at this stuff, and I
can now resume work on my own niche without a worry about how the rest of it
fits together.
The air feels lighter.

-Dylan McCall

On 8/20/07, Sean Moss-Pultz <sean at> wrote:
> Dear Community!
> A top ten complaint that we have received is directed at our user
> interface. Many people feel like the current interface doesn't address
> their exact needs. The organization is not "intuitive"; the colors are
> not pleasing; there is no simple way to navigate "exactly" where you
> want, exactly when you want.
> All Hardware has limits. All FOSS runs on hardware. Our current
> interface (OM-2007) was drawn almost in it's entirety before our
> designers had seen a working Neo. We had to live without an embedded
> stylus in the current version. And we had to learn to adapt to the lip
> on the touch screen preventing us from using interface elements on the
> edge of the display -- prime real estate regions.  It was tough. We
> pressed on, faithful in our belief that our community would overcome
> this limitation and begin exploring our new found oceans.
> Personally, I feel that one of the most important areas for this project
> is the development and  exploration of the mobile user interface. The
> human-machine interface is the intersection of art and technology. Great
> interfaces blend the visual with the technical. They balance simplicity
> with complexity. Often times, I feel, really great new interfaces are
> not immediately intuitive. They are not instantly natural. In fact, I
> would even argue this can be detrimental to improving interface design.
> If an interface is to be superior it must be different. Therefore it
> can't be intuitive, that is, familiar. A better metric, perhaps, is the
> learning time it takes until the interface feel's natural and intuitive.
> Now that we have freed phones, everyone can contribute to an improved
> baseline interface. This is our collective challenge. Can we create
> something truly different? Can we lead this incredibly important field?
> Recently, emails have been pouring in, questioning the community's
> ability to make our user interface into something insanely great.  While
> some doubted, others stepped up. Thomas Wood, of our extended team (AKA:
> OpenedHand), sent an email, entitled, "OpenMoko Design Suggestions"
> proposing -- in detail -- a redesigned interface concept that was
> totally finger-based, optimized for GTK+ at 285ppi and, might I add,
> very cool looking.
> We went back to the drawing board with OpenedHand -- lead by their vast
> experience with GTK+, Matchbox, and mobile user interfaces -- and
> redesigned an incredibly promising new interface.
> Today I'm extremely excited to announce that everyone can find this,
> right now, in our subversion repository, under the name OM-2007.2. We
> have already converted the following applications to the new framework:
>    * Dialer,
>    * Contacts,
>    * Today,
>    * Calculator,
>    * Feedreader
> You can find an official snapshot here:
> The remaining applications and wiki specifications will be converted as
> we approach phase 2. We have new style guidelines here:
> Here's a list of the major changes we've made with respect to this new
> interface:
> 1) We redesigned the user interface to better fit both the hardware
> capability of the Neo and its physical form factor.
> 2) Performance was improved by streamlining the visual appearance, still
> keeping it attractive, but at the same time lessening the resource
> impact. The current design allows for further future performance
> improvements.
> 3) We vastly simplified the UI design and optimized the available screen
> real estate and physical characteristics. This included the following:
>    * Improved the interface clarity by taking into account the screen's
>      ultra-high DPI.
>    * Allowed functions to be accessible using less accurate finger
>      methods with requiring the stylus.
>    * Placed common functions on easy access prominent buttons and
>      increased the button target areas.
>    * Reduced the number of objects on screen at once by splitting
>      applications into tabs and redesigned the application layout.
>    * Added more natural interaction methods, such as finger scrolling.
>    * Removed some unnecessary elements such as the footer. Improved
>      usage and accessibility of existing ones.
> 3) Application management and navigation is now improved by with a
> completely rewritten today app and by using the Neo's hardware keys.
> 4) This is now an interface that uses the strengths of our toolkit so
> that we can keep the extra framework and developer learning curve to a
> minimum.
> Please keep in mind that this new interface is still, very much, a work
> in progress. This is the earliest possible stage than we can release
> something with enough of a framework for you all to start exploring.
> It's a huge advancement in balancing simplicity with it's digital
> antagonist -- complexity.
> Also, thanks to Jon Phillips help, we've finally got around to licensing
> our artwork for this new interface under Creative Commons (CC BY-SA 3.0).
> The introduction of OM-2007.2 goes hand in hand with merging the
> OpenMoko OpenEmbedded overlay into the upstream repository
> . We are now based directly on the upstream metadata
> found in OpenEmbedded and synchronized with the most recent developments.
> Here are a few examples many of you have requested:
>    * dbus 1.0.2
>    * glib 2.12.12
>    * Cairo 1.4.10
>    * Gtk+ 2.10.14
>    * GStreamer 0.10
>    * ...
> Finally, we are very close to publishing our extensive software roadmap
> covering plans for adding more exciting software components and
> detailing areas where you can get involved and help us reach our goal of
> freeing phones around the world.
> Stay tuned for more information!
> Sincerely,
> The OpenMoko Team.
> _______________________________________________
> OpenMoko community mailing list
> community at
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