Refactoring UI book – my notes

Written on 19 February 2019, 11:49am

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For some reason, I still prefer the paper version…

Here are some notes relevant to me after reading the Refactoring UI book:

  • border radius: large=playful, no radius=formal. Just be consistent, not like Dropbox
  • you can highlight an element by de-emphasizing the others
  • sometimes the labels are not needed… but some other times they are mandatory. Just use your common sense. Also, make sure there is no confusion about which label belongs to which value
  • differentiate between primary vs secondary (or tertiary) actions
  • stick to 45-75 characters per line if you want to play it safe
  • line height and font size are inversely proportional
  • if some paragraph is longer than 2-3 lines, it will look better left-aligned
  • always right-align numbers
  • don’t rely on color alone: use the contrast, or even better, add patterns
  • try to emulate a light source when working with non-flat interfaces
  • don’t scale up small icons, just re-draw them completely to add more details. Conversely, don’t scale down big icons, just re-draw them (ex. draw a separate logo and scale it down to obtain the favicon)
  • don’t simply copy/paste screenshots: either paste screenshot from phone/tablet mode, zoom-in to the relevant section, or use a generic UI
  • lists don’t necessarily mean bullet points: can be check-marks or locks
  • re-think drop-downs, tables and radio buttons

I was surprised by the amount of useful information I learned in what felt like a couple of hours read. This is more than a simple book that you close and put away after you’re done reading it; it’s something that you might come back to from time to time for inspiration when you work on your next design project.

Notes made with workflowy

Still don’t buy a Tesla!

Written on 17 February 2019, 07:51pm

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Remember how a few months ago I was not recommending buying a Tesla because of the bad customer support? Well… I still don’t. Despite some positive signs (which I will detail below), the overall customer experience remains sub-optimal. And on top of that, I just stumbled upon two additional frustrating issues.

The good

There were some improvements since my post in December 2018. First, the mirror problem was finally addressed. A Tesla Ranger came to my house and replaced the faulty piece in less than half an hour. Definitely a positive experience, but the fact that I had to wait more than two months to have it fixed is still a big issue.
The second positive issue: the Tesla Service managed to reply one of my emails in 14 hours during a weekend period.

The bad

Let’s say you drive with your Model S to location X. Then, a few hours later, you come back to the place you parked your car, and can’t find it anymore. You open the Tesla iOS app, it updates, and it still shows that your Model S is in the location X (which is not). Your Model S was towed away to location Y, but you will never see the location Y from the app.
Here is what Tesla says about this:

I can confirm that this is indeed normal behavior.
The GPS location of the vehicle only updates when the car is actually being driven.
You will experience the same if the car is being transported on a ferry.
When the vehicle starts driving again, the GPS location will refresh. In some cases it will takes a couple of drives for it to refresh afterwards, but in most cases it will pick up at the first drive.

Tesla EMEA Customer Support responding to the scenario described above
The Tesla iOS app does not show the real-time location of your car

I am absolutely stunned by this behavior. Not only it violates the principle of least surprise, but it also means that you can never trust the location shown in your app (unless you have your car in sight). Not being able to see the real-time location of your car despite having the technical means to do it is simply astonishing. I am authenticated as the owner of this car, I am asking you to show me the location, you have the means to do it – so just show me where it is!
I asked Tesla if they plan to update this behavior and I will update this post if I receive an answer.

The ugly

I just found out that the Tesla dashcam only stores one hour of video recordings on the USB drive. At the moment you cannot change this setting, it is not documented anywhere (I found the information on reddit) and it doesn’t make any difference if your USB drive would be able to store more than that. It’s such an arbitrary and artificial limit and the fact that it’s not documented anywhere makes it even more frustrating (principle of least surprise again).
There are workarounds: the expensive way (have several USB drives and rotate them periodically), or the nerd way (use a Raspberry Pi to sync the contents of the USB drive with your file server when you get home). None of them are ideal, the right thing to do is to allow me (the owner of the car) to decide about the matter (1, 2, 100 or 0 hours of video storage).
Again, I asked Tesla if they plan any change related to this behavior.

Update 18 February: Tesla confirmed the 1-hour recording limit and logged my request to make this limit user-configurable. “As for expanding this time, we are hoping so we get a lot of requests for it.

Update 20 February: On 16 February I asked Tesla if they plan to change the current set up, where the real-time location of the car is not shown unless you drive car. On 20 February they replied: “I have submitted this as a feature request for the development team to review.

Random links #11

Written on 14 February 2019, 11:03am

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  1. The misinterpretation of the Mehrabian theory
  2. The four stages of competence
  3. How to avoid death by PowerPoint

There is a theory attributed to Albert Mehrabian according to which the non-verbal communication (NVC) accounts for 93% of the overall communication. In other words, what you say has virtually no importance, while how you say it (the tone and the body language) is almost everything.
Without negating the importance of the NVC, it is quite clear that the Mehrabian theory only applies in limited cases. In fact, the theory itself states that it applies only to communication about feelings or attitudes. This video does a pretty good job to debunk the 7% myth.
That being said, I strongly believe that the delivery can make or break a presentation. Take the same content and have it presented by two random people and you’ll understand what I mean.

The learning circle (or the 4 stages of competence) is a very useful way to visualize the learning process:

The circle of learning. Image from impower.co.uk

Finally, a presentation about how you should do your presentations 🙂 If you only have time to watch one video about improving your presentation skills, it should be this one:


David Phillips has become the leading Swedish figurehead in the art of making presentations

In a nutshell, keep in mind the following simple principles when working on your next slides:

  • use a dark background
  • add a single message per slide
  • use keywords or images, not sentences
  • use size to highlight the important elements
  • don’t use more than 5 objects per slide

That being said, you can deviate from the principles above in case you don’t present your slides on a stage in front of an audience. A slide like the one below could still make sense during a meeting where you brainstorm with other technical colleagues:

Target to your audience: if you’re talking to a bunch of other nerds, a slide like this can make sense and don’t bore anyone to death. But never show this on a stage!