Archive for April, 2015

Design Details: Carousel by Dropbox

April 30th, 2015 No comments

I spent a long time trying to think of what app to cover for the next Design Details post. As of this writing, I’m approaching 400 installed apps on my phone – the search is getting harder.

Carousel is one of those odd apps that slipped onto my phone when it first launched but I hadn’t returned to it for several months. Oddly enough, I had started to record a Design Details post when it first came out so I’m able to juxtapose a few design decisions that were made which have since been iterated upon and improved.

If you’re a Dropbox user, Carousel makes a lot of sense. It’s a wonderfully-focused photo storage and management app. Their iOS offering is beautifully constructed and has some wonderfully-refreshing onboarding design decisions. The Carousel web app is something you shouldn’t miss either – it’s a strong compliment to the mobile app and offers the Dropbox experience we’ve all grown to love right in the browser.

Below are some of my favorite details from Carousel, by Dropbox!

The following details are best-viewed on a Mac or PC in Chrome or Safari. I’m working on mobile support!

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Carousel, like all other Dropbox products, is fortunate to receive the art and branding love that can only come from designers as talented as Alice Lee and Ryan Putnam. The colors, lines and emotions conveyed in Carousel are warm and inviting – a safe place for your photos.

As we navigate through some of Carousel’s design details, it’s worth noting how crucial of a role animation and illustration play in creating a truly delightful experience.

1 Splash Tweet

When you boot up the app for the first time, one of the smoothest onboarding flows I’ve seen in an app kicks into gear.

Smoothness and aesthetics aside, I can’t help but to bring up the fact that the video below shows the app auto-scrolling if I don’t touch the screen within a few seconds. This tells me that, for whatever reason, people weren’t interacting with the indicative scroll gesture on the splash screen, so Dropbox had to nudge people along.

I’d love to know more behind that decision to auto-scroll users to the sign-in step, but for now it tells me that somewhere in the testing process the team found that people weren’t making it past the splash view.

Hover + hold to play and loop the video Share this Detail: Tweet
2 Choreography Tweet

If you are the person who engages with the onscreen prompt to scroll, you’ll see a beautifully choreographed animation as the photos on screen fall elegantly into alignment on your phone. I love that it’s not a timed animation, but rather that it corresponds precisely with your scroll speed.

Hover + hold to play and loop the video Share this Detail: Tweet
3 Permissions Tweet

Carousel is a Dropbox product, so they already know I have an account and am logged in on the main application. So here I get a beautifully-simple sign-in flow that forgoes having to look up my password or go through a 2-step auth flow.

This view, I imagine, was a tough one to design. Here we have an app that, by its very nature, needs access to your photos. But they don’t just come right out and flag you with the iOS permissions notification. Instead, you have to opt-in with a clear text label and checkbox. If you try to sign-in without granting access to your photos, a subtle shake guides user’s eyes to the right place.

Truthfully, I’m wondering how many people drop off from Carousel at this point. As an avid technology consumer and eager experimenter, of course I’m going to give Dropbox access to my photos. For someone that might not be as familiar with the product, parent company or even the concept of organizing your photos in the cloud, it might feel slightly more intrusive and daunting to grant this access.

For those brave enough to continue, there are wonderful things in store.

Hover + hold to play and loop the video Share this Detail: Tweet
4 Priming Tweet

This video is just showing how Dropbox primes users for the iOS permissions notification. As soon as you tick the checkbox, the real permissions have to be granted. This priming pattern is becoming commonplace among well-designed iOS apps; the priming of permission requests helps users to understand why and how their data will be used. Asking for permissions at the right time is key.

Hover + hold to play and loop the video Share this Detail: Tweet
5 Walkthrough Tweet

Oh, here’s the traditional walkthrough I was missing before. It’s interesting to see Dropbox explain the details and value of Carousel after signing in. Sure, it reduces the cognitive load of a new user booting the app up for the first time, but somehow this walkthrough explains things in a way that would convince me even more to use Carousel in the first place.

“Carousel keeps your photos safe…”

That’s so key, at least for me. It’s not just about creating a nice looking gallery of your photos and organizing them into albums. I can do that in I can do that on my Mac. What I want to know is that my photos will be taken care of, that they’ll always be there for me no matter what happens to my hardware.

Hover + hold to play and loop the video Share this Detail: Tweet
6 Tour Tweet

Okay, we’re in. But Carousel isn’t quite done showing users the ropes. Once your photos buffer in, the app kicks off a fairly explicit and intrusive “tutorial” about some of the different elements of the app. The first one tells me that my photos are organized – here I can see them filtered by date and location.

There are different opinions about whether these “tooltip-style” tours provide a good user experience. On one-hand, I can see it being helpful for someone less savvy on an iPhone. On the other hand, seeing that organization by date and location is just obvious – or, at least it’s obvious enough that I’m questioning such a prominent callout in the new-user experience.

Hover + hold to play and loop the video Share this Detail: Tweet
7 Tour continued Tweet

There are two more tutorial steps in the flow. The first shows me how to select and share sets of photos. Fair enough.

The second shows me a time wheel, and how to access it. Interestingly enough, I have an old video from when Carousel first came out and this timewheel was along the bottom of the screen. Iterations, ftw. That video is below:

Hover + hold to play and loop the video Share this Detail: Tweet
Hover + hold to play and loop the video Share this Detail: Tweet
8 Profile picture Tweet

I’m a little camera-shy, so here’s my kitchen. But it’s a nice touch to have a preview of the crop for your image at the same time you’re taking the photo. On a high level, I’m confused why I need a profile picture for Carousel – does this tie over to Dropbox? Does this show up anywhere? Can other people see it?

I figure it’s basically just so that people you share photos with can see your photo. Maybe adding that explanation could make this process more inviting. After all, this is the dominant UI element on the “more” tab of Carousel.

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9 Task list Tweet

This is my favorite part of Carousel. It’s just smart psychology and activation design, but it’s also (almost comically) friendly and inviting. Who wouldn’t want to make that lil’ cupcake happy?

At a high level, including onboarding “task-lists” is still a rare experience in app design. I’d say Dropbox is most famous for their web implementation of this flow, where they offer users extra storage for completing certain tasks or sharing Dropbox with friends. Here, they cleverly mix in two super-easy tasks (view a photo…right) with a viral component: share your photos with friends.

That’s how they getcha. That’s smart design.

Hover + hold to play and loop the video Share this Detail: Tweet
10 Timeline scrubbing Tweet

The time wheel is a really nice feature here. In most photo apps it can be a massive pain to scroll back through thousands of photos. I’ve been snapping smartphone pictures for 8 years now, so giving a quick way to access years and months makes so much sense.

Apple has done this by letting you zoom out in the “moments” view of the stock Photos app. Dropbox instead took a more linear, visually engaging way of helping users go back in time. Sometimes the timeline here is harder to pinpoint, but for the most part it’s fairly obvious and fits into my mental model of how my photos relate to each other chronologically.

Hover + hold to play and loop the video Share this Detail: Tweet
11 Select photos Tweet

You can select entire groups of photos in one go with Carousel’s bulk-checkmark. It’s a great touch to have the same interaction also expand all my collapsed photos just so I can be sure I’m only sharing the right images.

Hover + hold to play and loop the video Share this Detail: Tweet
12 Take me somewhere… Tweet

This video is a bit confusing, sorry – what you’re seeing here are screenshots of Carousel in my camera roll being show inside Carousel. Those screenshots will be further down in this post, so just ignore them for now.

Anyways, check this out: If you scroll past the bottom of the timeline (Today), a wonderful little design details fades into view: “Take me somewhere…” Keep pulling and you’ll be taken back in time to a random moment. I tried this a few times and Carousel will sometimes spring you back to a specific place. There’s not much practical use here, except to perhaps encourage exploring and reliving past moments and memories.

It’s a powerful thing to yank on those emotional strings.

Hover + hold to play and loop the video Share this Detail: Tweet
13 Throwback Tweet

This is another video I managed to save from when Carousel first came out. Originally you could swipe photos into boxes along the top and bottom of the screen to hide or share. It was a really fun experience, although not too practical. Carousel has since toned the sharing experience down to be more straightforward and obvious, but I still thought it was cool to see this evolution.

Hover + hold to play and loop the video Share this Detail: Tweet
14 Illustrations Tweet

These next few screenshots didn’t warrant videos, but the illustrations here are worth sharing. For me, the illustrations make the app work.

Dropbox has assembled one of the best illustration teams in the world, and their work breathes life into what might otherwise be a bland application.

Notice how the bottom photo has the woman hiding her face while I’m looking at the hidden photos view. Brilliant.

15 Carousel on the web Tweet

Carousel is a gorgeous iPhone app. They get a lot of interaction design right and the product is so simple and clear. I wondered if their web application would offer that same ease-of-use and clarity; I was pleasantly surprised.

Here’s the header image on their homepage. I’m constantly amazed at how such simple illustrations can create such an emotional experience. The photos tell a story, they’re relatable, they evoke real-world memories; a perfect example of emotional design.

Once you get inside the web app, a brief walkthrough pops into view. Dropbox’s clean modals take center stage and help guide users into the app while, naturally, pushing folks to activate on their mobile apps as well.

16 Sharing on the web Tweet

This sequence of photos captures the flow of sharing a photo on the web app. The animations and interaction design here is worth visiting the website to see in-person.

17 Timeline and sharing Tweet

Two more little details I loved: on the left, you can see a slick recreation of the timeline scrub. Jumping back in time is incredibly easy, and bold tooltips help guide you to a specific date. Putting this tech into the browser must have been a lot of work, but the continuity of experiences makes the application feel complete.

On the right, we’re greeted once again by our friendly cupcake encouraging you to share photos with friends.

That’s it for now! If I’ve missed any details in Carousel, give a shout on Twitter. Otherwise, thanks for reading and checking out the Design Details Podcast!

Categories: Designing, Others Tags:

Essential: How to Test Internet Explorer on Android, iOS, and Mac OS X

April 30th, 2015 No comments

Earlier this year, the Microsoft team launched a new tool to make it easier to test sites in IE regardless of which platform you’re on; seriously! It’s part of their work on Microsoft Edge and its new rendering engine and new user-agent string, which is a fork of Trident that’s far more interoperable with the mobile Web. In this tutorial, I want to demonstrate what this looks like in Chrome on my MacBook and how to set it up. tl;dr? Here are some Vines to show you it in action: Mac OSX Android iPad iOS Win7 The tool is called RemoteIE and is designed to offer a virtualized version of the latest version of IE. This allows you to test out the latest version of IE without have to have a virtual machine installed. And if you want to test for past versions of IE, you can always use the free virtual machines on modern.IE by starting here. Getting it All Setup I ran through the steps to use the tool myself and wanted to document everything in case you run into any hiccups. First, head on over to which will take you to this […]

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What is Trolling?

April 30th, 2015 No comments

If you engage in discussion on the Internet long enough, you’re bound to encounter it: someone calling someone else a troll.

The common interpretation of Troll is the Grimms’ Fairy Tales, Lord of the Rings, “hangs out under a bridge” type of troll.

Thus, a troll is someone who exists to hurt people, cause harm, and break a bunch of stuff because that’s something brutish trolls just … do, isn’t it?

In that sense, calling someone a Troll is not so different from the pre-Internet tactic of calling someone a monster – implying that they lack all the self-control and self-awareness a normal human being would have.

Pretty harsh.

That might be what the term is evolving to mean, but it’s not the original intent.

The original definition of troll was not a beast, but a fisherman:


verb ?tr?l

  1. to fish with a hook and line that you pull through the water

  2. to search for or try to get (something)

  3. to search through (something)

If you’re curious why the fishing metaphor is so apt, check out this interview:

There’s so much fishing going on here someone should have probably applied for a permit first.

  • He engages in the interview just enough to get the other person to argue. From there, he fishes for anything that can nudge the argument into some kind of car wreck that everyone can gawk at, generating lots of views and publicity.

  • He isn’t interested in learning anything about the movie, or getting any insight, however fleeting, into this celebrity and how they approached acting or directing. Those are perfunctory concerns, quickly discarded on the way to their true goal: generating controversy, the more the better.

I almost feel sorry for Quentin Tarantino, who is so obviously passionate about what he does, because this guy is a classic troll.

  1. He came to generate argument.
  2. He doesn’t truly care about the topic.

Some trolls can seem to care about a topic, because they hold extreme views on it, and will hold forth at great length on said topic, in excruciating detail, to anyone who will listen. For days. Weeks. Months. But this is an illusion.

The most striking characteristic of the worst trolls is that their position on a given topic is absolutely written in stone, immutable, and they will defend said position to the death in the face of any criticism, evidence, or reason.

Look. I’m not new to the Internet. I know nobody has ever convinced anybody to change their mind about anything through mere online discussion before. It’s unpossible.

But I love discussion. And in any discussion that has a purpose other than gladiatorial opinion bloodsport, the most telling question you can ask of anyone is this:

Why are you here?

Did you join this discussion to learn? To listen? To understand other perspectives? Or are you here to berate us and recite your talking points over and over? Are you more interested in fighting over who is right than actually communicating?

If you really care about a topic, you should want to learn as much as you can about it, to understand its boundaries, and the endless perspectives and details that make up any interesting topic. Heck, I don’t even want anyone to change your mind. But you do have to demonstrate to us that you are at least somewhat willing to entertain other people’s perspectives, and potentially evolve your position on the topic to a more nuanced, complex one over time.

In other words, are you here in good faith?

People whose actions demonstrate that they are participating in bad faith – whether they are on the “right” side of the debate or not – need to be shown the door.

So now you know how to identify a troll, at least by the classic definition. But how do you handle a troll?

You walk away.

I’m afraid I don’t have anything uniquely insightful to offer over that old chestnut, “Don’t feed the trolls.” Responding to a troll just gives them evidence of their success for others to enjoy, and powerful incentive to try it again to get a rise out of the next sucker and satiate their perverse desire for opinion bloodsport. Someone has to break the chain.

I’m all for giving people the benefit of the doubt. Just because someone has a controversial opinion, or seems kind of argumentative (guilty, by the way), doesn’t automatically make them a troll. But their actions over time might.

(I also recognize that in matters of social justice, there is sometimes value in speaking out and speaking up, versus walking away.)

So the next time you encounter someone who can’t stop arguing, who seems unable to generate anything other than heat and friction, whose actions amply demonstrate that they are no longer participating in the conversation in good faith … just walk away. Don’t take the bait.

Even if sometimes, that troll is you.

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World of Design No. 3: South Korea

April 29th, 2015 No comments

Driven by high-tech goliaths such as Samsung, LG, and Hyundai-Kia, South Korea is considered to be one of the most innovative countries in the world. However, this impressive fact does not call the tune when it comes to website design. It seems that the Korean-based creatives are trying to stick to the golden mean and maintain the ideology of “haste makes waste” and populate the web more with projects created on the basis of time-proven methods rather than on cutting-edge. Nevertheless, there is always a place for originality, and websites, which breathe with novelty, boldness and creativeness that take users on fantastic and unforgettable experiences are also present. Korean web wonderfully balances projects powered by tried and true approaches with those that are charged with high-end techniques thereby achieving a subtle sense of harmony. Moreover, being blessed with the yin and yang, the symbol not only marks the flag and emblem of the country, but also affects the sphere of website design. Today we have tried to cover a broad range of examples in order to show this in practice. AirFrance SkyTeam Coach Kotra Rokstyles Galleria Wander World Defy The Current Form Follows Function Daniel Moon Cdips Switch Mediaworks Weedmind Touch […]

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Hands-On: Build a Node.js-powered Chatroom Web App (Part Two)

April 28th, 2015 No comments

This Node.js tutorial series will help you build a Node.js powered real-time chatroom web app fully deployed in the cloud. Throughout the series, you will learn how to setup Node.js on your Windows machine, how to develop a web frontend with Express, how to deploy a Node Express-based app to Microsoft Azure, how to use Socket.IO to add a real-time layer, and how to deploy it all together. Level: Beginner to Intermediate–you are expected to know HTML5 and JavaScript Part 2: Welcome to Express with Node.js and Azure Welcome to Part 2 of the hands-on Node.js tutorial series: Build a Node.js-powered chatroom web app. In this installment, I will show you how to start a new Express-based node project and deploy it to Azure. What is Express? Express is a minimal, open source and flexible Node.js web app framework designed to make developing websites, web apps and APIs much easier. Why use Express? Express helps you respond to HTTP requests with route support so that you may write responses to specific URLs. Express supports multiple templating engines to simplify generating HTTP responses. You will want to make sure Node.js is properly installed and ready. See part 1 of this tutorial series: […]

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100 Free Resources for Sketch App

April 27th, 2015 No comments

More and more creatives switch from powerful and universal image editors such as Adobe Photoshop or Adobe Illustrator to simpler, less sophisticated, much handier and just cheaper software for carrying out their tasks. These unidirectional yet feature-rich programs enable talented folks to focus particularly on designing and nothing else, providing a set of instruments exactly for this sphere. Sketch App is one of that kind. Although the application is available only for Mac users, however, this fact does not prevent it from gaining widespread popularity among graphic, website, UX, and app UI designers. Enhancing the workflow through various plugins and a vast amount of free stuff that are ready to be involved in any concept right away, it is winning over new followers every day. Today we have compiled a collection of free sketch resources in order to demonstrate that the app is broad in scope. Make the most of it. Resources Soundtrack Playlist App Creator: Eduardo Higareda License: Declared as Free, no proper license given. Music Player Overlay Creator: Ced License: Declared as Free, no proper license given. Marvel Icons Creator: Abraham Guerra License: Declared as Free, no proper license given. Sport iOS app Creator: Oleksiy Tymoshenko License: Declared as Free, no proper license […]

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WordPress Plugins for Image Editing: Regenerate Thumbnails and Photon

April 26th, 2015 No comments

Sometimes you may find yourself in a situation where you wish to have a little helper that solves your problems in a heartbeat. There’s one situation probably every WordPress user has come across already: You change your theme, and suddenly none of the thumbnails fits anymore. Too big and your theme loses its effect, too small and the CSS might upscale them to the appropriate size, which would make them look pixelated and simply unsightly. Some themes display too small thumbnails as they are, which also interferes the effect of a beautiful new theme. Regenerate Thumbnails solves this problem by resizing existing thumbnails. Photon provides a less destructive alternative, is, however, part of the mega plugin Jetpack. We checked both of them… The Problem: Thumbnails That Don’t Fit To accentuate the intended effect of a WordPress theme, which is (mostly) realized in the live demo, thumbnails need a certain size – if you want to use them at all. I can immediately think of two scenarios where images with wrong dimensions have a negative impact on the overall effect of a theme. Example 1: The Enfold Theme Enfold is one of the bestselling themes worldwide, with one reason being its […]

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Online Marketing Basics #4: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for Beginners

April 25th, 2015 No comments

Search engine optimization is part of search engine marketing, aiming to direct visitors from the search engine to your website. There, search engine optimization (SEO for short) focuses on so-called organic rankings. Part 4 of our online marketing series will talk about what SEO means, and we will introduce you to some ways to affect those rankings. You certainly know a couple of search engines. However, in many regions Google is the undisputed market leader. There, it makes sense to focus your search engine optimization efforts on Google. This comes with pros and cons: It’s easier to focus on just one provider, yes. But: your competition will do the same, making it harder for you to differentiate your offerings and secondly, driving prices up as far as keyword bidding and Google ads are concerned. Still, it’s not mission impossible to make progress in your rankings. Backed by the appropriate strategy, you might be able to target relevant keywords that may be contested less fiercely but still bring in revenue. How Does a Promising SEO Strategy Look? Search engine optimization describes all measures taken to get a website to a top position at the organic SERPs (search engine results pages). Hence […]

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WordPress: Fancy Site Navigation With the_posts_pagination()

April 24th, 2015 No comments

It was not until WordPress 4.1 was released that creating a paginated blog navigation was a fairly cumbersome affair, which required either a certain degree of development effort or a plugin. WordPress 4.1 makes this a thing of the past. It allows you to create a paginated blog navigation by adding one single tag to the theme’s index.php. Now you need a little bit of CSS to get a decent design. And that’s about it. It doesn’t take more than 10 minutes to develop your navigation, and the result is simply amazing. Let’s have a closer look at the possibilities of the new template tag. In our example, we use the Twenty Twelve theme. Initial State: The Twenty Twelve WordPress Theme The Twenty Twelve theme doesn’t provide a paginated blog navigation out of the box. Instead, you can navigate through blog pages by using a rather elementary “Older Posts/Newer Posts” navigation. Twenty Twelve is by far not the only theme using such navigation. The screenshot shows the initial state: This navigation may be purposive, but it’s neither pretty nor user-friendly since you can’t see at first sight on which page of the blog you are. Therefore, we’ll show you today […]

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Link of the Day: Webdesigner News – All the Latest and Greatest in Web Design and Development

April 23rd, 2015 No comments

Staying up to the latest innovations in web design and development is not an easy task to accomplish. My personal Feedly is cram packed with over 500 feeds. And it costs me a lot of time to even keep up with these news, although they are more or less easily digestible through RSS – much easier than having to visit all these sites manually in any case. Tech news consumers love their TechMeme, but what do web designers and developers do. No, don’t worry, I won’t suggest that there are no sites to go to, but it’s only a handful. Now this hand has grown its sixth finger… Webdesigner News – Curated Shortnews for Designers and Developers Webdesigner News is the latest project by the guys behind Webdesigner Depot and Mighty Deals (and then some). There’s no doubt that they know their trade. Webdesigner News is a site in the tradition of Hacker News (HN) and Designer News(DN) with the latter being the most obvious competitor. In a way you are already familiar with should you frequently visit the other two news sites, Webdesigner News lists the latest and greatest as a timeline without a lot of decoration around it. […]

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