One of the most intriguing things about Apple Watch is its non-orthogonal user interface, where app icons are organised in a circular, zoomable jumble. And it turns out the good old iPhone could learn something about legible UI from its smaller, younger cousin.
How do we know? Because a developer named Lucas Menge actually built it. Menge programmed a sample interface that uses the same basic organisational layout as the Apple Watch and ran it on his iPhone, and lucky for us, he uploaded a demo to YouTube:
As he demonstrates, app icons are arranged on a single, massive offset grid, and users tap to zoom in an out of the field. He even included some nice animation details, like the expansion of an icon into the fully fledged app. Surprisingly, such a broad field doesn't seem as irksome as you might imagine: the iPhone's touchscreen is surprisingly good at picking up touches even when icons are quite small, and Menge's pinch-to-zoom and pan gestures seem to work seamlessly.
Our traditional understanding of how visual information is best organised tells us that it's all about regularity and legibility; in other words, respect the grid. But Apple is delving into new territory with the Apple Watch interface, which uses an irregular grid and lets users control the scale. At times, icons are barely legible, which a big no no, conventionally speaking.
But touchscreens are now sensitive enough — and smartphone users are now experienced enough — that a zoomable, organic grid makes a certain amount of sense. It places more agency in the hands of the user, too, which is never a bad thing. But let's not get ahead of ourselves: we don't even have a definite release date for the Apple Watch yet. But when we do, it's going to be fascinating to see how well this theory works in practice. [CultOfMac]