Rio Karma MP3 player (2004).
This was before touch screens, when we had to rely on hard keys provided somewhere around the screen. The huge majority of hand held devices come with the controls at the bottom, below the display.
The Karma did the opposite, and that was daring. It was surprisingly comfortable, as the thumb would effortlessly meet the wheel and buttons located at the top, making the player very natural to use. But not everyone liked how it looked.
An example of product that didn't sell as much as it deserved, just because we're usually not ready to buy things that look too unusual, even if they're a delight to use. To be fair, the Karma was probably not ideal for lefthanders!
Top feature expected from a calendar: show me clearly what occurs when.
Of course you could argue "obvious, events are hanged just right under their date", which puts my dentist appointment on the 19th.
But consider the case where you want to add an event to an empty day. By selecting the white cell, are you 100% sure the upper label applies to it, rather that the lower one? Same problem with days full of events. It would help to make very clear which label comes with which cell, through a better visual association.
We don't really read them, do we? We just want to get them out of the way. I think Cancel/Shut Down is always better than No/Yes, which forces me to read what the question is about. Of course, in an extreme case like "Cancel this reservation?", it's getting complicated... that might be the exception, fair enough.
I would even shorten the title to a more economic "Shut down your computer?". The first part "Are you sure you want to" is noise. It's not friendly sugar. As to "Now", it's pretty implicit.
When there is a well established design convention, there is something worse than drifting away from it: you can conflict with it. Let's look at an example.
Web browsers popularized the rule that page navigation controls should be located at the top-left corner of the window. This has been adopted since then by file explorers, the iPhone UI, etc. If you support some kind of page navigation in your application, that's a good idea to follow this convention if possible, because this is where people will look for the controls, instinctively.
What iTunes does is particularly deceptive and naughty: at the place you're looking for the page navigation controls, you will find buttons that strongly resemble them, but the damn commands are for songs, not pages!
And although i DO know the problem, today I still frequently click Previous Track by mistake, when I just mean to go back to the All Artists view. The music stops, and I'm stuck on the same page... It happens often because I usually don't use my brain when I want to perform something as simple as navigating back. Today, it's something we do all the time, the same way (top-left corner).
Imagine that tomorrow, you suddenly had to turn anti-clockwise to screw. Even if you know the new rule, it's likely that you'll still be trying to screw clockwise for some months. Or imagine yourself cutting your hair in the neck, using a mirror: you know you have to move left to go to the right and vice-versa, but I'm sure you noticed how insufficient this knowledge is to make you feel confident. I guess the brain just doesn't get why left to right suddenly becomes right to left.
When looking at the screw and the screwdriver, or in the mirror, everything looks standard until you take action. Nothing suggests "Hey, be careful, it's not as usual". So if you don't follow a convention for some reason, at least make sure it doesn't seem that you do!
User interface designers usually work on desktop computers; they use tools like Omnigraffle, Visio, Adobe CS, or even Powerpoint to produce screen specifications and interaction flows.
A year ago, I had a chance to try Surface, the huge and innovative multi-touch table from Microsoft. I thought that would be fantastic to have UI design tools on a device like that. Imagine: just drag and drop interface components with your 10 fingers, assemble, resize and align them, swap two buttons in a spin gesture, in the most natural way.
I don't know if anyone made that for Surface, but there are some similar tools emerging for iPad and iPhone. I was much intrigued and tried a tool called Interface, for the iPhone (picture below).
Note: this product does not claim to be a design tool as such, just a handy application to quickly compose realistic screens directly on the device. However the test was enough to make obvious several issues that would apply to more sophisticated design products as well.
What I realised:
Now I'd like to see how a hybrid system would feel: it would let you do the high-level manipulation with the fingers (such as zoom in/out), and accurate things with a more traditional pointing device.
See also iPad versions of Interface (by Less Code) and Omnigraffle (by The Omni Group).
On a smartphone, when you start an application, the usual behaviour of the device is to open the application as you left it last time.
However, in some cases, resetting the state of the application is your best bet.
A camera software that prepares to shoot whenever it opens, regardless what I was doing last time (e.g. review the stored photos). It makes sense because if I start the camera it's almost always to take a new picture. To review existing pictures, I'd rather go directly to the media library.
A dictionary that sets ready for a new search whenever it opens, even if I was busy reading a definition last time I quit it. Relevant, because you can be quite sure that what I want is to do a new search.
At the very minimum, you need a blade, and a handle to hold and drive it.
Have you seen such a can opener out of order or broken? Does it make noise, does it suck electricity, does it take room, does it need a manual?
Remove the blade, remove the handle, there's nothing left.