Archive: July, 2013

In theory, this is how Xbox One and PS4 graphics compare

Sam Gibbs writing for Gizmodo UK (sourcing data from a lengthy Eurogamer article):

It turns out that despite having 50 per cent more power in the GPU department, the in-game graphical performance of the surrogate PS4 only managed around 25 per cent faster frame rates, like-for-like in the gaming benchmarks. The interesting thing here is that the homebrew Xbox One test rig kept up with the PS4-like kit if the resolution was turned down from 1080p a smidgen, which makes me think that on the whole the two are going to be very evenly matched.

Pretty much all tests, signs and evaluations we’ve heard is that at least out of the gate you won’t notice much difference between the two systems in terms of raw graphical performance. But years down the line as graphical needs get pushed further upward I’m curious if the extra PS4 power will make a noticeable difference, at least on first party games.

Your app makes me fat

Kathy Sierra:

If your UX asks the user to make choices, for example, even if those choices are both clear and useful, the act of deciding is a cognitive drain. And not just while they’re deciding… even after we choose, an unconscious cognitive background thread is slowly consuming/leaking resources, “Was that the right choice?” 

If your app is confusing and your tech support / FAQ isn’t helpful, you’re drawing down my scarce, precious, cognitive resources. If your app behaves counter-intuitively – even just once – I’ll leak cog resources every time I use it, forever, wondering, “wait, did that do what I expected?”.

Every choice is a cost. It’s an utterly simple principle, but it makes me step back and reconsider a lot of design choices made, both professionally and in side projects.

Iterate 51: Tim van Damme after Instagram

There’s a nice interview over at iMore with Instagram’s former head mobile designer. Given his track record Tim is clearly a talented guy. It was interesting hearing his brief takes on porting Instagram’s design from iOS to Android along with a bit on his overall design workflow. I do wish there was more on his motivations for now jumping over to Dropbox, but I bet we’ll hear more on that at a later date.

Weighing Sketch and Photoshop

Designer Khoi Vinh:

I’m really enjoying Sketch’s more streamlined feature set, and how it is clearly purpose-built for designing user interfaces. Simpler tools are very often better tools.

As noted previously here, Sketch’s focused toolkit has really grown on me. Awesome to see a great designer like Khoi is jumping on the Sketch train as well.

The history of aspect ratio

I thought I had the basics of aspect ratio down cold, but this video by taught me some new material (e.g. why widescreen TVs settled on 16:9 as the HD standard). It’s also very well edited with solid narration and starts simple enough that newbies won’t have trouble following along.

Phantom CSS

I have not gotten the chance to use Phantom CSS out yet, but it’s promise and buzz among fellow web developers is promising when it comes to visual regression testing. To put it in the words of its creator, developer James Cryer:

PhantomCSS takes screenshots captured by PhantomJS and compares them to baseline images using Resemble.js to test for rgb pixel differences with HTML5 canvas. PhantomCSS then generates image diffs to help you find the cause so you don’t need to manually compare the new and old images.

Think about it: an open source delivery system to generate images for differences in a web site. That’s extremely powerful stuff as it can catch errors eyeballing code often misses, especially on a large web site base where visual spot checks on every page are out of question.

The problem with medium

Andrea Phillips:

Now, I’m not saying you should never write unless you see the Benjamins. I’ve written for free before; I’ll do it again. Sometimes, yeah, the exposure is worth it. But even then, it would be foolish to use Medium as a primary platform for your work. If Medium goes away — like Geocities,, Posterous and countless other startups lo these twenty years gone by — your digital footprint will be gone, too. Poof.

I don’t know about you, but the idea of every link pointing to my work for the last few years suddenly breaking… well, it makes me feel a little queasy. Third-party platforms come and go, but a site and domain you own are forever. Protecting yourself and your work from bitrot is important.

I think Medium is a gorgeous looking platform, but there’s something to be said for protecting your own content. Let’s not get paranoid; I write my thoughts publicly in a lot of places “for free”, from Twitter to GitHub, even maybe someday Medium. But if it comes to selling your content – serving ads, paywalls, much of traditional journalism – think carefully about where you’re placing that content and your associated rights.

CSS guidelines

Some great ideas from CSS Wizardry on organizing and writing CSS. Pay close attention to the recommendations on a table of contents and section titles; while I slightly differ from the section and content style listed here, both devices are a huge help once your CSS grows in size.

The Dissolve

I admittedly was a bit skeptical when I first heard about The Dissolve. Between SlashFilm and The A.V. Club, did we really need another big film web site? And it’s from the team behind Pitchfork?

But then I dove in after its debut late last week and I’m very glad I did. The content itself is excellent, written by a lot of writers I have respect for: Keith Phipps, Scott Tobias, Matt Singer and many more. There’s something also of a happy medium ground The Dissolve is getting at in terms of its content posting frequency. There’s less constant updates a la A.V. or SlashFilm, but they make those posts count.

There’s something to be said for the site’s visual design as well. In contrast to the all white ultra modern and minimalist trend, The Dissolve is a bit mellow and old school that’s heavy on serifs and warm, off white colors. I’ve already added their features and reviews RSS feeds to my feed reader.

Transit time NYC

A compelling web data visualization over at WNYC, New York’s NPR station. Enter an address or click on the map and you’ll estimated subway travel times to everywhere else in NYC. The package is done really smartly with hex shaped data points color coded heat map style.