I like Sailfish but … 2nd episode, the WP syndrom

Sailfish is far away from Windows Phone in term of overall design. Being buttonless and caring a lot about launched applications, Sailfish can be seen as way more efficient and effective. But while I studied the OS in details, thanks to the numerous videos, and hands-on demos I have seen, I found that actually, Sailfish borrowed some (bad ?) design patterns from WP. However, don’t forget that Sailfish is not a WP clone, they are not alike at all.

Frames and tiles

Jolla active frames is something done well. The best idea I have ever seen in mobile. Many phones that have (even limited) multitask capabilities only show it through complicated manipulations (double click on home button for iOS, long press back on WP, long press home on Android). Only some OS exposed them well, as minimized frame (Maemo, WebOS, MeeGo Harmattan to name a few). However, these frames or icons (in iOS) that are used to present the minimized or frozen applications are only here to maximize them. Noone thought about putting a way to interact with them … Until Jolla revealed Sailfish. I remember that the active frame, where you can control an app without restoring it was the first feature that I found pretty brilliant.

So on Sailfish, while minimized, applications displays frames, that shows useful information like the number of unread emails, the last calls, or last received messages, like on BB10. However, while BB10 has done a good job in identifying what app match each frame, Jolla did not.

Minimized apps on BB10. (Image from zdnet)

Minimized apps on BB10. (Image from zdnet)

Each of the minimized application frame on BB10 comes with a title and an icon of the currently minimized app, so they can easily be identified. On Harmattan, a different frame is not used when the app is minimized, meaning that the user can still find the app based on the look it had before minimizing it, but on Sailfish, we got something like this.

Sailfish multitasking screen mockup (from sailfishos.org)

Sailfish multitasking screen mockup (from sailfishos.org)

The first applications that catch our attention are those with fancy covers, music, contacts or photos. But the others have close to the same UI, and without reading carefully what’s on them, it might be hard to guess what is what. The clock (bottom left) might be confused by the dialer (top left) since they both have two elements at the bottom, and lines of text.There is also that contacts application, that looks very close to the gallery application. In one case there are 4 pictures, in the second, 6.This reminded me of what can happen on Windows Phone / Windows 8, that is the problem on identifying tiles.

Application using tiles in Windows (Phone) 8 might want to display a lot of information on their tile, but then, the information about which application does that tile corresponds is missing. The article on nngroup.com underlined it. Lacking the application name, or a key information that can be used to identify it, like a large logo, can be a prejudice.

Of cause, it is not all the time like that. I have seen that the email application have a wonderful large “@” as a background, effectively telling that it is the email application.

Typography warnings

The second point that relates to Windows Phone is typography. However, it is more a warning than something broken in Sailfish. Like WP, Sailfish only use a limited set of fonts, and a limited set of different typographies (size, bold + italic etc) It is very nice to have that limited set, just in order to have consistency.

However, it is not that easy to make interfaces that are easy to read with that limited set. Because, for a multilevel content, like an email (that includes a subject, where does it comes from, the content etc.) you have to choose in your set, and often, you don’t have enough choice. It is then important to pay attention to those choices. For example, the email application that was shown at MWC was displaying only huge blocks of texts, without being able to see which is the subject, sender or content.

The email app

The email app

Of cause, the application is still in developement, but it is still important to underline these problems.

Pulley menus need (even more) feedback

The pulley menu is definitely one of the graphical component that I love the most in Sailfish, effectively saving space, without sacrifing usability, even if there are quite a few things to think about it when using them (the list where the pulley is attached should not be too large, or it should not contain too much useful tools etc.) The idea of having haptic feedbacks when using them is also great, so the used do not need to be precise in clicking on a menu etc.

However, I think that there should be something to inform the user when an action is triggered: while triggering or moving the pulley, there are feedbacks, but when the user release it, nothing really happen. Maybe there should be a sound or a blink on the entry while the list is being scrolled back to normal position.

I think that I covered pretty all the things that I found disturbing in Sailfish right now. I hope that there will be no more articles of that kind before the launch 🙂

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8 thoughts on “I like Sailfish but … 2nd episode, the WP syndrom

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