Monday, February 27, 2012

Teller reveals his secrets

Teller (the less boisterous half of the magician duo Penn & Teller) has written a must read article for any developer wanting to write great software for the WIMM One. In this article, he reveals a few of his key secrets for making magic work.

One important secret is to use the resource that most people won't: time. A trick that lasts 30 seconds in front of an audience may take weeks or months or even years to prepare. The "magic" here is that most people wouldn't use so much time to prepare a 30 second illusion.

That got me thinking a lot about what I enjoy about developing watchfaces for the little WIMM One. Per the Micro App Guidelines, a great Micro App (or watchface) is characterized by providing rich, timely information in short glances.

For the most part, the information itself is pretty easy to get. Ask the system what time it is, or lift code from the network sample to query some resource on the web. But presenting that information in an attractive, polished way to the user may take days or weeks of development to deliver "magic" interactions to your users.

For example. the basic functionality (display time in various formats, procrastinator watch) of my first Alltock Christmas watch took me about 4 hours and two glasses of wine late one Friday night. Adding a snowstorm took a couple hours the next afternoon. It was a week or so before the Advent calendar countdown was suggested by a friend. And it's been three months of refinement of the presentation and interactions.

Another example... The side columns of my Alltock Monogram watchface came together in a couple of hours after seeing a suggestion for an "elevator watch". Even some rich animation of the minute column in active mode and transitional effects from passive mode were pretty easy. But it took a couple of days of constantly using that watchface and being annoyed by the space in the center for the monogram idea to gel. At one point, I thought an animation of a two-lane highway in the center would be the ticket. And it took a lot of feedback from my first audience to know that, for example, the minute column animations were over-the-top, even distracting and disconcerting.

Be inspired by Teller. The resource you can use to your greatest advantage in developing your Micro App is the time you spend polishing and refining it. There aren't gazillions of developers in this space yet, and even when they arrive, are they going to have the time to out-polish and out-refine you on your app? If you put enough in, probably not.

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