The iPhone platform elegantly solves the design problem of small screens by greatly
intensifying the information resolution of each displayed page. Small screens, as on
traditional cell phones, show very little information per screen, which in turn leads
to deep hierarchies of stacked-up thin information–too often leaving users with
“Where am I?” puzzles. Better to have users looking over material adjacent in space
rather than stacked in time.
To do so requires increasing the information resolution of the screen by the hardware
(higher resolution screens) and by screen design (eliminating screen-hogging
computer administrative debris, and distributing information adjacent in space).
This video shows some of the resolution-enhancing methods of the iPhone, along
with a few places for improvements in resolution.
(This is a 56mb file; it might take a while to load.
The video is essential to the essay as is the still-land material below.)
… View video … (opens new window with original Tufte post)
In 1994-1995 I [Tufte] designed (while consulting for IBM) screen mock-ups for navigating
through the National Gallery via information kiosks. (The National Gallery had the
good sense not to adopt the proposal.) For several years these screen designs were
handouts in the one-day course in my discussion of interface design, and were then
published in my book Visual Explanations (1997).
The design ideas here include high-resolution touch-screens; minimizing computer
admin debris; spatial distribution of information rather than temporal stacking;
complete integration of text, images, and live video; a flat non-hierarchical
interface; and replacing spacious icons with tight words. The metaphor for the
interface is the information. Thus the iPhone got it mostly right.
Here are pages 146-150 from Visual Explanations (1997):