[Design] Thinking out of the box idea: Fish-eye Dashboard with Tiles

Mimi Yin mimi at osafoundation.org
Thu Jan 5 12:32:03 PST 2006


Oren Sreenby from UW sent me an interesting link to a presentation  
that Mary Czerwinski gave recently at their Computer Science  
Colloquium. Oren has been working with Mary on innovative new UIs to  
improve task management and task flow on the Desktop. Some of you  
will remember her from the NY Times article Brendan posted to the  
list a few months ago entitled: Meet the Life Hackers and how they  
deal with Constant Interruptions in their work.


The first half of the presentation, focuses on ways to reduce  
"context-switching" on the desktop, which essentially boils down to  
better "window" management. A couple of interesting things to call  
out are:

1. Clipping the "important" part of windows, so that you can have  
many windows open at the same time without needing to overlap them  
because each window occupies most of your screen.

(Clipping is tangentially related to OS X's Expose functionality,  
which allows you to tile your open windows in various configurations  
to help you find "lost" windows. However there are some significant  
- Expose in OS X is modal, meaning you're either in a tiled view of  
your windows or in "regular" mode and you can't actually interact  
with the windows when you're in one of the Expose tiled modes.
- Windows in Expose are simply shrunken, not clipped, so oftentimes,  
the shrunken windows are too small to be intelligible or provide any  
valuable information.)

2. Fish-eye display of window-clips where certain window-clips are  
"minimized" off to the side

3. Users can arrange their window-clips into clusters and project- 
based groupings

4. Subtle visual cues alert users to when window-clips are active  
(ie. downloading files or syncing) versus dormant

All of this amounts to a much more fluid approach to "getting things  
done". It reduces the cognitive load of constant context shifting:  
looking for lost windows, re-remembering what you were working on,  
checking upon on the status of things.

This then made me rethink our "summary-table" based approach to task- 
management in the Dashboard, so I started sketching out some more  
"tile-based" displays of open items in the "NOW" section of the  

We have an interactive graphical display for calendar (because it's  
simply easier for people to grok calendar data laid out on a calendar  
grid.) It would be interesting to explore a graphical display for the  
Dashboard and see if it improves our ability to "keep track of what  
we're doing."

What if you could arrange your NOW items as re-sizable tiles, clipped  
to show the most important information, arrangable in any  
configuration, thereby
    * Allowing you to cluster groups of related items together,
    * Allowing you to control the relative prominence of items, and
    * Taking advantage of your ability to remember things based on  
where they are.

I also experimented with adding a second dimension to the Dashboard  
view. In addition to sectioning the Dashboard horizontally by Triage  
status, I've also sectioned it vertically by "Relevance to Me". (ie.  
In the realm of email, that would roughly translate into "things To:  
Me", "things CC: Me" and "things sent to some list that I'm on"...but  
it should be something that users can fine-tune with explicit Drag  
and Drop.) The resulting effect is that you get these "spheres" of  
relevance, where items in the top-left-hand corner are the most  
relevant and relevance decreases as you move to the right and down.

A Fish-Eye View of the Dashboard: Focused on the NOW section.

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