is a blog about design, technology and culture written by Khoi Vinh, and has been more or less continuously published since December 2000 in New York City. Khoi is currently Vice President of User Experience at Wildcard and co-founder of Kidpost. Previously, Khoi was co-founder and CEO of Mixel (acquired by Etsy, Inc.), Design Director of The New York Times Online, and co-founder of the design studio Behavior, LLC. He is the author of “Ordering Disorder: Grid Principles for Web Design,” and was named one of Fast Company’s “fifty most influential designers in America.” Khoi lives in Crown Heights, Brooklyn with his wife and three children. RSS sponsorship opportunities available through /Syndicate Ads.+
One of my favorite features in the recent 1.0 release of the Adium instant messaging client is a low-level visual alteration in the display of multiple selections in the contacts list. In previous beta releases (which I’ve used faithfully for some time), when you selected a contact in the list by simply clicking, that name would be highlighted with a gradated color bar. It’s nothing unusual. In fact, it’s perfectly in keeping with the Mac OS X look and feel.
If you selected multiple names, though, that same colored, gradated bar would be repeated once for each selection, creating what I found to be an undesirable Venetian blind effect. True, it’s not so visually offensive that I ever thought much about it, but it wasn’t going to win any awards, either.
Now, when you select multiple names in Adium 1.0, you’ll find something subtly but significantly different. The newest version treats all of the selections as a single group, rather than several individual items simultaneously selected. No Venetian blind effect this time; rather, you’ll see a single color field spanning all of the selections, with a single, much more subtle gradation across the entire group. Much, much simpler, and much, much more visually pleasant.
There’s no good reason why this change had to be made, to say nothing of a business case — Adium is developed for free by volunteers and given away free to all comers. No one — I mean no one — would have complained if it had never been implemented. Nevertheless, someone with a passion for this product took the time out to reconsider the problem, develop a solution, test it and champion it all the way to its ship date. As feature modifications go, it clearly qualifies as non-critical, yet in its final, completed form, it’s elegant, perfectly logical and, now that it’s a shipping feature, appears indispensable.+