Never Good Enough

James Dempsey‘s incredible attention to detail made his presentation about table views in iOS7 and beyond one of my favorites at  CocoaConf San Jose this weekend. The presentation was really simple – take a table view from an iOS6 app and convert it to iOS7. I’ve done this at my job before – all I did was upgrade the views in the storyboard, and change the fonts and some colors.

However, James Dempsey took this change way further. You can view his source code with step-by-step commits on Github here. Besides adding Dynamic Type, which is a good thing to do if you can, he made the effort to copy the very subtle custom transition between View Controllers that Apple has in their Mail app.

He didn’t stop until it was perfect. There was a point where if you looked closely, you’d see the animation wasn’t quite right because the separator lines on the table view cell didn’t transition in just the right way. Honestly, it was hard for me to see this subtle issue, but James Dempsey made the effort to make sure it was really perfect – and it was a pretty substantial change to the cell and the view controller to make sure it was just right.

That is the type of developer I aspire to be. I look at some apps, and am completely blown away by the effort it takes to make some of those “simple” user interactions. For example, I spend about two days last week trying to replicate Secret’s text label animation. I have no idea how long it took the Secret team to not only create the animation, but to also think of it from scratch and to get it just right.

I know for a fact that the apps I work on are just never good enough. I never seem to have time to add those special little effects and animations that delight the user, and even if I do have the time, how do I know which animation or effect to add?!! That in itself is an art – getting it just right.

Daniel Steinberg of Dim Sum Thinking gave the most inspiring talk at CocoaConf – pointing out how much work and focus it takes to actually achieve delighting the user. He used Ira Glass’s This American Life radio show as an example.

Each show starts out with something like 25 topics, narrowed down to 10 that are heavily researched, narrowed down to one that will be the actual topic, which is researched even more, at which point the show needs to be written and the interviews edited (with most of the content thrown out to get just the right sound bites), etc. At the end, the show is incredible, but the amount of work it took to produce it at that quality goes unnoticed.

When I told this to a friend, he pointed me to this amazing and short Ira Glass on the Creative Process talk video:

I have a lot more work to do!

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