UIP: What inspired you to create a weather app?
Simon Gustavsson: Henri Normak contacted me with a request to join him on a small project he had in mind. With him, he had the idea for a weather app with focus on a dynamic color controlled by the weather condition. During that period I had wanted to take on a relatively small app project, although it soon proved to need more time than I initially had planned. I hadn’t really worked on an app from the start, so it sounded very intriguing.
UIP: Can you give us insight on how you created the cool graph visualizations?
SG: The app underwent a lot of iteration and work before ending up on using the graphs as a primary feature. In the beginning, the goal was simply to create a nice weather app – something that lead to a lot of different directions we were able to go. After quite some time I realized that the only weather site I ever checked used graphs to show the upcoming 48 hours of weather data or so, and that these graphs were about the only reason I visited the site. They provided you with such a clear, understandable and – most of all – easily digestible set of data. And I came to understand that rows of icons and numbers (like many weather apps use) aren’t user friendly at all. A fluctuating temperature graph says a lot more than numbers on their own.
Like any other part of the app, the graphs needed iteration in order to look as good and be as functional as they could, but the core layout was pretty quickly set after this stage.
UIP: How long was your creative design process?
SG: The creative design process is a constantly ongoing one. New challenges arise and needs to be dealt with underway. Unlike ‘simpler’ (read: less complex) design challenges, making an app results in problem after problem stacked upon each other. If one part of the layout is set up in a certain way, it could lead to related difficulties somewhere else. This means that going back and forth all the time, changing what you’ve come to like and making compromises are all necessities. But needless to say, it is this iterating that creates the best results. I’m still working on the design of Shade, both on future updates and refinement of current ones.
Anyway, ending up with the graph focused layout took some time simply because we hadn’t chosen a clear direction to go.
A major shift in the design process came when we became aware of iOS 7. Previously, the aesthetics of Shade relied heavily on thicker strokes and bolder typography. There were no clear hierarchy of important and less important elements on screen, and for this reason it felt somewhat odd. Shipping with iOS 7, it would’ve looked very off. I saw that as a chance to both make Shade fit in (and we decided the deadline for 1.0 would be the launch of iOS 7) and to clear up the rest of the layout problems. The unique feature of the app – the graphs – would need more focus. In fact, it had to be made clearer what the focus of the app was to begin with. That’s when we decided on the fact that this weather app was supposed to give you a brief, quick overview of the day ahead.
UIP: What are some the tools to create Shade?
SG: Before going digital, I really like to use pen and paper. Whether that’s a ballpoint pen on cheap copy paper or an expensive pencil on thick, quality paper doesn’t matter at this stage. Going straight to software can easily distract you from your task, because it’s simply all about getting your ideas down and letting your mind flow freely.
When on my computer, I use Photoshop for creating all the mockups and design elements needed for web, the App Store, emails and the app itself. I’ve yet to try out Sketch (which is to my knowledge a great tool for UI creation), because I know that almost everything I want to do is possible in Photoshop. That isn’t to say that I couldn’t change tools in the future, but now I’m relying on this gigantic piece of software.
UIP: What are your impressions of iOS 7?
SG: Apart from a few annoyances, iOS 7 is a very solid update, improving on previous shortcomings and renewing aspects of the OS that felt old or needed updating. Subtle features like swiping messages to the left to reveal the timestamp and not having to scroll to the top of the conversation to access the contact info are examples of changes that enhance the overall experience in small ways. On the other hand, big changes like Control Center and Airdrop alters (for the better) the way we use the OS on a larger scale. In addition, the refined visuals and focus on motion works great in most cases.
Some of the app icons makes me scratch my head, and a few quirks and bugs are weirdly enough still there after a couple of updates (current version is 7.0.2). But even though some of the rich and vivid app icons and interfaces are gone, this is sort of a natural progression, and iOS 7 as a whole is a great update.
UIP: What’s your advice on workflow and creative collaboration?
SG: I try to get as much feedback as I possibly can. Most of the time you aren’t designing things only for yourself to use and view, and you can easily get lost in your own work to the point that you cannot objectively review the quality it.
I’m in a constant dialog with Henri about anything I create, and it’s super helpful. Given that designers and creatives often face the same problems as you, they tend to give great feedback, but listening to and seeing the reaction of ‘regular people’ could potentially give you a lot of insight as well. In certain situations, I’ve found this feedback to help even more than that from fellow creatives.
It’s always important to understand that not all feedback/reactions are valid ones, but don’t let that refrain you from asking the nearest person what they think about what you’re working on.
UIP: What is your philosophy when approaching mobile design?
SG: Seeing or picturing your interface or icon in the hands of others is super important. Like I said, that thing you’re working on that is supposed to be on a mobile device is potentially going to be used by a lot of different people. You’re making this app for them, not yourself.
I’m at all times trying to find faults or problems with what I’m creating that would cause difficulties for different users. That may sound negative, and this behavior has made me feel quite unkind when discussing ideas with others. But it works for me, and I love to figure out how to fix a specific issue so that more people would enjoy what I’m making.
UIP: What’s one thing you wish you knew before making this app?
SG: That most good apps do few things very well, rather than a large set of things averagely. In our case that meant finding a focus and letting less important features fade in order for the important ones to shine. For example, we include a 7-day forecast in Shade, but its importance is lowered. In fact, how to get to it isn’t even visible in the main view of the app, you have to scrub your way to the end of the 24 hour graph to access it. Avoiding a cluttered experience that’s not working especially well for anyone must be done.