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Thread: Idea for new skin/front-end design design paradigm

  1. #1
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    May 2005

    Idea for new skin/front-end design design paradigm

    Sorry, I can't post this under skins because it's not directed at any particular front-end.

    I made this suggestion in a thread over on CF's site and it wasn't met with warm welcome, but I'm stubborn and still believe in the concept Just want to know what your thoughts are.

    Despite having played with some basic Adobe ColdFusion and database stuff, there's not a hope in hell I'd be able to write the first 10 lines of code to build a front-end so I'm hoping someone likes this concept and eventually runs with it.

    The "problem" that I see:
    Typically front-ends and skins offer the user a homepage of buttons to launch into a particular application. For example, the user launches into Sirius/XM, selects a station from his favorites then goes back to the homescreen to bring up the GPS application. Any time he wants to switch stations, it's back to the homescreen, into the Sirius app and poke around for another station or preset. Once done, it's back to the homescreen then back into the GPS.

    If it's not Sirius/XM, it's another music function like AM/FM or MP3 playlists. If it's not the navi maps, it's the weather app or whatever. You get the idea.

    Whatever it is, there's a lot of in/out/in/out to switch between apps and this requires an excessive number of interactions with the car PC which take hands and concentration away from the driving.

    Simplify the use of the front-end by reducing the number of required interactions (button presses) to complete a task (switch music station, etc...)

    Make the home-screen dynamic and interactive, not a static grid of application shortcuts. Most front-ends have some form of media or volume controls that persist regardless of any running application, but that's about as far as they go.

    Rather than being comprised of application shortcuts, the home-screen should be populated with user definable interactive application skins. Think of mini apps that take up 1/2 or 1/4 of the screen but have buttons that are interactive right on the home-screen.

    A typical use might be to have the GPS application display your current road and heading, a weather app could display the current and hourly forecast, and the media app would display whatever media application you currently have running. For example, if your current media app is Sirius/XM, then the media app on the home-screen would display the current station, song information as well as present the user with buttons for preset favorite stations. This would make changing stations possible right on the home-screen without having to first enter the application.

    If it's not Sirius/XM you're listening to, the home-screen media app would display either the AM/FM or MP3 functions instead (whatever you're listening to). This would make it very easy to skip songs or even to the next playlist without having to first enter that particular media app and browse for them.

    I'm not a huge Android fan and Android has severe limitations when it comes to being used as a front-end, but think about how widgets are essentially smaller versions of an app that have a home screen skin comprised of the basic controls needed to use the app. Think of this front-end as a collection of widgets on the home-screen.

    Front-ends are all about bringing multiple applications together in a format that's more suitable for a car environment. We have front-ends bringing apps closer to the driver, now we need a front-end that brings in-app functionality closer to the home screen.

    I'd be interested in hearing your thoughts

  2. #2
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    ClockWorK's Avatar
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    Oct 2003
    While I am willing to explore this idea in my head, I think the reason a dynamic interface is bad is that right now, I don't even have to look at my screen to know where to click. If the UI was changing based on the last thing I loaded, I would have to look at the screen every time to see where the icons/shortcuts were.

  3. #3
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    Sure, I can appreciate that.

    I'm not suggesting something that's constantly changing. For the most part, buttons would be where you left them and it's the functions that they perform that change depending on the active application.

    The left half of the homescreen is the placeholder for the currently active media application. This could be anything from AM/FM to Sirius/XM or MP3s. The top half would display the current song information, perhaps next to the current Sat radio station logo or local media album cover depending on the source. The bottom half of this section would feature tuning controls and buttons for presets which would be defined in the full-screen version of the application.

    Up/Down, next/last controls would always be in the same place as would buttons for station presets.

    So the way I see this, buttons remain stationary and would always perform a similar function, the only thing that would change is the input source that they control.

    I got this idea after using the MyFordTouch/Sync whatever it is system in a friend's new Focus. I have to say that it's one of the best interfaces I've seen. It brings the most commonly used controls right to the main screen, and if you want more controls than what is currently displayed you simply touch that segment of the screen.

  4. #4
    Raw Wave SNOtwistR's Avatar
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    Nov 2009
    Keswick,On Canada
    Well with Driveline I can have my most used apps on main page, it has a common big spot to get back home. The forward and back arrows control whatever media your playing i.e. in XM it advances to next or back stations, in music it advances to next or back track, in HD it advances to next or back pre-set radio station. Then there is voice commands which are working very well. Voice control is the future! Just my 2 cents SNO

  5. #5
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    But with the next/back buttons, can you access another playlist? Skip through your bookmarked stations?

    From a usage standpoint I think the driver is much more likely to interact with a running application than to launch one from the app grid. By replacing the app launcher grid with "live tiles" or "active frames" or "interactive application heads" or whatever you want to call them, you reduce the steps required to get to the function you want to adjust.

    Look at a conventional OEM head unit that has a FM radio and CD changer in it. When in FM mode, the buttons 1-6 on the faceplate access your presets. When in CD playback mode, the buttons 1-6 select a disc in the changer. The buttons are physically in the same place, but the function adjusts to suit the currently selected playback source.

    The current method on car front-ends is akin to requiring the driver to first press "CD" to access the CD mode, then select a disc. Or press "FM" to access the FM function to adjust the station. It makes no sense to have to select CD or FM if you're already in that mode.

    Same thing with the car PC - if you have content playing and you want to skip to different content within that application, why force the user to first enter the application to make the basic adjustments when the controls could simply be positioned on the homescreen?

    I'm not sure how to articulate the usage any better. Perhaps if you're used to the conventional "app grid" homescreen it might be harder to get a good picture of something else.

  6. #6
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    Ok, here's some very basic napkin sketches of what I'd envision the front-end's homescreen to look like. Obviously it's missing things like time/date/data indicators/app menu button, etc...

    Media section divided into three tabs (could be more depending on configured input sources.

    AM/FM tab showing details like station and artist information if available in the broadcast data. Tuning buttons allow for manual tuning, preset buttons allow for quick access to favorite/preset stations.
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    Jump over to the Sirius (XM) tab and you see a similar looking page. Station/artist information displayed in same location, station art displayed next to it. Elapsed/remaining duration could be displayed if available in the data stream. Tune up and Tune down buttons allow easy movement between stations while a direct tune button could bring up a number pad to directly tune to a station number. The preset station grid would show favorite/preset stations for quick access.
    Name:  Sirius.jpg
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    Finally there's the MP3/local media tab. Again, similar layout as the first two. Song/Artist information as well as album art if available. Previous/next song buttons allow quick movement between songs. Last/next playlist buttons make it very easy to move between playlists. The favorite/preset button group would display the available playlists on the selected media and up/down arrows allow for display of remaining playlists
    Name:  mp3s.jpg
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    Again the intention of this sort of configuration is to place the currently active media input as close as possible to the driver, eliminating the need for exiting/entering apps to in order to adjust functions.

  7. #7
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    When the features are developed, the tiles that I've allocated to weather apps or GPS directions could easily be used for the display of text messages, incoming phone callers or act as a display for whatever other applications are available.

    I see a lot of possibilities for customization of this front-end. Users would be able to position the live frames wherever they want on the screen and change what the tiles display.

    If this was possible in RR or CF I'd be designing a skin right now. Maybe it is? I'd love to know how to pull data like current road and heading out of GMPC.
    Last edited by sebberry; 01-12-2015 at 02:58 AM.

  8. #8
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    If you go down to the woods today, You're sure of
    From your orginal description is sounded like you wanted Windows 8 as your frontend.

    From your diagrams I would say that a clever skinner could get pretty close with RideRunner.

    The main issue I would see would be getting the data from the chosen navigation application. Most if not all are usually just embedded and don't provide an API/sdk to get the info out. (Sygic is one that does and I think the RRSygic plugin can provide the needed labels data)

    However making it dynamic so the user can decide the layout would be very tricky, so it would probably be a custom design for each individual.

    Other issues would be real estate and clarity, once you start putting too much info on the screen it will get cramped and confusing and more likely to distract the driver more.

    Personally the best way to go would be to have the minimum about of info on the screen for the current application, a few most used buttons, normally media and, as has been said by the snowman, voice control to get you from screen/application to screen/application.

    nb The reason why I say RR would be the most likely FE to get close is beacause nearly all the info from the core and plugins is provided as labels which can be stuck on any screen. ( although I think Driveline might have this ability as well.)

  9. #9
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    Nah, if I wanted Windows 8 as a front-end I'd have saved myself a lot of typing and just said that

    I'm not a fan of voice control. You still need to look at the screen to see what choices are available (maybe it's a playlist I don't use much and forgot the name of). You've also got to find and press a button to activate it. I think the idea of laying out the home screen the way I have still puts things only one or two buttons away.

    As for the level of customizability - simply pressing/holding and dragging a box to a different part of the screen shouldn't be too hard. (This you can think like rearranging Windows 8.1 tiles)

  10. #10
    FLAC PhilG's Avatar
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    Mar 2009
    Ontario, Canada

    I love it....

    I REALLY like the concept, for me, media on the left.

    "Communications" (phone, text, email) in the top right and Garmin on the bottom right. That would be my perfect FE.

    A swipe to the right or left to access another screen in quadrants with OBD, settings, etc, yup that would work for me.

    Tap anywhere in the whole quadrant and that quadrant full screens until no touch activity for XX seconds when it bounces back to the 4 quadrants, Oh ya, pure FE sex

    As far as making it happen, nope, I'm a tool when it comes to coding. Or suggesting "it's can't be too hard to do..." nahhh, I have no right to go there
    sebberry likes this.
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