Jamie Balfour BSc

Welcome to my personal website!

Technology enthusiast

I am very interested in technology, particularly relating to computer science. I am most interested in web design and development.

My main hobby is programming. One of my most well known products from this is ZPE. I also am the sole creator of BalfBlog, BalfBar and BalfSlider.

A little bit about me

In 1997, when I was six years of age, I got my very first computer. I was always very interested in the ins and outs of it and dismantled it to see how it worked.

Years later, in 2016 I received my BSc (with honours) in Computer Science, obtaining a First class degree.

I'd like to welcome you to my website and hope you enjoy using it as much as I have enjoyed building it!

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Jamie Balfour BSc
Full stack developer

Personal Blog

Since the day Apple announced that they were going to drop their skeuomorphic design patterns, everyone has tried to follow suit - me included.

Skeuomorphism is all about making your design look like something from the real world - something I aimed to do with my website by making it look like a page on your screen (I have since dropped this and moved to a much flatter design). 

But why is it that skeuomorphism has disappeared all of a sudden and what really is it?

In this post, I'm going to talk a little about what a skeuomorphic design would look like and why flatter designs are much more convienient.

Skeuomorphism

By building a system with a real-life-like design using a skeuomorphic design pattern you make the learning curve much smaller: what looks like a microphone is a microphone. This means that more time ends up being on developing the interface than with a non-real-life-like version. 

Skeuomorphism has however one drawback. Complication. Whilst yes it is true that skeuomorphism reduces time spent learning the interface, it also complicates the interface. Buttons may not be so obvious, taking for instance, a volume toggle which you rotate. This would be obviously complicated unless you knew how to use it before hand. This is an example of skeuomorphism at it's worst.

Skeuomorphism also tends to rely on images and gradients as well as other computationally complex elements (including rounded corners and the like). All of this adds to the time spent loading the interface. 

This div below appears with a skeuomorphic interface.

Skeuomorphic design

'Flat interfaces'

Flat may not be the best word to describe these interfaces but it's a good one. Microsoft was one of the first companies to introduce a flat interface with Windows 8:

Microsoft's website is an example of a flat design

The main benefit flat interfaces have over skeuomorphic interfaces is that they tend to be easier to produce and then tend to be easier to render on the client system. Flat design rely less on images, gradients, curved borders, box shadows and a lot of the new CSS 3 styles that are being added and goes 'back to basics'. 

The focus of a flat interface is contrast, making colours the dividers, not box shadows. It also focuses on solid colours, not gradients. And finally, it attempts to make the interface more rectangular than circular (on this note, I may be changing my logo from the orb design to a more square design). 

Below is an example of a flat interface (and also happens to be the style of the buttons on my website):

Flat design

Flat designs do have a few problems however. The first and foremost obvious failing of these designs is that it is difficult to give it a personal feel. Almost all flat designs are in some way or another similar to the next. This ultimately is why flat designs work well however, since they are very easy to understand and are now commonplace. 

More importantly, there is less of an oomph of feeling for the website. Since it can be difficult to make a flat design interesting and not just another boring website, it is very difficult to build a flat design effectively (I do not believe I've got my flat design perfect yet).

The future

The future may see the world go back to a skeuomorphic design again and like all designs, flat interfaces may only be a phase.

Whether or not the design will disappear or not, the design is here to stay for now.

The following image inspired me to write about this:

This image came from Web Designer Depot

Infographic: Flat design vs. skeuomorphism

Whilst my iPhone is downloading iOS 7 right as I type, I wanted to go through the features that will make it brilliant. This is my personal opinion so disagree if you like.

Control Center

Control Center is like the Notification Center but for controlling your device. Swipe up and access all of your settings easily, much like Android's Quick Settings (it's getting a bit copy-cattish here now). Control Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, Do Not Disturb, a handy torch and more.

AirDrop

Us Mac users have had AirDrop for about 2 years, but it is the most used part of OS X that I use on a regular basis. Send files between Mac and Mac to make an easy file transfer. Now iOS 7 brings the same feature. You can easily share a photo with a friend who is running iOS or Mac OS X without the need for third party applications.

Notification Center

It's just so beautiful. It loses it's silly tweed background and goes for the full on iOS 7 design. The Today feature will be useful for me as I can check the weather, stocks (and yes, I constantly check stocks, mainly because I'm interested in the computing industry stock) and more.

Siri

Lord Siri will be updated as well. Apparently more voices are coming with it, but that's not what I am excited about. iOS 7's version of Siri will bring the ability to control the device much more. For instance, you can ask him to turn on Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. Great for when you are on a hands free like I am sometimes.

Safari

Safari has better performance. It also looks more attractive and the tabs are organised in a neater way that will suit every device. Tabs are shown from above, a bit like a magazine rack. It all looks awesome.

But to finish

I never mentioned how I do like the consistency of the new user interface. It is so much more consistent and coherent that iOS 6 and before. I am excited a lot about the interface and the new design is a change I will have to get used to, but it will be great to try something new, hopefully.

Yesterday, at WWDC, Apple announced iOS 7. As always, a new version of iOS creates a spark that brings a new feature to it. Well 7 brings a new interface. The new interface is set to look flatter.

The beautiful new interface is similar to Android

One of the features I have constantly jailbroken my device in the past in order to use is the new Control Center. This is similar to the Android Notification Center which permits the changing of settings such as Bluetooth, Wifi, NFC, Airplane Mode and Do Not Disturb. There is also the possibility of adding things like a torch to it.

The new Control Center

There is also a new multi-tasking engine. This makes multi-tasking more responsive and overall better. Two taps on the Home button is all you need and you will get all of the running apps at the bottom.

Multitasking is smart looking

Full screen support is added to Safari as well as a new Quick Search. The most important change is the fact that they have removed the 8 tabs limit (finally).

Full screen Safari experience

Other great features brought to it include the App Store automatically updating apps, a new voice for Siri that sounds more human (we shall see) and with better services such as Wikipedia, AirDrop and a new car interface.

A really important new feature to come to iOS 7, iTunes and Apple TV is iTunes Radio, Apple's new music streaming service designed to compete with Spotify (never liked these services myself anyway). However, iTunes Radio is free with advertisement included or paid for to be ad-free.

iOS 7 works on iPod 5th generation or later, iPhone 4 and later (finally the end of the 3GS) and iPad 2 and later.

All the photos in this blog post are from Lifehacker and I referenced them in this article.

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