The Emperor’s New Close

A quick tip for those designing web interfaces with an “X” icon for a “Close” element. Rather than the letter “x” (or capital “X”), use the multiplication (U+2715) or heavy multiplication (U+2715) symbols.

There’s no semantic advantage as neither the letter X nor the ✕ symbol have the appropriate meaning, but we’re just using the character to define a shape (often rendered as an image).

In most fonts the multiplication symbol is vertically and horizontal symetrical and has angled end strokes. It really just looks better. The heavy variation looks even prettier.

Multiplication (U+2715) / Heavy Multiplication (U+2715)
X X Latin Capital Letter X (U+0058), normal / bold
x x Latin small Letter X (U+0078), normal / bold

The Creepy Canyon

John Gruber suggests that the common Linux desktop interfaces of Gnome and KDE fall into the uncanny valley – similar enough to Windows for you to expect similar behaviour, but different enough to be problematic:

By establishing a conceptual framework that mimicks Windows, they can never really be that much different than Windows, and if they’re not that much different, they can never be that much better.

A fair criticism. In my house, we refer to the uncanny valley as the “creepy canyon”, because we’re all about alliteration.


Technology Freedom in Metaphor

If Twitter were a phone company, you could only call people who used the same phone company as you.
If the iPhone were a desktop computer, you could only install applications approved by Microsoft (or Apple).
If DVDs were books, you couldn’t read a book from Europe while in North America (oh, and you also need secret decoder glasses).

See for an open alternative to Twitter.


Firefox 3.5

Firefox 3.5 icon

As with every major release of Firefox since 1.0, I’ve had the privilege of working with Mozilla on their website updates for the new Firefox 3.5 release.

If you care about web browsers, you already know why it’s awesome, and if you don’t care about web browsers, all you need to know is that it’s better.

Even though there are loads of significant new features (audio/video, downloadable fonts, big performance improvements), my favourite feature so far is stupidly simple. When you View Source on a page, you can now click on the links to CSS and JavaScript files to view them right in the source viewer. This had made my life 0.000.1% better, which isn’t bad for a web browser.


Boring But Delightful Standards

I’ve written before about the boring but delightful benefits of standards. Another such standard is emerging in Europe this month. Most major mobile phone manufacturers have signed on to support a standard phone charger for mobile phones in the European Union. Such a grand display of common-sense is unusual and is to be applauded.

The Mini-USB charging port on my mobile phone is just about the only thing I like about it (other than it having lasted for three years so far). When travelling, one USB cable can power my phone and transfer photos from my camera to my laptop.