Today's topic comes from a tweet from @erlendur in a conversation he was having with a pilot about having multiple overview tabs open in separate windows:
There are already thousands and thousands of words written about the Overview and the UI in general in Eve. And, to be honest, some really good ideas floating around. But few have, in my opinion, addressed the core issue. As a designer who is often confronted with organizing and communicating complicated information into useful, readable, and also attractive formats - perhaps my perspective is a tad different.
Personally I strongly believe the core issue affecting the UI in general and the Overview specifically is one of design. While the standard "white line spreadsheet" design of the UI was probably ground-breaking a decade ago, it is really starting to get long in the tooth these days. Ten years of added pressure, of additional features, increased demand, and increased information load is starting to truly strain an already somewhat antiquated approach to disseminating information.
The best place to start looking for solutions is in mobile design. No one does a better job of packing huge amounts of information into small spaces like the mobile designer. From graphics, to text, to movement and organization, mobile has forced an entirely different sensibility upon the evolution of information delivery. And done so extremely successfully. This sensibility has already moved into web design, which is increasingly meant for a mobile platform, and into print, television and other forms of communication.
If we took a step back from the existing Eve window and looked at it from this perspective, I believe solutions start to present themselves. As a fan of Science-Fiction I already know that HUD information technology has been around for decades and there are numerous examples in fiction and film, of delivering the "look and feel" of such systems. Combine that knowledge with the "flat design" movement from mobile, and we begin to see an iconic delivery system that relies on movement triggered by the user experience forming. What that means is that information is delivered based on the experience of the User in real time.
Right now the UI is relatively static and waiting for the User to interact with it. The best example currently is in the way the Cap Circle has been updated, and the introduction of icons when targets are engaged. This system is still not a perfect one, but it has evolved nicely over the years while the rest of the UI has languished.
It would be relatively simple to reduce almost all of the information presented currently in the UI to a graphical interface. A simple reduction formatted icon-based visual communication system that responds to the User experience during game-play. That is a lot of words for some basic tenants of modern interface design. Reduce complicated information into Icon forms and allow the User to engage them for more or less detailed information.
I wish I had the time currently to mock-up some graphic examples, but sadly I do not. But I imagine the Overview specifically could easily be represented in a streamlined Iconic format that would take up SIGNIFICANTLY less space on the screen. Essentially, while I do sometimes want more information on certain targets, I do not want ALL the SAME information on everything in space. Right now, the overview presents everything as being equal. I would prefer a system that prioritizes information based on my own feedback.
A string of simple, elegantly designed icons could easily represent all the objects I've deemed worthy of knowing about in nearby space, organized by distance, or other factors that I've chosen. A simple system based on color, additional icon animations, changes, and movement could easily communicate the basics - while leaving detailed numbers and specific information to a simple rollover, or pull-out drawer.
If we transpose that kind of thinking to all the elements within the current UI, then we start to build a rather remarkable, transformative, and truly science-fiction based interface worthy of Eve Online.
Since I can't mock anything up right now, I leave you with a selection of examples:
Complex Small Spaces
User engaged "drawers"
None of those are presented as solutions, only as design examples.
TL;DR: The entire Eve UI is in need of updating into a more modern information delivery system based on real-time User interaction.
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