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Concept: Redesigning the Update UI for Mac Apps

With the introduction of the Mac App Store, Mac applications are starting to follow iOS’s updating process which involves visiting the Update tab, optionally reading about what’s changed, and updating your applications from a central hub. We’re accustomed to this on iOS — it makes sense where control over each mobile application has been centralized from the very beginning and where you’re likely to have a greater abundance of small apps to update. The transition from third party software suites to the Mac App Store, however, has caused a bit of a clash between applications and how they update themselves. Coming from a world where Sparkle informs us of updates when we launch applications, we’re accustomed to seeing pop-ups informing us of new updates for our few Mac apps as we need them. I myself prefer this type of notification on the desktop.

There are problems with both methods. Sparkle’s update pop-up forces you to stop what you’re doing to deal with the update notification, and currently the Mac App Store doesn’t notify you of updates unless you manually check the store. With these two problems in mind, Lennart Ziburski designed a concept that freshly implements ideas already familiar to us from apps like Safari and Spotlight on Lion.

His concept features a tiny notification that sits next the Fullscreen button in the top right corner of an application’s main window. The notification acts like the Download button in Safari: clicking it presents an opaque popover that presents information pertaining to the latest update, a Learn More button where users can visit a FAQ or Version History guide on the developer’s website, and an option to install the update.

If you decide to install the update, the popover transitions to inform you of its progress and you can continue to use the app while the update is taking place. Afterwards, you can choose to restart the app to immediately use the update.

What I like about the concept:

  • It’s practical and unobtrusive, making use of otherwise unused title bar space.
  • It’s informative, changing its state to notify you of updates and the update progress.
  • The update notification can’t be missed but it can be ignored.
  • You’re encouraged to read the update information, and developers are encouraged to keep the update information short and concise.
  • There’s a Learn More button so you can visit the source for further update information. (The Omni Group often has detailed release notes that would be perfect for this.)
  • If you decide to dismiss the update progress popover the update notification will continue to inform you of its progress using the address bar’s loading metaphor.

Ziburski’s implementation is practical and transparent, providing a UI that guides users through the update process without burdening or interrupting their application session.

While Ziburski shares the details of his work on his website, he’s provided a reel of screenshots and an animated version on Dribbble. You can also find him on Twitter at @Ziburski. Lennart is looking for a Mac developer to help him realize this concept — if you’re interested, you can get in touch with him on Twitter or on his website.



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