The Miss USA pageant this year allowed viewers to actively judge contestants’ wardrobes in real-time through multiple platforms. A website optimized for mobile phones and tablets was publicized on the screen and allowed users to rate on a scale from 1-10, the contestant’s outfit. As users voted, the average score would be displayed on TV, fluctuating until the voting period had ended.

The platform, built by iPowow, has also been used during broadcasts for the UFC, American Music Awards, and the Australian Federal Election. I was particularly interested because I had a similar concept that I put together for a college project. The goal of was to allow real-time crowd voting during the Winter Olympics in order to increase audience participation. The sentiment was similar in that viewers would be able to vote and judge an athlete’s performance, but it would not influence the actual scoring of official judges. The service would be available on multiple platforms with Internet connectivity, and the hope was that you could view a livestream of, for example, a figure skater, and along with viewers from around the World, cast your vote on a performance. I built an interactive prototype to demonstrate the UI using a figure skater as a possible scenario. Once the skater has finished her routine, the user can vote and view the average score of other viewers, as well as the official score given by the judges.

Jensen Harris shows a sneak peek of the Windows 8 UI

Looks like some great updates, but I still don’t get how they color-code shows. I have an idea, but there should be no doubt for any user.

Created by B-Reel for Tre

iChef+ touch interface

Google’s known for being extremely minimalistic in terms of their homepage experience (logo, search bar, search button). There’s no random hubbub all over the place, no interstitials, visual ads, and not even AdSense. So any kind of tweak to the homepage, which averaged 3.5 billion visits in January 2011, will stand out to constant users. The new toolbar has a subtle and elegant visual treatment as opposed to just plain text. So far the new toolbar works on only the Web, Images, Maps, and Gmail tabs, and only in Chrome. The image below shows some of the dropdown menus in their expanded states.

When Apple puts up their “We’ll be back soon” sticky note on their site, everyone gets a little frenzied and starts assuming what kind of new and innovative products they’re adding to their store. But the veil was lifted this morning and in came a handful of UI redesigns (sorry product fanboys). A couple of positive changes stuck out:

Main Header

What I like the most about the updated navigation bar is the search field. Minimal when idle, and expands horizontally when active.

Category Pages

This is the usability change that Apple definitely needed. What was previously a weird looking horizontal scrollbar is now replaced with tabbed dividers.

Before Mark Zuckerberg dishes the details of Facebook tonight on 60 minutes, users can opt-in to upgrade and check out a new profile page UI update from their announcement. There is definitely a slew of new changes, and the first few things that stand out are the new navigation and overall bio/summary. The previous tab scheme to paginate through Wall, Info, Photos, etc…, have moved below the profile picture, just like that on the News Feed. Second, based on the information data provided in the Info section, a little “blurb” is generated below the username to summarize where you work, what you studied in college, where you lived and came from, etc… There are also 5 preview images of pictures you’ve most recently been tagged in.

There’s also a push to be a lot more visual, with the aid of large thumbnails all over the place. Much like the update to Facebook photo albums where all of the images are displayed on one page and load as the user scrolls down the page (similar to Twitter’s feed), photos you’re tagged in will appear and load in this infinite page scroll.

Less than a month after YouTube added a deep-link button in their embedded players, they’ve updated the UI again. There is now a byline below the title that shows the author/channel of the video. Also, the call-to-action has been relocated as a button (YouTube icon to the left of the fullscreen toggle)in the player controls that will open the deep-link for the YouTube page the video lives on in a new window or tab.

YouTube has just rolled out some UI tweaks to it’s well-recognized video player pages. These are small changes to their button designs and positioning below the player, most of which were recently updated late March. One of the most noticeable changes is the view counter. By positioning all of the out-of-player actions to the left, the count number is made much more prominent, not to mention the larger font size. If the video has less than 1k views, the counter will display “### views,” but once the video hits that milestone, the word “views” does not appear anymore and will just a display the numeric count.