Starry Night 7: Motivation, Process, Future

As many of you have noticed, we're back with a brand new version of Starry Night! Rather than list all of the cool new features, I thought I'd take a moment to make clear our motivations for the changes in SN, our process getting to where we are now, and plans for the future.

For many of our loyal, longstanding users, the new user interface is a big change from what they're used to. Our motivation for the change was simple: the interface had gotten to the point where users were spending more time looking at (or looking for!) controls, than looking at the sky. We needed something new, cleaner, less obtrusive.

In our redesign, we followed the general philosophy that the UI should "be there when you need it, disappear when you don't."  The focus should always be on the sky view, never the controls. This for example, is why we moved the Find pane from the left to the right... in general, people read left-to-right. Left is more prominent, so the sky view should always be at the left.

Our move to a "Universal Search" function was similarly motivated. 

We found that over the years, so many of the great new features that we had added were buried under layers of user interface, that not only were they hard to use, but people often never found them in the first place.

With the ability to do a textual search for control items (not just named objects in the night sky), we have opened up a host of existing features to users who didn't even know about them! No longer do you need to know exactly what setting you're looking for, open the Options panel, visually search for it, and click to make a change... simply search for the word (or even a related word) that you're looking for, and you'll probably find it.

While I think we have succeeded in many, many ways, we still have much work to do.

Going forward, we plan on continuing with the idea of "less is more." Not in terms of what you can do (indeed, we are addingfeatures and data) but in what ways you are distracted from what you are doing. Think: more of what you want, less of what you don't.

While we have released it into the wild, we're far from done with it. Starry Night 7 should be thought of as a journey, not a destination.