Kadir's Blog on Everything

Mobile, Consumer Products, Product Management and the Miscellany

From Max Rudberg’s ‘If you see a UI walkthrough, they blew it

[Clear, Rinse, and Solar] These apps have chosen to reduce details to achieve a minimal UI, but in the process the UI has also become harder to use. Unfortunately a UI walkthrough is quite an inelegant way to explain the core functionality of an app. It can be a frustrating obstacle before you can dive into an app, and you have to remember all of those new ways of using it once you get in. 

Clear, Rinse and Solar have minimalistic theme and the gestures are hidden. Without walkthrough, users will have hard time using the application.

I think walkthroughs are not bad as long as you provide in-context message and highlight features that are key for user experience. On the other hand, you have work to do if you hide your key feature and it requires a walkthrough to learn. Users just rush through these screens and don’t have patience to read and / or remember. 

I have done a mix of few things to highlight features / usage during first run:

  • Full screen walkthroughs before signup (more or less marketing) and during first run (highlighting features) to educate the user about the app and key features. Also, it is a great stalling technique if you want your app to do bunch of things in the background and be ready when users finish the walkthrough. 
  • Overlays that highlight features / controls in the screen. These work best if you have custom icons, hidden gestures and actions that requires user to click on icons. However, many apps cram a lot of hints rending it useless. If you are providing an overlay, it should highlight key features and rest should be left for the users to discover. One of the culprits is iPhoto for iOS app. 
  • In-context highlight based on the app state. If you are Dropbox and if a folder is empty, then provide a hint to help users upload files. 

There is no clear formula - it depends on your application and UI. It is not bad if you have a walkthrough - make sure that your UX is not totally broken if user skips it. 

Posted at 11:25am and tagged with: Design, UX, Mobile, Walkthrough, Clear, Rinse, Solar,.

Last week I finalized the behavior and this week we implemented this feature in our apps. We did not invest a lot on the artwork like Polor but we have few ideas on how to make this and couple of other features rich. 

Usually you don’t get a visual cue about these features. You can argue that these are nice-to-have and users can totally live without but they are great candidates to add a bit viral-ness to the app.

Pull-to-refresh isn’t the only socially-transmitted functionality. In years past, it’s how I’ve seen people learn about drag-and-drop in applications. It’s how they learn about special keys, like F5 for refresh or F1 for help. A lot of functionality has been transmitted from one person to the next, socially.

We have a term for that now - Socially-Transmitted Functionality

Posted at 7:28pm and tagged with: Design, UX, Mobile,.

  • When people talk about mobile, they always bring up fragmentation. But if fragmentation is so important we have to look at it in detail. We have to break it down more.
  • Mobile phones are made of two things: hardware and software.
  • Hardware: phones used to be all kinds of form factors but today they have converged on black rectangles.
  • Development: there are at least 12 operating systems on the market, each with its own development requirements. This makes transferring code between OS quite difficult. In mobile operating systems, fragmentation is an issue for developers. But is it an issue for designers?

Posted at 7:42pm and tagged with: Mobile, Design, UX,.

If you are looking for a ranking function that optimizes consumption, an obvious baseline is item popularity. The reason is clear: on average, a member is most likely to watch what most others are watching. However, popularity is the opposite of personalization: it will produce the same ordering of items for every member. Thus, the goal becomes to find a personalized ranking function that is better than item popularity, so we can better satisfy members with varying tastes.

Netflix uses lot of variables to recommend movies for you and one interesting item (and close to home) is social relevancy. 

Social data has become our latest source of personalization features; we can process what connected friends have watched or rated.

Posted at 7:58pm and tagged with: Netflix, Technology, Relevancy, UX, Recommendations,.

When Google+ iOS app came out last year, my first impression was that someone familiar only with Windows Phone Metro theme wrote that app. The side swipe for filters (All, Nearby, etc.) was not what a user would expect from an iOS app. If you add more filters to your list, the swipes grew. When you try to swipe, it scrolled sometime.

It gave more prominence to text and deprecated photo and video experience. Zoom to photo UX was broken. Trying to read comments and annotations of a post was hard. Overall, it was a bad UX. I hope no UI / UX designer was involved in the first release. If there were one, I would like to get his perspective on these.

The new overhaul is refreshing. I was happy to see the swipes go away. Filters are prominent and easy - users can act on it with ease using their thumb.

Users come to social network to look at pictures, videos and then links / text. This design overhaul puts the media first - photos take the width of the screen and are crisp against black background. +1s and comments are easy to see and add. Animation for new post is nice touch.

I hate to see the controls not disappearing when you act on the media. I would love to have the controls disappear on a tap on picture so you can see just the picture. You will get to see the pictures in full screen - you don’t need to have two step process to see the pictures in full screen and a tap to get back.

Previously, you had to go into a home screen and then select an option. It was unnecessary. Glad to see the home screen go away now in favor of panel based UX. I would have given search, settings and notifications at the bottom some differentiation and space but it works OK.

Writing a post UI is functional and safe. Don’t know how many users will get the subtle differentiation between ‘X’ to remove location vs tapping on location text to pick a new location from a list. 

Few glitches but a good and a much needed overhaul. 

Posted at 11:59am and tagged with: Google+, Product Management, Review, Design, UX,.

I came across Kindle Fire’s Usability Findings by Jakob Nielsen. It reinforced the need for adaptive web design (or multi-device web design). 

For 7-inch tablets to succeed, service and content providers must design specifically for these devices. Repurposed designs from print, mobile phones, 10-inch tablets, or desktop PCs will fail, because they offer a terrible user experience. A 7-inch tablet is a sufficiently different form factor that it must be treated as a new platform. Furthermore, these mid-sized tablets are so weak that suboptimal designs — that is, repurposed content — won’t work. Optimize for 7-inch or die.

If you take a platform / device agnostic look at the usability findings, it is pretty clear that you need to design web sites for different sizes. Otherwise usage of web on these devices drops as the size of the tablet shrinks. (Source 1 and 2) It is a catch-22 to write a native app for unproven platform but mobile web could solve the problem or at least it will provide you with data on whether you are getting enough users to invest in a native app.

The web application we are building is adaptive and it is pretty sleek to see the content and menu slide around when you resize your browser or load it on mobile phones. 

If you need more information on adaptive web or multi-device web design, I would recommend Ethan Marcotte’s Responsive Web Design. I read this book and Luke Wrobleski’s Mobile First earlier this year to get a better understanding on UI / UX theoretically. I instinctively made lot of correct choices in the past years but it was very fulfilling to read the theory and backing by UI/UX experts. 

Posted at 4:46pm and tagged with: UX, Product Management, Web,.

Posted at 3:32pm and tagged with: UX, Product Management,.

I agree that I tend to get little excited about cool apps and design. I downloaded the linkedIn app this morning and it is pretty fun!

From a website, they went to mobile. In that process they condensed the information and made the product focused that ‘got’ the mobile usage right. Information was categorized neatly and easy to get to. 

Then they took the mobile app and adapted it to iPad. I am also amazed at the product management - they knew how people use their app. Right now, i am seeing lot of people using LinkedIn as their go-to place for business focused news and updates. They reacted to that growing user base and focused the iPad application on connection, updates and news. Layout is pretty similar to iPad-ish news readers but well executed nonetheless. 

Couple of cool features:

  • URL from your connection’s tweets are expanded to display a story
  • Have you ever wondered about the person you are going to meet in few hours? I always look them up on LinkedIn. They understood that and integrated a feature which will connect to your calendar and have the profile ready look up.

Posted at 8:59am and tagged with: UX, iPad, Product Management, LinkedIn,.