Tag UX

Is Bigger Always Better?

Really liking my new HTC One S…It’s fast, great screen and most importantly the camera works impressively well in low light.

Though I have to say these new, larger screens are great to look at but makes it hard to operate with a single hand. Even the HTC One S’s 4.3″ screen is hard to reach the far corners without moving your hand in ways that compromises your grip. Ironically, Android 4+ has moved primary controls into action bars on opposite ends of the screen.

After using the One S all weekend I had to see if this issue was all in my head and thankfully it wasn’t. My older (and much complained about) LG G2X (4″ screen) fits nicely in the palm of my hand and I can reach the entire screen without compromising my grip. To show what I mean I’ve created this map of what I can reach with my left thumb while holding the phone comfortably in my left hand and not compromising my grip.

Is anyone else experiencing this? Have you switched to using two hands to use your phone? Will Apple stick with the smaller form factor and use reach as their reason?

My, Yours or Neither…That is the Question

About a week ago I reached out to the Twitters and my friends in UX to see if they knew of any research to validate the use of “my” or “your” before a title to suggest personalization. Friends, the Twitters and Google all turned up the same article by Yahoo! developers. Though it’s a great article for deciding “my vs yours”, there’s not too much on whether to use them in the first place.

In theory, adding a possessive prefix (“my” or “your”) before a title explains to a new user that the section is personalized. In practice, I’ve seen those same users confused by the possessive label as they haven’t knowingly personalized anything or to whom the pronoun was suggesting. Then there is the repeat user, once they interacted with the section do they still need the possessive prefix to understand the section is personalized? This begs the question if the prefix actually helps users (both new and repeat).

For example, in my current project, a mobile app, there are a few sections where the user can get access to their personal content (favorites, bookmarks, communications, etc). Early in the project I was asked to add a “my” before each of these section’s titles to showcase the personalization (such as “my bookmarks”). I complied, with the caveat that I didn’t think the pronouns are necessary and may remove them in later versions. As the project has progressed this issue has resurfaced more than a few times.

I have my opinions on the matter based on my experiences and observations, and though my UX/design friends echo these observations it’s not substantive enough to suggest a best practice or as non-biased recommendation. Some of the observed issues included:

  • confusion of ownership for content with the possessive prefix (ironic but true)
  • assumptions that items with the prefix were the only place to find personalization
  • UI littered with “my/yours” prefixes
  • awkward and confusing phrasing when talking about sections with a possessive prefix (such as “go to my bookmarks to find things you’ve bookmarked”)
  • implied branding of sections using the prefix (often as a way to deal with the awkward phrasing)

Again, in my experience the problem has never been as simple as adding a possessive prefix and poof, problem solved. In the case of my project, it lives on a user’s phone, meaning the favorites, bookmarks, etc. are only ever going to belong to the user. So the possessive seems unnecessary at best and confusing, placating, or misleading at worst. How have you dealt with this issue? Do you see “my” and “your” as a benefit or a curse?

 

– – – – –

Links: Yahoo! Developer Network – “Your vs. My”

490,00 PlayBook owners can’t be wrong

Mashable reported that RIM Has Sold Just 490,000 PlayBooks in the device’s first quarter compared to 9.25 million iPads sold over the same period. It’s a shame because as a UX designer I love the PlayBook, still a lack apps is a user experience that will trump the user interface every time. Which is why I have an iPad not a PlayBook myself. This is the same problem Microsoft is having with WP7. Both platforms made great strides in out doing Apple but not enough to lure people from the real draw of iOS…the apps. Ironically despite all the press about Apple’s great designs it’s the millions of apps not built by Apple that people really want.

All this reminds me of the QWERTY keyboard. When it came out it was well designed (to not jam up your typewriter), it became the de facto standard and when designs that improved typing speed were released they gained no traction despite the better design. QWERTY already won the numbers game. It had the critical mass required to steam roll over better designs and with each success competing with it became that much harder.

For that reason alone I hope these sales numbers doesn’t have RIM running for the hill to drop the PlayBook like HP did a few weeks ago. If they do, at least Android or iOS 6 can incorporate some of the better features into their platforms as imitation is the greatest form of flattery and an industry standard.

 

– – – – –
RIM Has Sold Just 490,000 PlayBooks

 

Google gives social another try

Earlier this week Google launched their new social platform, Google+ and unlike their previous attempts (Wave and Buzz) this one isn’t a beta concept. Currently it’s only in limited release and invites are hard to come by, but beyond that, it’s anything but beta. Instead Google+ is a slick, well designed, full fledged attempt to compete with Facebook. Can they pull it off?

To improve their chances Google has created a clean and attractive UI for both the website and the Android app. Then they add features that people have been asking for from Facebook, like the ability to easily sort your friends into groups (called Circles with in G+); group messaging, think Beluga and GroupMe (called Huddles); group video chat, think iChat or Skype (called Hangouts); content recommendations (called Sparks), though I haven’t seen this is action yet; and this one is for the geeks, you can take your G+ data with you . Also with the Android app they also offer a “local” version of the news feed/stream which shows you the public posts from other G+ users nearby, they don’t even need to be in any one of your circles. Combined it’s a great feature boost, though I don’t doubt Facebook will follow suit with some of these.

So then why switch? Other then it’s new, clean, different, less noisy…at this point not much, as the critical mass hasn’t been reached but when it does it’ll be a force that Facebook will have to deal with. Which is good regardless of your participation with G+. Facebook needs a challenger, clearly MySpace wasn’t up to the task. Speaking of MySpace, think back to when it was the dominant social platform. Then Facebook was the new, clean, different, less noisy new kid on the block…so Google may still have a chance here. And just like MySpace felt back then, Facebook is feeling a backlash of interest from the fickle social masses that have OD’ed on the FB.

Overall, I have to say I’m impressed with Google+. It’s one of the most well thought out, planned and executed tools that Google has ever done. Only now has Google started to improve the design and UX of their search and email services. So I expect big things from Google here. Despite Goggle’s best efforts if the people don’t start using (or getting invites to) it, G+ will die from empty room syndrome and that would be a shame.

– – – – –

Some related articles on Google+
How to hack Google+ to send your friends invites (maybe) [TechCrunch]
Andy Hertzfeld talks about not being the only designer behind Google+
How To Recreate Google+ Circles in Facebook. by Ian Schafer
Google+ code reveals intent to unleash Games and Questions to the social world [Engaget]

5 Reasons Why Gesture isn’t happening

Movies like Minority Report, make controlling your computer with little more then the swipe of your hand look easy. With the release of the Xbox Kinect the dream of this power coming to the masses has finally come true…well not exactly.

The Kinect has become the fastest adopted technology to date and that people are using their Kinect’s for everything from gaming to self-guided robots. A quick glance at YouTube is all you need to see tons of videos showing off all the Kinect can do. So why isn’t this the launching point into being able to control our computers with a wave of our hands?

In the real world, body based gestures is anything but simple and smooth. Though there are many people successfully experimenting with the Kinect, many of these experiments don’t translate into real world feasibility. I know this first hand as I too have enjoyed hacking the Kinect, as well as working with physical gesture based UI on more legitimate terms. In both cases it’s clear, regardless of technical limitations you won’t be controlling much beyond your Xbox with gestures. Below are the five biggest reasons why gestures won’t be breaking out of the box anytime soon.

  1. Accuracy: To be blunt, the Kinect is ridiculously underpowered. The resolution of the two cameras combined is under one megapixel (read: garbage). Which means the images used to create the 3D environment are blotchy and inaccurate (see photo above). To make matters worse, even still objects are hard to define as their edges dance about from frame to frame. The actual (circa 1994) video/webcam being used is nearly useless in low light (read: your living room) and it’s poor quality doesn’t provide enough useful information to work as a supplement to the 3D data.
  2. The Lazy Factor: Face it, people are lazy. No one wants to jump up and down, flail their arms just to control their TV or computer. Lazy or not, it’s actually physically tiring to hold your arm outright and use it like a pointing device. Even in filming Minority they had to keep taking breaks because of this. Still doubtful? Hold your arm out straight forward for a minute or two. Part of the beauty of the mouse, trackpad and small touch screens is the limited amount of movement needed to control everything on the screen.
  3. No Sensory Feedback: Think of how simple it is to use a standard remote for one’s TV, or dial a standard phone. You know where the buttons are, you can feel the difference between each button and you feel the button depress beneath your finger. None of these exist between you and the air, so it’s all a guessing game and muscle memory. Touch screens have a similar problem but to a much smaller degree since one can look to see where their fingers are and the device can provide some sort of feedback to signify it received your input. Some touchscreen devices employ some sort of haptic feedback to give their users a sign that their touch has triggered an action.
  4. Children: They love touch screen devices as it’s primal to touch things and even there UI’s need to account for their high energy actions and their potential. To the Kinect cameras a moving child is a bundle of potential gestures or they can just block the camera from seeing yours. Either way a little child is a potential plethora of problems. Older children bring their own issues, their curiosity and interest to explore new things is a plus. While their potential for shorter attention spans and limited patience are in conflict with the limited abilities of today devices.
  5. Is this thing on?: On the technical side, there’s a lot of guessing involve with figuring out when the user is gesturing to control the device or just waving hi to a friend. Most of the videos showing off the cool things you can do with the Kinect are short and in a controlled environment so this issue doesn’t become obvious to the viewer, but rest assured the folks in the video know exactly what I’m talking about here.

Kinect also offers voice support, which brings it’s own set of complications. On their own gesture and voice have a long way to go before they permeate market enough to matter. Both of these technologies are great as an secondary or companion input tools instead of being the primary option. Regardless of effectiveness, they offer a new and fun way to interact with the technologies around us.

Leveraging Frameworks

Looking back at the last year or so, one theme kept surfacing in all the projects I worked on – the need for a user experience framework. Many of these projects focused around Xfinity.com, part of Comcast’s branding initiative that launched last year during the Olympics. Overall, the projects focused on how to introduce new Comcast subscribers to the XFINITY service and the benefits that come with it, while providing more initiated customers deep access to the wealth of content available online. One project was to design a future version of the site, which would grow alongside individual customers and present an experience tailored to them. This project focused on optimizing both the experience of customers as well as Comcast’s understanding of its customers’ needs.

Clearly these projects needed something more involved then simple wireframes, design guidelines and some magic in Fireworks/Photoshop and HTML…they needed systematic frameworks to support both the design process and the business needs. Besides coming up with concepts and designs that fueled these projects it was my job to create said frameworks.

The embedded Seven Steps to Creating a Framework is the distilled process I employed to conquer the challenges presented to me over this past year. I believe it is universal enough to guide you through creating UX frameworks of your own.

View Seven Steps to Creating a Framework on SlideShare

Please comment if you have questions or comments on this framework to creating a UX framework.

Metro: Guidelines to the Next Generation of Mobile UX

Microsoft evolves the user experience of smart-phones with Metro, their new design guidelines, and Windows Mobile 7 due out in late fall of 2010. Metro boasts some good thinking in mobile UX.

Refresh Philly Recap – Jan.09

On Monday night over eighty people showed for Refresh Philly’s inaugural meeting.  When we initially met to plan for this meeting I’m not sure any of us thought there would be such a turnout of energized people right out of the gates.  I hope that those that attended are just as enthused now as they were on Monday.

Refresh Philly - Jan09

The meet & greet was to start at 6 but people began pouring in just after 5:30 and we heard there was a bit of a line to get through security.  There is little we can do to ease the security issue, it comes with being able to host the meetings within the Comcast Center.  Still future meetings will continue to be held on the 45th floor on the first Monday’s of the month.  Something to keep in mind as February’s meeting isn’t too far off.

The first speaker, Tom Boutell, went into the technical history and benefits of Symfony, a Ruby on Rails styled framework for PHP.  If you’re unsure what some of that means you wouldn’t have been alone, a good 75% of the audience were not developers.  The second speaker(s), Phil Charron and Russ Starke of Think Browntone, talked about designing for better User Experience (UX) and how to approach the process for better results.  They gave some background on what UX is and methods for keeping UX in mind through out the project’s cycle.  They then approched the audience for ideas for Refresh to be used a demonstrations of how to implement the processes they just spoke about.  This group discussion also helped bring out some of the various interests and thoughts on how to refresh Philly. In the comming weeks the Refresh team will have their web pressence set up so the conversations can continue onlie after the meetings.

Till then check out the official recap at RefreshPhilly.org or see it for yourself at the next meeting RSVP here.

Links:
Tom Boutell
Symfony
Think Browntone
RefreshPhilly.org
RSVP here for February