September 4th, 2012 | Ana Gervásio
You’ve made the decision to convert your content to a mobile app. So now what is your plan to get your audiences to download and view it on their devices, and what process should your users have to go through to achieve this? More and more, efforts are being made to provide readers and users with more value by adding interactive content to traditional print publications (we’re big supporters of this) in the form of an app. However, I have come across too many experiences of well meaning companies that just can’t seem to get the user experience right. The basic lesson is this – if you don’t have the resources to execute digital, then stay “charmingly” analog, and your readers will thank you for it. Awkwardly forcing yourself into the digital space is not the answer.
Let me share a story that illustrates my point.
Last week we noticed that our featured piece in the Design Edge Regional Design Awards Annual issue (Holiday-pick-me-up wine glass labels) had been enhanced with video content. Design Edge had gone as far as making a video of our print submission! What did it look like? How would they present it? The eagerness to learn more grew, and after an excited shout “there’s video content” echoed throughout the office, we all promptly gathered around an iPad to see it in action.
This is how our journey for added value began. Next to the image of our artwork in the print publication, we were greeted by a blue play button with the caption “iPad extra: watch a video demonstrating this project” – no further instructions. While some of us busily looked around the page for clues, one of our team members shouted “check the front page, maybe there’s something there”. And so we do. The front page of the magazine does indeed have the same blue play button. The button is followed by a brief description and a long url (dare I say this is what TinyURL and other like services were invented for… well, this and Twitter). This long url will take us to the tablet addition; surely this is where we’ll find our video.
The link to the tablet edition, as it turns out, takes you to a landing page within the Design Edge website. Nothing has been specially designed to accommodate tablet browsing. This page contains a QR code that leads users to the Android app. However, it’s impossible to scan a QR code when you’re already using the device required to scan. No matter. All messages on the page are over-shadowed by a large app icon with an ‘Available on the App Store badge’. So we do what any user would – disregard all small copy and go straight to clicking on the ‘Available on the App Store badge’, then… nothing. Then we click on the app icon. Again nothing. But we are determined to see this to the end so off we go to Apple’s App store. By this point, I will confess that the original large group of spectators has dwindled to three persistent souls. After doing a search we are once again stumped; the only app we see features a different graphic icon than the one displayed on the page. Maybe we didn’t search for the right thing? Left with no other recourse we forge ahead and download what appears to be the only option for a Design Edge App. Once the App was installed we do a search for the relevant issue, then hit the download button – or an additional fee, mind you! By this point, the team of 8 that had originally gathered to view the added value content was down to 1 frustrated soul (me).
This excruciating multi-step process took about 15 minutes in total. An unacceptable amount of time in today’s instant gratification world. Truth be told, had I not had a personal stake in this, I would have quit exceptionally early in the process.
This attempt to raise awareness of the iPad app is fundamentally flawed. In the future, instead of frustrating a user, provide them with an enjoyable experience, keep them engaged and provide them useful tools to stay in touch. Like an app.
Maybe it was lack of thought or resources, or perhaps it was an irresolvable conflict between management and developer. But one thing is certain, the user was left behind during this process. As a user, Design Edge left me with only one story to tell: “Don’t bother… too much work.”
February 1st, 2011 | Darrell Corriveau
Recently I attended a talk at OCADU, by User Experience (UX) designer and author Dan Saffer, called The Complexity of Simplicity in Design. The talk centered around the idea that achieving simplicity in design is the ideal, but the process to get there is often very complex. In his examples Saffer mainly referred to consumer products and software, but the lessons can be applied to user interfaces and, by extension, web sites and web platforms as well.
Saffer first outlined various roadblocks and pitfalls that occur and must be dealt with to achieve the desired end result. These include things like feature creep, version control and something called edge cases – which on its own deserves exploration in another post. He then went into some detail about the concept of Tesler’s Law. Tesler’s Law, formulated by human-computer interaction pioneer Larry Tesler, states that all tasks or processes have an inherent level of complexity that can’t be reduced. All we can do is shift the responsibility of the task to either the user (more control) or the product (more automation). For example, the first generations of the iPod gave the user basic control over song selection and volume, but the system automatically displayed songs in easy to access categories like album title, artist and genre. The balance of control and automation contributed greatly to the usability of the product.
We see this control/automation interplay on web sites when we perform searches, fill out forms, navigate shopping carts and try to pay for things. The designer and client must make dozens of small decisions on how best to make these experiences easy for users while allowing enough interaction so they feel in control.
When everything is in balance, as in the iPod, the solution seems simple and inevitable. Attributes that were neatly summed up in Saffer’s concluding slide – a quote from Christian Lindholm, Managing Partner and Director at Fjord: “Most companies are looking to ‘wow’ with their products, when in reality what they should be looking for is an ‘of course’ reaction.”
April 23rd, 2010 | Peter Scott
The rapid expansion of Walmart and Sam’s Club since the early 60’s has been a phenomenon. This compelling time-based info-map by Flowing Data helps explain (or perhaps mirrors?) the ongoing decline of small towns everywhere as the country gets subsumed by the big box/power centre invasion. Notice how growth starts slowly at first, and then accelerates greatly as more stores are added. Truly virus-like.
April 4th, 2009 | Darrell Corriveau
Microsoft Sustainability is an ultra-slick infomercial that provides a glimpse of where information technology, and presumably Microsoft, is heading. Their vision of the future is a world where virtually every surface, from desks to coffee cups, can be manipulated to connect, collaborate, and create. The concepts look like friendlier versions of things you’ve seen before in movies like Minority Report and Iron Man. It’s all pretty seductive – the people in the video are imbued with a sense of freedom and relaxation as they go about their information-gathering business. But is this really what will happen? Aren’t we already maxed out on how much information we can reasonably take in and diseminate? Anybody with a smart phone and multiple social media accounts already knows that these technologies offer many things, but the promise of achieving zen calm probably isn’t among them.
January 15th, 2009 | Darrell Corriveau
I have been a long time user of the Blackberry and have been generally happy with the product. Being a long time Mac user as well, I have been interested in the iPhone from afar since its launch. My children both have iPod Touches so I have played with the interface, and some of the Apps, but my blackberry has never really done me wrong so I didn’t have a great urge to make a switch.
Well, early last week my Blackberry died. Half of the keyboard didn’t work, nor did the trackball. Bell store employees informed me that with the backlog of orders for Blackberries it may be quite some time before I got a replacement. I was not happy with this, so I took the opportunity to make the leap and sign up for a new iPhone 3G with Rogers.
Well, it has been almost a week I have had my iPhone, and I have to admit, somewhat sadly being a Mac devotee, that it does not compare at all to the usability of my old blackberry. Sure it is a great little product and has some definite benefits over the blackberry including:
Now with all of those points you would think that my preference leans in favour of the almighty iPhone, right? Wrong! And here is the reason…
95% of what I use my mobile device for is text and email messaging.
The iPhone lacks in almost every respect when it comes to those important tasks. Consider the following:
Okay, so here endeth the rant. The short story is that I am going to return my iPhone and stick with my new replacement Blackberry (which showed up two days after Bell told me it would be weeks). Most of the points above (barring the red light indicator) can probably be fixed in later operating system updates for the iPhone, but for now, I’ll regard it as a very cool device and great toy, but not ready for the mass business market. I’m off to pick up an iPod Touch!