Posts Tagged: mobile user experience

Over the Air Updates, Too Much Kit, & Mobile UX

Forgive me for last night’s storytelling rant/praise about Over the Air updating of one’s mobile / smartphone. But one point that I would like to pick out from the story’s threading is that of ease of use for the customer.
Many in the mobile and computer technology space complain about how users do not update their computers, mobiles or software thus making it more complex, difficult, and at times more expensive for creators, designers, and developers to provide great experiences (giving the the stink eye to IE6). But we can’t complain if we are part of the problem in making updating difficult or more complex than it needs to be.
Apple has solved the problem of updating by making syncing between one’s iPhone/iPod/iPad as close to automatic as possible when you dock or plug it into your computer. But it creates another problem in that one need’s to have access to a computer to update or sync one’s Apple mobile products and it can also create problems if you don’t want a full sync or update. I have heard quite a few friends complain about both, either not having a regular computer or by syncing unique data on the mobile is wiped out by the sync. Apple makes it very easy but they have control over how the update happens.
Google’s Android has solved the problem by making all their updates to any Android phone happen over the air. As I detailed out last night, Android puts a little notice up in the top tool bar that updates are available, the user can then click on the tool bar and a drop down menu will give one the alerts as to which software and/or firmware has updates available. Google makes updating very easy and gives the user the control on when and how much they want to update.
My complaint of the last four years about Nokia’s Symbian S60 devices and updating is that the updating can only occur when one has the mobile phone attached by USB cable to a Windows PC/laptop. If one does not have access to a PC or one does not wish to find a PC to update one’s mobile, then one goes without. Once one gets a PC of which to conduct the update on, it becomes a multiple step update process that usually includes updating the Nokia Updater software and then updating the phone. Most of the time this takes at least 3-5 times longer than an Apple or Android update. Unnecessary kit, steps, and time just to update.
What was so exciting to me and praiseworthy yesterday was that the Nokia N900 with the Maemo linux-based OS uses the Android model of OTA (Over the Air) updates. The user clicks on the alert in the top tool bar, one chooses the updates that one wants to have updated, and as long as one has data connection it will update. As stated last night, this whole process for a major firmware update took less than 10 minutes. It was truly efficient.
From the user experience perspective, we as creators, designers, and developers cannot assume what the user will have for ‘kit’ or a computer to update with and what access to connection they will have. Thus I suggest the following for updating of software and firmware on mobile phones and computers:
1) Let the device that needs to be updated be the only device involved. If a mobile, don’t force the user to find a computer to conduct the update.
2) Make the available updates be readily noticeable to the user on the front or home screen of the device.
3) Allow whatever connection is most convenient for the user to do the updating. If wifi, then let the wifi do the job. If data connection through a mobile carrier, then let the sim chip do the job. Don’t force it to be through the mobile carrier as some folks have very spotty 2G& 3G connections. Don’t let the user fear that a spotty connection will brick the device. Conversely, if it doesn’t work for the user to do the update only through a mobile connection, then give them steps to get around this.
4) Allow the user to choose how little or how much they want to update. If a major firmware update, then say so in plain language, not the internal language of your company or specialty.
By taking these four steps we can encourage users to update and make the update painless. Painless updates that just work make for a good user experience, excitement for new features or bug fixes, and in the end for brand affection and loyalty.

Mobile UX Slides from the UX Summit

Back in April, Cindy Li & I spoke at the UX Summit on Mobile UX (aka Mobile User Experience), a subject very near & dear to me. Cindy took the first bit of the slides and concentrated on her experience in mobile app design as well as mobile web, I took the second part of the slides and focused on the principles of Mobile UX and the concepts that we need to be thinking about as we start design a mobile app or mobile web site/app.
It was surprisingly fun to sit at Cindy’s and have us both get to speak into her MacBook Pro and have the magic of Adobe Connect (or something like it) project our slides, our video and the chat area of the attendees from all over the world on one computer screen. By seeing the chat as we spoke, we were able to answer questions as they were asked or reasonably soon thereafter. Later on Twitter, we received quite a few thank yous.
Now in return, Cindy & I present to you all our slides on Mobile UX. Enjoy. And thank you! & Starcut Mobile User Experience Failure

If the folks at Starcut are going to proudly announce that they mobilize brands and media and charge a newspaper to mobilize the said newspaper’s website, then they should educate themselves on the standards of the mobile user experience.
Major rule of the mobile web: Give the User a Choice. Don’t assume that they want the full website or that they want a reduced site for mobile. Just because a script has detected that the browser coming to the site is a mobile browser, doesn’t mean the reader/user wants to be forced into a locked sandbox with no exit. Don’t assume that every user wants to reduce their data usage, some of us have unlimited plans. Give the user a choice.
Here are a few examples of Mobile Sites that do the User Experience right by giving the reader/user a choice to either view the mobile version or to switch over to the “classic”, “full”, “regular” version of the website:

Google Mobile Flickr Mobile This Blog's Mobile Version

Why does this matter? Well, not every Nokia or Sony Ericsson or Blackberry or insert name of mobile device is a smartphone with Opera Mini or a version of the Webkit or Gecko mobile browsers, but then again, not every Nokia or Sony or Blackberry or other mobile device is a simple device with a simple mobile web browser.
I think it is great that more and more websites offer mobile versions that are stripped down and load fast for mobile devices, but if you are going to strip out choice along with kilobytes, this is not good.
My Nokia N95 has a full featured web browser that renders most websites, except heavily AJAX sites, quite nicely. I have an unlimited data plan. Between my Nokia’s browser and my data plan, I want to see the full version of most websites unless I need information quickly and then the mobile version is usually fine.
Not yesterday.
Yesterday, I left the house in a rush to meet up with Lauren Isaacson in Encino so that we could have lunch together before she departs for Vancouver. I was heading north on the 405 and passing the Long Beach Airport when I realized that I left my paper copy of the LA Times Food section. So, I did what I would normally do in this situation, I opened my Nokia’s web browser and typed “”, instead of getting the usual, full web version of the LA Times website, I was forced into the mobile version of the site with no exit out.
No link to the full version. No links to the Food section. No ability to get out of the reduced web version. I then went to Google to search for the article and the Google search took me back to the front page of the mobile site with no link to the full version of the Here is the mobile site that I saw with no link to the full version of the at either the top of the mobile page nor at the bottom:

Top of the mobile site, no option to go to the full web version Bottom of the mobile site, no option to go to the full web version

I was very frustrated.
I was mad in the immediate situation of trying to locate information that was still live on the full version of the website but I was unable to get to the information because the mobile version of the site did not let me go there. I was mad as a web & mobile user experience designer to experience bad UX design first hand. I was frustrated that Starcut has probably charged the LA Times a lot of money to piss off loyal readers like me.
In the end, I had to use a desktop computer at Lauren’s parent’s house to search the LA Times’ website for the article on the restaurant we were to go to. Itzik Hagadol is excellent, especially their 20 salads for $8.99.
But the lack of ability to exit the LA Times’s mobile site from a mobile browser is not excellent. It would be excellent if Starcut would revisit the site and add a simple link at the top or the bottom of each mobile page, giving the reader/user the option to go to the full non-mobile version of the site from their mobile browser.