Posts Tagged: User Experience

How the Foursquare Pivot to Swarm Has Decreased my Mobile Usage, or Goodbye Foursquare – I loved You…

One Star Review for Swarm

Over the summer, Foursquare pivoted from a fun, game based location mobile app to a location based restaurant review app with the aim to compete with Yelp. To throw a bone to loyal users who loved checking in, they created a second location based mobile check in app called Swarm*.

Swarm has a lovely new UI, they pick the location for you, most of my Foursquare friends are there, what I am supposed to do with it other than see where my friends are is unclear, and… Swarm is dull. As in boring.

I can still check in, sort of. I can still see what friends are up to around the world. But all the fun is gone. No points with quirky reasons for gaining points. No more competition with Juha Ristlainen, aka @Riussi, jockeying for position on the top of the leader board. No more bizarre user created location names. No more joy in using Foursquare/Swarm. No fun.

Yes, Swarm, I know that Jason, Annette, and Charlene are 30 miles away in LA. That’s nice. It was also nice to know that Lane was in LA 9 weeks ago. Thanks.

The fun of the old Foursquare was the reward of seeing how many quirky or mundane points that I would receive if I pulled out my phone constantly to check in. It was the reward of seeing what odd or outrageously named check spots people had created (25,000 cow farts for Harris Ranch or the local man cave in Seal Beach that I took great joy in stealing the mayorship of, etc. etc.).

With no more quirky points or named places, no more competition with friends in different time zones, and no mayorships to win or rest away/back my phone is staying in my purse or pocket unless I want to take a photo or specifically contact someone.

Gone is the Foursquare check in, gone is the laugh or groan at the points, gone is then the temptation to check Twitter or Instagram and then stay on those apps to view or chat, and then keeping my mobile in my hand wherever I am to then play with more apps.

Now with no reward or joy in pulling out my phone to check in on Foursquare everywhere I go, my Twitter and other mobile app usage has decreased to just a few times a day. And other than taking photos or complete a necessary communication, my mobile is now staying in my purse or pocket.

Who knew that the old Foursquare was such a gateway to more mobile usage all the way around? I didn’t until it was gone.

Goodbye Foursquare, I loved you, you were fun.

Now both you and Swarm are deleted/uninstalled.

* I got got an email from Swarm earlier this week which called Swarm the new Lifeblogging app. REALLY?!?!?!? 10 years too late on using that name for a mobile app. I will now slink off to my non-mancave to grumble in private.

Furled and Unfurled

Morning Glory

Photo of local morning glories by Ms. Jen with her Nokia N8 camera phone.

Tues 07.12.11 – Today was a good day that started with a lovely and fun UX interview with Thomas Mann on Skype video. We had a good chat about mobile devices and travel. I love talking with good sharp, designers as their minds can leap from place to place and connections can be made. Thanks to Thomas!
And then Jeremy linked to Brian’s conversation over at Google Plus about owning one’s own stuff versus engagement in the here and now on whatever is the big right now online service.
I have been a proponent on this blog and in person of owning your own stuff on the internet for years, even during the boom years of 2005-2008 when everyone thought that the services and Web 2.0 would take care of everything and your data would persist no matter what. I had several memorable conversations in that time period with a few prominent tech folk about how we can’t trust a company or online service with our data as we don’t know when they will lose funding or lose interest or be sold off to folks who will turn off the service and what we will do about our data when this happens.
As the business cycle waxes and wanes, as companies furl and unfurl, I want to own my photos, my text, and my data. Not only do I want to store my data where it can be seen by the world, but where I pay the bill and can freely upload, download, and back up with ease. For me that has meant paying rent on server space and a domain name since 1999 and having duplication / triplication of backup both to a physical hard drive and a cloud service on top of my server space that this blog lives on, in addition to all the spaces and services that I participate in online.
This blog is my studio, gallery and reception space, as well my living room of which you are all invited to. I may visit many places online and some of them may be second homes, like Twitter, but this space is where my heart lives.
Where does your online heart and home reside? Do you have full, partial or no control over your online home? Do you care?
What happens if you don’t want to own your own self-hosted blog, will more projects like Jaisen Mathai’s OpenPhoto crop up that will allow all of us to share our data to online services but also have all of it backed up to our own accounts at Dropbox or Amazon S3?

Off to Visit Ovi in Berlin

This spring has been travel crazy here at Black Phoebe and one of the ways that I have been able to keep within the parameters of my AT&T International data plan is to use Ovi Maps when I was in London and Amsterdam, as you can download the maps before you go and those maps also have all of the most current place information that one would want.
When I was in London, I switched off between using Google Maps on my Nokia N8 and using Ovi Maps. I noticed that Google Maps is quite the data hog using it online and Ovi Maps set to ‘offline’ was much easier on my data usage.
When I was in Amsterdam, I was surprised how thorough and good that Ovi Map’s offline offering was. I was to meet up with friends for dinner, but trying to find them was a moving target as they did not know where they were going and I was about 10-15 minutes behind them. One friend texted me the name of restaurant that they had decided on and without going online, I was able to use Ovi Maps to get the address of the restaurant and the map of how to walk there. It was on the fly with no data usage.
At the beginning of May, Surya Nair, Ovi Maps community manager, invited me to attend a workshop this week in Berlin on Ovi Maps and a few other applications. I am looking forward to meeting the team behind Ovi Maps and to talk with them and other workshop participants about the mobile maps/location/etc.
Off I go to Berlin this evening, volcano willing.

Mobilism 2011: Scott Jehl, Bryan Rieger, Nicholai Onken, and Jared Spool

Dear reader, As a way to both pay attention and have a good record of the proceedings, I like to type out transcriptions/paraphrases of conference sessions. Here is my final transcription/paraphrase for Scott Jehl, Bryan Rieger, Nicholai Onken, and Jared Spool at Mobilism 2011. – Ms. Jen
Jump to:
Scott Jehl – Getting Started with JQuery Mobile
Bryan Rieger – Muddling through the Mobile Web
Nicholai Onken – The Hitchhiker’s Guide to Mobile Dev
Jared Spool – Mobile & US: In the Eye of the Perfect Storm


Tidbits :: Friday November 19, 2010

I deem today to be UX Friday. For your reading pleasure:
Peter Merholz on The Pernicious Effects of Advertising and Marketing Agencies Trying To Deliver User Experience Design with the blockbuster quote being one of the in article headlines, “Ad agencies are the new music industry”. Go read it.
Janet M. Six at UX Matters on “Going Mobile, Part II: When to Go Mobile | Reuse Your Web Design or Start from Scratch?
Marek Pawlowski in UX Magazine on “Mobile User Experience Trends on the Horizon
Luke W on “Different Approaches to Mobile App Design

The Great UX Debate of 2010

Recently Ryan Carson lobbed the digital equivalent to a molotov cocktail in to the User Experience bloggers corner and did folks come out swinging!
To get a bit of perspective, let’s start with a few salvos from The Great UX Mini-Debate of 2009:
Pabini Gabriel-Petit on Specialists Versus Generalists: A False Dichotomy?
Dan Saffer on A Fool and a Liar
Jeremy Keith on I don’t care about UX
Jeremy starts with a quote from Mark Boulton’s twitter stream:

“Since when did good web design suddenly get called ‘UX’? Everywhere I look now, good UI design is called ‘UX’, good type = ‘UX’, Colour? UX.”

I find Mark’s tweet to be a good place to jump off from, as I have spent the last two years scratching my head in wonder how the formerly mostly academic and large company/agency discipline of HCI/user-psychology/UX had morphed into a the job title du jour for web designers. My bafflement continued when at a party last year a prominent user experience designer introduced me to others as a mobile user experience designer. I was a bit flabbergasted, as while I am very interested in Mobile UX and I wrote my master’s thesis on how creative professionals use their mobile phones, I am very reluctant to use the title Mobile UX designer.
My preferred job title is Professional Art Weirdo, but that doesn’t go far in terms of business and professional contacts, although I do get a laugh from folks who know me when I use that title. In the course of my now decade plus career of actual practice in web design & development, as well as mobile design & now mobile app devloper, user researcher, systems designer, occasional information architect, small business strategist, plus social media bits and whatever other hat seemed fun to wear at the time when a client needed a task to be completed.
While I am most confident using the title ‘web designer’ as it encompasses the broad range of tasks that one does in the course of a freelance consultant career, I have found there to be pressure over the last two years to declare a specialty or even a sub-specialty in one’s job title – be it on LinkedIn, Twitter, one’s resume/CV, or on a business card. In the last two years to use the title ‘web designer’ is seen as either naive or one is just a small time, small business hack, even if one has mad generalist skills and a deep specialist skill set or two.
I have also spent much time lately revamping my resume/CV and portfolio in preparation for a job search, as I have decided that I would much prefer to work on a team at a company or agency than by myself as a freelance consultant. Companies and agencies or their recruiters/HR specialists want definition out their applicants or at least the appearance thereof. How does one define a decade long freelance career to folks who see a lot of resumes from specialists or bullshitters. I am not interested in misrepresenting myself.
Thus, my interest in the Great UX Debate of 2010. Go read the various links and let me know what you think:
Ryan Carson’s defense of his tweet: ‘UX Professional’ isn’t a Real Job
Andy Budd takes the first swing in Why I think Ryan Carson doesn’t believe in UX Professionals, and why I do
Mark Boulton gives a little history on the Debate in On defining UX
Cennydd Bowles finds a molotov cocktail to throw back in The pollution of UX
Scott Berkun asks ‘UX professional’ isn’t a real job? and simplifies the debate
Oliver Reichenstein in iA breaks the debate back down and reassembles it in
Can Experience be Designed?
I will conclude with Scott Berkun’s second to last paragraph:

I’m fond of simply calling myself a writer. There should be a verb in your job. Usability engineers are really analysts or consultants. Designers of all flavors are, surprise, designers. Information architects are planners. If they are expected to be leaders beyond their specialization, then add the word lead. And on it could go. one word, preferably a verb, and we’re done. The pretense is fancier titles better convey the role, but I think that’s the real bullshit. Simpler titles, based on a verb, would be way more useful for clients or co-workers in figuring out what you can do for them.

And if push comes to shove, I will use the verb designer to describe myself, as well as the verb developer.

Mobilefor.Us: Cell Phones for the Rest of Us

Mobilefor.Us: Cell Phones for the Rest of Us

Sun 07.11.10 – Ever since I wrote my master’s thesis on how Creative Professionals used their Mobile Phones, I remain very curious how folks are using their phones. The tech and mobile blogs and blogosphere very much reward bloggers for writing on either the newest/latest/greatest or on the most detailed, esoteric atomic bits about the latest and greatest, all the while most of the folks around us seem to be muddling along with the mobile or cell phone that they bought from their wireless carrier for cheap.
When folks in my daily life find out that I love to take photos with my mobile phone and then moblog them to this blog, I frequently find the person I am talking to puts themselves down, discounts their own technology skills and knowledge, then confesses that they don’t know how to get the photos they take with their phone off the phone.
A year ago, I decided that it would be fun to start a video blog that would, magazine style, ask a wide variety of folks the same five questions about their phones, plus a few sub-questions are asked in each interview, plus whatever other bits folks want to talk about their mobile phones:
1) Who are you, what phone do you have, where did you get it, and do you have a data plan?
2) What do you like about your mobile / cell phone?
3) What have you taught yourself to do on your mobile?
4) What don’t you like about your mobile?
5) Either What do you wish you knew how to do on your mobile or what do you wish your phone did differently?
This idea has evolved and as of this evening, I formally announce the launch of Mobilefor.Us: Cell Phones for the Rest of Us.
Mobilefor.Us will be an online space that will seek to inform, share, and disseminate knowledge and confidence in using one’s mobile phone regardless if you have the free phone from your carrier with no data plan or if you have the latest & greatest mobile with unlimited data or somewhere in between.
Please come join us at Mobilefor.Us.

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.