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All posts tagged UX

The Greatest Unappreciated Strength of Windows 8

…Are the Metro New Windows UI Apps. Like genius they seem to be unappreciated in their lifetime.

Most people seem to be content to boot Windows 8 to old-school desktop and may never intentionally look at the New Desktop and Apps.

Windows 8 - Metro Desktop

In my last Windows 8 post I suggested that the 1 Critical Thing Wrong With Windows 8 was the act of treating consumers as square pegs to be hammered into round UX holes.

Facebook’s New UI

As Facebook introduces their new UI the sentiment seems to be one of wholehearted dislike for the slew of UI bugs larded into the browser:

Windows 8 - Facebook Bugs

Facebook as we know it today: Sample of UI bugs and comments added.

It occurred to me after using the new Facebook UI that it bothered me and inhibited my use. I found myself using the mobile app more and my laptop browser less.

Then I was in the Windows 8 New Desktop and I was spending the day almost exclusively using these Apps. I opened the Facebook Metro App and was greeted with a feeling of relief and contentment by the unblemished beauty and simplicity that greeted me:

Windows 8 - New Windows UI App

  • Toggle to hide sidebar menu
  • Large photos
  • A wide, unencumbered feed
  • Friend requests, Messages and Notifications all drop down below the toggle button on the left.

For those of you married to the idea of a right hand, subsidiary feed and your friends’ online statuses you are going to be disappointed but the miscomprehension of most users is that these Apps are intended to mirror desktop or browser apps. They aren’t.

New Windows UI is to App Design and functionality what the Danish Modern movement was to furniture.

The Warptest POV

It’s time for users who are struggling with the new Facebook UI to realize that they have an alternative in these Apps.

Facebook may have just given Windows 8 its biggest push, at least until we see what Microsoft has in store for us in the next release of Windows 8.x (expect big announcements from Microsoft BUILD this week).

So if this matches how you are feeling towards Facebook right now then you might want to ask a friend with Windows 8 if you can try this for yourself.

Even without touch your inner calm will be restored.

So take it for a spin and let me know what you think.

Windows Phone Recently Rolled A Substantial Update…

… whilst I found a neat bug with the microphone volume immediately after the update I was really impressed with the variety of features included ranging from: –

  • Improved accessibility features.
  • Close Apps from the App Switcher.
  • Driving Mode.
  • Free up Storage.
  • Assign specific ringtones to Text Messages.
  • Text Replies to Incoming Calls.
  • Support for CardDAV and CalDAV (Google account sync) but only for new phones.
  • And others.

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And The Winner Is…

Windows Phone tackle the issues and dangers of using smartphones when driving with Driving Mode. Driving Mode can be found under Settings and simply put reduces user distraction when driving by limiting what the phone does in terms of calls, texts and alerts whilst making it easy to pre-pair with in-the-Car Bluetooth devices.

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My favorite feature within Driving Mode is being able to set your phone to auto-Text any incoming calls or texts with an “I’m driving right now” reply.

Huge props to Microsoft for promoting road safety here.

A Big But…

Driving Mode on Windows Phone is truly awesome but now picture this…

  • You climb into your car and fish your phone out of your pocket.
  • Access your Settings (maybe you have a Live Tile for this)
  • Scroll down to Driving Mode
  • If it’s not setup have at it, else enable Driving Mode

Whilst Windows Phone allows you to use Live Tiles (and as I’ve mentioned in the past Live Tiles have huge potential) for Settings, you unbelievably cannot create a Live Tile for individual settings.

The Warptest POV

No, not even for Driving Mode. Here is a fantastic feature that by its very nature should be one-click enable/disabled from a Live Tile but the potential of the feature isn’t actualized by failing to embrace best UX practice.

If I had been responsible for testing this Windows Phone update and Driving Mode within it, I would have considered this a critical bug.

For now I will gladly use Driving Mode but with a sense of missed opportunity each time I do so.

The New Windows UI

The Windows 8 revolution has begun …

I don’t believe that it’s empty hyperbole to describe the launch of Windows 8 as a revolution. This is the Operating System as it should be.

Windows has evolved and as a result the most important preparation you can make before upgrading to Windows 8 is to prepare yourself.

It doesn’t really matter what OS you have used until now …

Whether it was Windows XP, Vista or 7, a flavor of Linux or Apple’s Mac OS X, the UI / UX for Windows 8 is something different; as is the seamless integration of Microsoft’s Cloud Services.

Your Windows Login can be set (opt-in) to use your Microsoft Account (formerly your Live ID) as your login and this brings with it a holistic sync of these services with the relevant apps:

You will find your Hotmail /, Contacts, Calendar and Skydrive all sync’d and accessible and if like me you are a Windows Phone user then the experience is even sweeter. You don’t have to have a Microsoft Account to use Windows 8 but the truth is, that is the way to maximize your investment in the OS.

Windows 8 is a cloud integrated OS at its very core and with this you are called on to embrace Apps versus Desktop Apps and perhaps more controversially the disappearance of the Start Menu.

Apps versus Desktop Apps …

Apps are Metro UI in design and the desktop for these utilizes Live Tile technology. We got our first taste of this in Windows Phone to a degree; Live Tiles are large, boldly designed icons that may display dynamic information regarding App related content e.g. Mail’s Live Tile may display the number of new / unread emails waiting for you, People’s Live Tile shows you the latest messages from your Contacts in the different connected Social Networks:

The New Windows 8 UI Desktop

This means that your Desktop is now a source of as much Real Time information as you see fit.

Desktop Apps are the classical Windows styled programs that will display in the Desktop. In some cases the

TIP: Your best friend in a non-touch enabled device is the Windows Key:

Used by itself it will toggle between Metro Desktop and Classical Windows Desktop.

Used in conjunction with the X key on your keyboard you get the Main Menu.

Windows 8 Desktop

Alternatively for the early adopter types, the power move is to use the Charms Menu. Swipe down from the top right with the mouse (if touch enabled with your finger)

The Windows 8 Charms Menu

The Warptest Perspective …

  • Prepare yourself: expect some degree of ramp up time in getting used to Windows 8. Revolutionary can be a bit hard to cope with if your mouse hand keeps straying towards the missing Start Menu.
  • I will deep dive the Charms Menu in a later post. This is a power feature that deserves more detail; Search alone is multifaceted, killer app.
  • The Metro UI Desktop: be aware that you can easily remove Live Tiles (right click the Tile you don’t need and a menu will open at the bottom of the screen)
  • Live Tiles and Cognitive Dissonance. Too much of a good thing isn’t a good thing. So if you find it distracting or confusing to have too many Live Tiles dynamically refreshing information then thin the herd.
  • I’ll say it one more time. Windows 8 is revolutionary and adjusting your mindset about how you are used to doing things will make for a stress free transition.

One thing is certain, the revolution is waiting for you too. Are you going to join?

Google+ And The Menu Bar…

It’s a ubiquitous feature: no matter which product you find yourself using (if you are logged in) you see the black Menu Bar and if you look on the left, there’s Google+.

Google+ - Google Menu Bar - kludge

The Menu Bar has been controversial. Some love it, some hate it and some see it as the first major step in getting serious about UI/UX.

Google+ Latest Iteration

Over the last week users were (mostly) delighted to get a clean, fresh and well laid out new UI.

Google+ UI

The Good, The Bad and the Beautiful…

Google+ more of the same

The controversy is over the wasted real estate  or whitespace column left of the hangout column.. still how many blogs (mine included) are themed to use only a partial amount of the screen width?

More important to me is the Navigation Bar  on the far left of the screen .. in keeping with new UI there is a strong icon focus where the More icon is a pop-out menu, accessing other apps.

Warptest Predictions…

Most important this vertical Navigation Bar has just rendered the Menu Bar totally redundant! Once the idea of a vertical Navigation Bar is absorbed by the users I predict another design iteration where the Menu Bar is dropped altogether and all your Google Products display the vertical Bar instead.

Google+ - Vertical Menu - UX

No matter which Google product I’m using, I expect the Navigation Bar to be there and the Menu Bar to be gone in the next 6 months … remember you read it here first.

An Apple Engineer Walks into a bar..

Yesterday I was sitting in front of Tweetdeck reading the feeding frenzy that inevitably develops prior to an Apple iProduct release when it occurred to me that something was missing from it all:

Jokes aside the anticipation for the new product release and rampant speculation were as strong as ever.

The morning after..

It’s the day after the release of the new iPad and people are strongly divided between excited and displeased.

What the experts think..

I just read Hillel Fuld’s take on it  – if you read two blogs on Tech, his should probably be one.. after mine of course.

Apple - appboy blog post

I like what Hillel had to say and agree with a lot of it but would Joe Consumer feel the same way?

Perhaps the Naysayers and the Disappointed are thus  because the bar for expectation has been raised so high with iPhone4S (Siri)? Or could it be that MWC was taken by storm by a revitalized Nokia (41 megapixel camera-phones, gorgeous Windows Phones etc)?

The Warptest POV

This may be a device with a stunning display, longer battery life and uber-speed but hardware spec has to be experienced to be believed, especially at that price point. Whereas a phone that converses with the user like a virtual girlfriend, well you had even me at “converses..”:

Apple - converses

At the end of the day we need to take a critical look at just what Apple is offering us and ask:

  1. Is it worth the price to buy this?
  2. Am I getting full value bang for my buck?
  3. Is this going to be disruptive innovation or just an upgrade of what I have?
Only you can answer these for yourself, but you should probably be sharing your opinion either way with Apple.
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New Gmail? Oh Ick!

Gmail recently implemented the rollout of a drastic change to the UX. I hear of more and more people who hate it with a passion.

Recently, several events have left me feeling less than pleased with Gmail / Google Apps but inertia amongst other things stopped me from migrating to another webmail. That and having to reprint my business cards.

The fact is that someone at Microsoft should be following what’s happening with Gmail and saying, “Hey guys this is an opportunity for us. Let’s do everything we can to increase our market share.”

Arghhh Gmail

Hotmail or Windows Live Mail has a huge uphill battle to regain all the lost ground but actually if you haven’t looked at it over the last year, you should.

Live Hotmail2 - Gmail

  1. Hate the Gmail new look and feel? Hotmail is well laid out, simple to understand. The UX is clean and there aren’t really any confusing icons with no name. Everything is text labeled and easily understood.
  2. Hotmail may not have all the neat Lab features but it has Sweep. Sweep allows adherents of the Zero Mailbox philosophy to manage their mailbox and keep it under control. In addition you can create folders and apply rules.
  3. Filters: the top bar contains some very cool predefined filters
  4. Performance and reliability as features: Hotmail and Live implemented a performance rollout earlier this year improving things by a factor of 10 according to the Live Team. As for reliability, I’m always being tweeted to ask if Gmail is down; I don’t see those problems as often for Hotmail.
  5. UX / UI as a feature: Hotmail is well designed and they haven’t done anything to make it difficult or unintuitive to find your way around. There is tight integration with Messenger, SkyDrive and Calendar. One look at Hotmail and you know this is Made in Redmond. Your comfort zone is maintained all the way.
  6. Incoming: rumors abound and seem to be confirmed of Sweep becoming a feature you can schedule to keep your mailbox clean and orderly.

Is it enough?

Simply selling Hotmail and Live on the basis of features and UX isn’t going to cut it.

  • Microsoft needs to engage in a world-shaking marketing campaign to redefine peoples perceptions and prejudices.
  • Microsoft you dumped blogging platforms and told your users to go to WordPress; meanwhile Google gave us Google+. Anyone who uses that is not going to leave Gmail anytime soon for another webmail. Get your heads back in the game. What are you doing at Redmond to answer G+? Is reliance on the investment you made into Facebook the MS answer here?
  • Make it mobile … Hotmail should be developed as the “go-to”, kick ass, world killing mobile mail for any mobile platform.

As important and Redmond if you are reading this here’s the killer change to your paradigm: –

  • Internet Explorer: If you want people to love Hotmail do this one thing (it’s big and radical but hey…) IE10 should be released as a platform agnostic browser. If you develop a robust, fast IE10 for Windows, MAC and Linux; for Windows Phone, iOS, Android and even Blackberry as part of your campaign to encourage Hotmail use and later play catch up on some of the features Gmail has that Hotmail doesn’t then many of the prejudices associated with Microsoft products will vanish into thin air.

IE10 - Build - Gmail

Okay Redmond so what are you going to do about it?

gmail - ick video

UX Fundamentals …

UX is a make or break facet of all consumer devices but none more than our ubiquitous smartphones. I did a review a couple of months ago on my Toshiba Portege G810, a neat touch screen Windows Mobile 6.1 cellular phone.

The phone does everything it’s meant to and a little more and thanks to the UI that comes installed most features are relatively easy to access and use.

Still touch screens not withstanding most cell phones seems to be missing the point on a few fundamentals: –

  • Call quality: at the end of the day it’s just a phone so lets have phone calls that don’t sound like the caller is calling from 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. Pretty much everything is a smartphone in one way or another and has more processing power than that desktop you had 10 years ago so how about a decent sound-chip, speakers and microphone? Apropos, don’t blame the carriers we know they give lousy QoS but it doesn’t excuse your hardware shortcomings.
  • Voice control: most bluetooth headsets come with the ability to voice control now and they are tiny little things. How come my phone doesn’t have this? Telling me its because I speak with an English – English accent isn’t going to cut it. I can learn to sound like Steve Jobs or Bill Gates if that’s what it takes to talk and get my phone to listen.
UX - Robin Hood English Accent
  • Voice Mail: why not give me a bakelite plastic case with an actual analog dial on the front of my phone?  Voice Mail is a pain; if someone dials offer them the option of sending their message voice-to-text / to my email as an attached sound file – making me pay call fees to hear you heavy breath, stutter and hang up after an incoherent message is annoying.
  • SMS:  I have one word for you: TWITTER
  • Data: I have resisted all the inherent double entendr’es in all those tweets about the size of your data package, really I have. Seriously though, make browsing the mobile web fast, fast , fast! Optimized browsing should find the best way for you to get the most bang for your buck for all those minutes you are connected. Microsoft Windows Mobile when I close my browser/ email / mobile application ask if I want to close my connection.
  • CTRL-ALT-DEL: if I have to go to the Task Manager or whatever the other phones call it to close one more application today… I believe User Experience is a way of retaining your customer base not an act of psychological warfare. Opera Mobile Browser is closed when you exit, if they can do it then why can’t all the other applications?
  • Calendar / Contacts etc. the cloud is here to stay so why not default store / sync this information on the cloud. Windows Live, Skydrive, Live Mesh etcetera work and work nicely so why not come preinstalled on my Windows phone? Apropos Live Mesh for once can’t Microsoft introduce a new mobile service and get the Israeli carriers to support it? Yes I’m disappointed.

    UX Fundamental - Livemesh

Don’t get me wrong, while the focus of this is on Windows Mobile it’s because that’s my phone but after speaking to users of other platforms / OS I’m not convinced that they have gotten these features right anymore than Microsoft. What’s more even with these shortcomings I like the Windows Mobile experience by and large.

The truth is that the flaws in the mobile UX seem rooted in the misconception that shrinking a Desktop computer into a device with a one to two inch screen is a simple solution to providing features like Locational services and Maps.

As an experienced QA professional who has done some work on cellular platforms, usability and UX I believe that users will ultimately purchase the phone that provides them the ease of use and non-frustrating UX. Time will tell.

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