Weathermob: Express how you feel about the Weather [App Review]


Weathermob is a niche social networking service for sharing information about local weather, much as Instagram is a service for sharing pictures. It lets you share what you’re feeling about local weather and see what your friends are saying about theirs. A lot of weather apps allow users to share the weather report with Facebook, Twitter, and so on, but what’s interesting with Weathermob is the manner in which it helps the user put together an engaging story.

This is a great example how to make a utility application engaging. It takes a basic function—viewing a weather report—and helps users create whole stories around local weather to express themselves.

Inviting, Conversational Language

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Weather is one of the biggest conversation topics across the world. Instead of just displaying the weather plainly and dryly, Weathermob tries to create a conversation around it by slipping in contextual tidbits like, “Today will be cooler than yesterday.” It’s almost like you’re talking to a real person, getting information but also some contextual small talk that make the information more interesting.

Takeaways

Try presenting data using a conversational tone. It makes the data look more interesting.

Easy to Explore

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The interface is crisp and clean; there’s barely any clutter. You know exactly where you are and what you can do. Inviting graphics indicate different types of activities that fit different weather conditions, and are used as links on the home screen to entries by other users who associated that activity with a weather report in their area. It’s an impressive way to encourage users to explore the application.

Takeaways

Identify data elements that can be used to persuade users to explore further, and provide access to them in screens that are at the end of workflows, or in screens that displaying related information. This allows user to explore more of you have to offer.

Persuasive Triggers

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Weathermob provides persuasive triggers that encourage you to share your weather report while you’re viewing the reports from others. These triggers appear in a unintrusive manner at moments when users may find the data interesting and be swayed to take the effort to share a report. I find this to be very innovative because it tries to nudge users when they’re most likely to share.

Takeaways

If you’re dealing with user-generated content, identify points in the application flow where the user is engaged with interesting content, and provide friendly triggers for them to create new content of their own. When users already find content to be engaging, they’ll be more willing to add to the stream.

Very Easy to Contribute

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Weathermob provides a fun and easy-to-use interface for users to create compelling stories about how they feeling about the weather. The UI design makes it very easy to distinguish the fixed elements from the variables the user can select. However, the affordance of the input wheels would be improved if each wheel looked more visually distinct, thus indicating that they’re separately controllable. UIDatePicker is a good example of wheel-selection component that provides good affordance.

The social sharing features, currently accessible via the small icons in the upper-right of the screen, should be given more prominence to better utilize the social influence of users. The social sharing options could be provided closer to the “Send report” button so they follow the natural top-to-bottom flow.

Takeaways

  • Provide a fun and easy way for people to create stories to express themselves.
  • Consider the order of user task flows very carefully.

Uses Game Mechanics to Make Things Interesting

gamemechanics

Game mechanics are often used to make boring and repetitive tasks interesting, and nothing says boring and repetitive more than watching the weather. To keep things interesting, Weathermob lets you earn points and titles like ‘Bureau Chief’ for your area (similar to Foursquare). Gamification.org has a great collection of books, articles and presentations on the topic.

Barrier to Entry

sign-in

My understanding of the goal of Weathermob is that it should make it easy to express how you feel about the weather and share that with your social networks. With that in mind, I found that the sign-in process needs improvement. Currently, users are required to sign into the app, and then separately sign in again with Facebook and/or Twitter when they want to share. I think that’s too great a burden to place on the user. It might make more sense to allow users to try out the app without creating account, and then allow them to use Facebook Connect or Twitter’s OAuth to quickly sign up, log in, and share. This way users don’t need to log into multiple services separately, and can register a new account more easily.

Takeaways

According to a survey published by Janrain, registration screens seem to be driving away majority of customers, and three out of four respondents believe “social login” should be offered. If sharing on social networks is a major component of an app, it might make sense to use the sign-in tools provided by Facebook, Twitter, and other services so the user doesn’t have to deal with registering for one more service and then signing on again for social networks.

Conclusion

Among other things, Weathermob is a good example of designing with users’ emotions in mind. As humans, we want to connect with real people. UX designers need to bring out the app’s personality to engage people emotionally. Using a conversational tone like “For crying out loud, what’s your weather” helps people relate to an app as if it were just another person.

Originally published in UX Magazine

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My first lunar eclipse


 

I grew up with stories of staying away from eclipse as they harmful in some way, and even though I knew there was no substance to it as I grew up, I couldn’t get myself to break the unwritten rule. As my son turns 4 this would have been his first lunar eclipse and I didn’t want him shackled by the stupid chains as myself. I threw convention aside grabbed a camera, and took my wife and son to watch our first lunar eclipse… it was spectacular.

Posted in Mobile | Tagged | 2 Comments

Social User Experience with the Facebook Phone


Facebook Phone MockupThere are quite a few rumors flying around about Facebook and HTC teaming up to build a new “social” smartphone named “Buffy” with Facebook services deeply integrated in a modified version of Android.

Facebook has declined to comment on the rumors stating

Our mobile strategy is simple: We think every mobile device is better if it is deeply social. We’re working across the entire mobile industry; with operators, hardware manufacturers, OS providers, and application developers to bring powerful social experiences to more people around the world.

Apple and Microsoft have already announced a tight integration of Twitter in their mobile platforms. Google is building it’s own version of Facebook with Plus which is bound to be deeply integrated in Android in the days to come and can be a serious threat to Facebook.

Mobile is on it’s way to become the biggest delivery platform and Facebook should control their own destiny instead of relying on Google’s Android and Apple’s iPhone which have their own social agendas that’s bound to undermine Facebook in the long term.

Facebook could work on improving the following areas to create a mobile user experience tailored towards social activities:

Tight integration with the Phonebook

There is already an overlap between your Phonebook contacts and your Facebook friends, integrating Facebook contacts merges the two networks and they’re all there in a single place with their updates available at a glance.

Integration with Photo and Video Gallery

Facebook became the largest photo sharing site a while back, this just takes it a step further with easy access to your photos and videos locally on your phone along with all the contextual data like “comments” and “likes”.

Bring Facebook’s Apps to the Mobile Space

Increasing number of people are spending more time using mobile apps compared to the web, a Facebook phone can give the flourishing Facebook app ecosystem a jumpstart on the mobile space. It can also provide better access to native phone features like alarm, scheduler and so on, to create richer 3rd party apps to improve the user’s lifestyle.

Integration with Mobile Payment Gateway

This can do for Facebook app developers what iTunes did for mobile app developers. An amazing way to reach the mobile consumer and monetize their hard work and open up a whole new world of socially inclined apps for the users.

Gather Contextual Data

Now this is a goldmine that Google’s been exploiting for a long time, imagine the power to gather contextual data from usage habits of user not just while they are using your app but while they go about living their lives. This has a huge potential to better position their offerings which complement each user’s unique lifestyle.

Targeted Content Delivery

Content consumption on the mobile is growing by leaps and bounds. With tight integration, the phone can identify your interests based on your mails, shares, browser history, tweets, location and so on, and aggregate the articles you’ll be most interested in automatically.

Integration of their new Features like Jobs and Answers

It’s an easier way to reach out and educate the users about new features.

These are just a minuscule number of things that can be leveraged by Facebook. I’m sure there are hundreds of other tweaks that will help Facebook provide a better social experience but won’t be allowed by phone platforms because of their vested interests.

As Facebook’s CTO puts it, “Mobile devices are inherently social”, with deep integration in the mobile interface, a Facebook phone can create a mobile user experience tailored towards friends and social activities.

Originally published in .net Magazine

Posted in Mobile, Social Media, User Experience | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Free Online Courses in HCI and Game Design from Top Universities


Free online courses from world’s leading universities

Human Computer Interaction
Stanford

Mobile User Experience Design
Stanford

Game Theory 
Yale

Game Design
MIT

Computer Graphics
IIT

Introduction to Computer Graphics
IIT

 

Besides the free courses there’s also a paid online MS in HCI from DePaul College, exam can be taken across the world

MS in Human Computers Interaction, DePaul College of Computing & Digital Media, US

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Framework for Designing for Multiple Devices


multiple-devicesNowadays, content must be developed to be viewed and interacted with across a range of screen sizes, from smartphones to the widest flat-screens. With devices becoming increasingly abundant in our daily lives, people are shifting from device to device, and they expect their products and services to shift with them. Regardless of what size screen your content is on, people expect a delightful experience across devices.

Here is a list of popular resolutions related to content consumption on various devices:

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Designing for multiple devices involves much more that simply resizing content to display on different screens. It must be truly viewable and usable across screens. We have to determine how our content changes from one screen to the next; more specifically, we have to control how this content gets resized, even to the extreme of accounting for both portrait and landscape orientations. To do this, it’s necessary to develop an effective strategy to target a diverse range of devices and screen sizes.


Different Devices, Different Experiences

Every device does something different. Each device is better at doing certain things, and worse at doing others. So, not all features make sense on all devices. You need to identify how the user will use the product in different contexts. Mobile users want different things from your product than desktop users. As an example, consider a website about movies currently in theatre. On the desktop, users want an immersive experience including trailers and production details. On mobile, they focus on movie listings, nearest theatres, and showtimes. We need to maximize the user experience for all devices so users believe that the application was actually designed for their devices instead of being simply stretched to fit the screen on their devices.


Understand Context of Use

Users consume content from multiple devices throughout the day. It’s important to understand the context in which these devices are being used to craft experiences that specifically suit them. You need to provide the right content, on the right device, at the right time.

Multiple device usage through the day

It’s also important to understand how the usage of different devices overlaps and how they complement each other. Here are some interesting findings from a Nielson survey of time spent on different devices for daily tasks:

· 70% of tablet owners and 68% of smartphone owners said they use their devices while watching TV.

· Tablets and TVs complement each other very well; 30% users used tablets for browsing the Web or accessing TV-related apps while watching TV. Only 20% of smartphone owners did the same.


Define Device Groups

Although there’s a myriad of devices with varying screen sizes out there, it’s possible to manage this diversity by defining device groups based the tasks that the user is likely to focus on and device capabilities:

Here’s an example of device width groupings:

  • Featurephones: 128, 160, 176, 220, 240
  • Smartphones: 320, 480
  • Tablets: 800
  • PC: 1024+
  • TV: 1600+

Note: This is an arbitrary example; create groups based on your user research.


Identify User Goals for Different Groups

Smartphones are personal; they are used mostly for micro-tasks, acting on locally available info, entertainment, and social sharing. Tablets are shared; they are considered an alternate to laptops and are primarily used for content consumption. Adapt the experience for each context of use.

You need to identify the different scenarios in which your product will be used across the groups of devices, and design an experience suitable for each of those scenarios. For example, to create a good mobile application, keep it simple by focusing on core functions and the activities mobile users require.

Break down the basic interactions and functionality offered by your application, and make combinations suited to each different device group. The information and UI design of each variation should reflect this, with elements repositioned or reorganized accordingly. If you’re designing for mobile, reorder the categories by priority to best suit the needs of the mobile audience. For example, Google’s mobile website focuses on different items in the navigation than in their desktop website.

Google IA

Evernote is a popular note taking product and it’s available on multiple devices. It’s PC and tablet versions are optimized for content consumption whereas the smartphone versions are optimized for photo and audio input, and notes are location-tagged.

evernote

Create a Scalable Reference Design for Each Group

Once you’ve identified the features to be supported for each device type group, create a reference design which contains the essential components of the application that will scale across the range of screen sizes across the group of devices by defining a set of principles, patterns and guidelines. Make sure to address different orientations.

BBC Reference layout
BBC Mobile Style Guide

Design for Mobile First

Usually applications are designed for PC or desktop and then ported to mobile. However, it’s better to design for mobile first as it has the most constraints and will help you focus.

When designing for PC, we face the ‘kitchen sink’ problem where lots of things get added to the product, especially when multiple stakeholders are involved. This is because adding things when you have a lot of real estate is relatively easy. When you design for mobile first, you can better decide what matters most and you can then apply the same process of judiciousness to the other versions of the product, be it on PC, tablet or TV.

Luke Wroblewski, who wrote the book Mobile First, discusses some of the ways designing for mobile first can help mitigate some of the thorny issues that have plagued designers for years.

Synchronize

Based on usage scenarios, you might want to ensure that the content consumption on each device is in sync. For example, if you started reading an eBook on your smartphone, when you shift to the tablet you should be taken back to the point where you left off on the smartphone. Amazon’s Kindle handles synchronization of multiple devices very well.

Get the Details Right

Designing for multiple devices involves a lot of complexity. Sweat it out to get the details right to create quality experiences for each group.

You need to understand the strengths and weaknesses of each device and how they are used in order to design an experience suited for them, consider such variables as user posture (stationary, mobile, leaning back, leaning forward), device input capabilities, device display capabilities, and navigation style while defining the scenarios in which user may be using the product. Depending on the scenarios, it may be beneficial to design two or three different versions of the product.

Mobile Web vs. Native App

The easiest way to reach multiple devices is mobile web; however, mobile web and native apps offer different benefits and serve different audiences. You need to answer a number of questions:

  • What experience does your product need to deliver?
  • What you are trying to achieve?
  • What is your business model?
  • What is your budget?
  • Who is your target?
  • Et cetera.

Weigh the pros and cons of both the mediums and decide what works best for you.

Mobile Web Native App

Reach a larger audience
The majority of users don’t own a smartphone and don’t access app stores. They are more likely to use a mobile browser and access the Internet from their mobile phones. The barriers to accessing a site via a browser are lower than those to downloading an app, even for Smartphone owners

Lower cost and time to market
The biggest benefit mobile web offers is that you design once and it’ll run on all mobile platforms with minimal tweaking. The fragmented nature of the mobile industry means that porting apps to different platform environments costs money, especially when you include maintenance and marketing costs.

Instant updates
Whatever changes you make become available instantly to users.

No censor
Mobile web does not censor content and allows you to publish when you want and what you want.

Low barrier to entry and no revenue share
Mobile web has no entry costs, and you get to keep 100% of the revenue

Connectivity
Productivity in a browser depends on constant connectivity, and in the real world data connections can be transient. Native apps can be built to interact with users even if offline.

Device-based caching
Native apps can cache data persistently, reducing data usage and providing faster access to the data.

Richer experience
Native apps can tap into the device’s functions and features, providing richer experience and seamless integration with native features such as camera, address book, etc. Users prefer an app that feels like it belongs on the phone rather than a Web app that seems shoehorned into the device.

Immersive experiences
Immersive apps like games need a lot more horsepower to deliver rich, polished experiences, which the native apps can achieve easily.

Stronger engagement
Native apps currently present better opportunities for stronger engagement, not only because they offer richer services and experiences, but also because they place the brand icon on the user’s home screen.

Discoverability
Native apps can be found easily in an app store. It is easier to build great marketing around apps than around mobile web links.

For further reading on this topic, check out these posts from Mobiletech, Forbes and CMSWire.

Conclusion

When designing for multiple devices, the best strategy is to keep the end-user experience in mind. Ensure that on all devices, users can complete their task with ease and efficiency, and the experience is tuned to their expectations from that device.

Originally published in UX Magazine

Posted in Cross Channel, Mobile, User Experience | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Love the innovative method Twitter uses to show Ads


twitter revenue model

I’m glad they’re not showing ads on the right panel. I bet this is targeted based on user’s tweets and follows. Very original.

Posted in Microblogging, Social Media | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

What does Excellent User Experience mean?


The user experience is how a user perceives or responds to using a product or service. At a high level, an excellent user experience is one that is:

Valuable
Clearly articulates the value proposition and the purpose of the product for the target audience, taking into account factors like right set of features, cost of ownership, context of use and ethnography.

Usable
Users can achieve their tasks with ease and efficiency, with the least amount of effort, without experiencing any frustration, wondering where something is located, or struggle to figure out how to do something.

Trustworthy
Work as expected, every time, without glitches. It lets the user achieve their goal without hitting any roadblocks.

Delightful
Elicits a positive response. Delight could be achieved by adding things that may not be required, but when added bring value.

This is a fairly vast topic and the above parameters just touch it at a very high level. Here are bunch of posts for further reading to delve down deeper:

Updated 1st Nov

Posted in User Experience | Tagged | 8 Comments