8 Design Tips for Educating App Users

Mobile design is a constant struggle for simplicity. With so little screen space, it can be very challenging to pack the necessary functionality into the design while still keeping it streamlined and intuitive. In order for your users to get the most out of the application, you sometimes have to plant subtle clues or even build a feature walkthrough to show how things work. Check out my tutorial on Mobile Tuts+ that will show you examples of how to go about it.

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Carnival of the Mobilists #253

Carnival of the Mobilists

Carnival of Mobilists is a monthly collection of some of the finest in mobile blogging. The latest edition at Tomi Ahonen’s blog covers LBS, gesture, advertising, design strategy and more.

It also features my post NFC will make our daily lives better

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Getting What You Want From Phone Companies

Telecommunication companies are massive corporations that try to pride themselves in customer service. When you really think about it though, these corporations are a virtual monopoly on the way we use smartphones, access the mobile Internet, and transfer ideas to our friends via social networks. Sometimes it can feel like these companies have a stranglehold over our social lives with their long contracts and endless rolls of red tape.

If you have a shoddy phone, can’t get service in a certain area, or have trouble running the apps on your smartphone, then you shouldn’t have to suffer with it. Device manufacturers like LG phones, tablets, and work devices are meant to be productive devices for their users and not a hindrance on performance. Here are some things you can do if you are experiencing technical difficulties with your phone or provider.

Be Assertive

One of the most frustrating things about dealing with a large phone company is the endless amount of bureaucracy you must deal with in order to get what you want. Customer service hotlines are set up to lull you into complacency and make you cooperative. If you want to get a new phone to replace your old one, then make your demands known upfront. Sounding weak and passive to a service rep will make them want to go through the pre-scripted motions with you and get the best deal for them.

Do Your Research

Walking into a phone store unprepared could lead to a possible disaster. You will find yourself having to negotiate with sales staff and being uninformed could set you up with a phone or plan that you want nothing to do with. Visit websites, talk to friends, and conduct practical research before even setting foot in the retail phone store.

Politeness Never Hurts

The sales reps and customer service hotline people are always faced with rude and ignorant people everyday they work. If you treat the employees of these establishments with the basic human decency they deserve, you will find that they have a lot of leverage in getting you the things that you want. This rule should be applied to anyone working in the service industry.

Turn to a Third Party

If all else fails on your quest to get a new phone, contract, or upgrade, you need to take your business elsewhere. If you want to the latest model of a phone and your company won’t allow it, go to sites like eBay and Amazon to find the best deals on refurbished phones. If your contract is getting you down, try to terminate it and go with a prepaid phone option instead.

When dealing with these companies just remember that they have a lot at stake in terms of proper customer service. If you want something bad enough they will often give it to you; no questions asked.

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Nokia on Patterns of Human Interaction: Nokia’s solution is no game changer

Nokia’s design team led by Marko Ahtisaari has been working to simplify navigation model and provide users with a more easily glanceable device. Their solution, let the user access the last 3 recent apps by swiping right.

I disagree with Nokia solution being better than Apple’s or even Android’s solution to get to recent apps. If you double press on the home button in iPhone or if you press and hold the home button on Android you get to the recent apps, how is that worse than swiping right… they provide the same functionality and they have almost similar discoverability issues.


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Near Field Communication (NFC) will make our daily lives better

Recent developments around near field communication (NFC) have the blogoshpere buzzing. The top three mobile platforms, Android, iOS, and Windows Phone 7 are rumored to be preparing to support NFC.

According to a recent study, one third of iPhone users indicated that they were “likely” or “very likely” to use mobile payments. Analysis from Juniper Researchstates that NFC mobile payments market will exceed $75 billion globally by 2013, when 20% of all phones shipped will possess NFC capability. No surprise then that the industry is working towards integrating NFC chips in the phone.

NFC payment gateway in a cabOnce NFC chips are integrated into phones, a host of new applications can be built that:

  • help people access such things as public transport, office buildings, or their cars
  • download music, videos, and discount coupons from smart posters
  • act as an identity card to make purchases or exchange business cards
  • help facilitate the pairing of Bluetooth devices

A Usage Scenario

Here’s a scenario of how NFC coupled with location-based services (LBS)could simplify people’s daily lives.

Location: Bangalore
Scenario: Meeting a friend at an unknown location
Phones:NFC and LBS enabled phone

  • The user keys in address in mapping app in phone, selecting the local train as the transportation method.
  • The mapping app identifies nearest train station from the user’s current location and shows directions for how to reach the station on foot.
  • Following the instructions, the user reaches the train station.
  • At the station, the user makes a quick purchase of a magazine from vending box by tapping his phone with NFC reader to provide payment.
  • The user taps his phone on the station turnstile reader, which finds that the user has a valid pass to the train system and so lets the user enter the station.
  • The user reaches the destination station and taps the exit gate with his phone.
  • The user passes a “smart poster” advertising a movie that interests him, so he taps his phone to the poster to download the movie’s trailer, show times, and promotional discounts.
  • The user checks his location again to find the fastest route to his friend’s location, and selects a cab as the transportation method.
  • The phone identifies cabs in the vicinity and signals the nearest one to pick up.
  • When the cab arrives, the user taps the cab’s customer terminal to transmit the destination information and confirm that he was the one who called the cab.
  • When the cab reaches the destination, the user pays the fare by tapping the phone to the customer terminal.
  • The user meets his friend, and they tap their phones to friend each other on Facebook.
  • The pair walk into the theatre, and the user taps the theatre’s NFC reader to buy tickets using the discount received from the smart poster.

This is my prediction of the near future. With a simple tap, NFC enables effortless access to the everyday tools and services we use, and simplifies our daily activities.

Originally published in UX Magazine

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Unique features in new Windows Phone 7 Mango

Windows Phone 7 introduced more than 500 features in its Mango version. Here’s a look at what’s unique as opposed to Android and iPhone.

  1. SkyDrive support(including shared folders)
  2. Internet Explorer 9
  3. Twitter integration
  4. Xbox LIVE Avatar accessories
  5. Kinect integration
  6. Skype
  7. Over-the-air podcasts
  8. Silverlight + XNA
  9. Improved panorama and pivot controls
  10. Live Agents
  11. Deep Links
  12. Multiple live tiles per app
  13. Power management (Battery Saver)
  14. Parental controls(including M-rated titles)
  15. Pinnable email folders
  16. Server search
  17. Lync
  18. Hidden Wi-Fi networks
  19. App Connect(formerly Search Extras)
  20. Quick Cards
  21. Local Scout
  22. Indoor maps
  23. Photo translation
  24. Contact communication history
  25. LinkedIn integration
  26. Calendar integration with Facebook Events
  27. People tags
  28. Updated mobile versions of Word, Excel, PowerPoint, and OneNote
  29. Multiple file formats on SkyDrive, including PDF
  30. Instant access to Bing under device lock
  31. Emoticons
  32. Photo auto-fix
  33. Related artists
  34. Xbox LIVE friends list
  35. Xbox LIVE messages
  36. Command bar integrated in all hubs, includes search button
  37. Microsoft Office for Mobile updated to v14.5
  38. Zune HD-like shutdown experience
  39. Animated Pictures Hub tile
  40. Recent games list
  41. Talking caller ID
  42. Fast Async
  43. Avatar Awardables
  44. Pin photo albums to start
  45. Review photos under lock
  46. Photosynth(possibly as an app)
  47. Windows Live Messenger / Facebook Chat
  48. Colored tiles for Office documents
  49. Support for additional languages
  50. Office 365 support
  51. Smart DJ
  52. Multiple calendars for Windows Live and Exchange accounts
  53. Music and video streaming from SkyDrive
  54. NFC Support
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Carnival of the Mobilists #252

Carnival of the Mobilists

Carnival of Mobilists is a monthly collection of some of the finest in mobile blogging. Head over to the latest edition at WAPReview.

This month’s carnival also features my post How NOT to design for multiple screens: Pulse iPhone App Usability issues

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