Too Helpful

I’d be the first to admit that I’m no “deisgn guru” and that when you come from a developers back ground trying to work out how users will use a system (be it an e-Commerce web site or a Twitter Client) it is always tough to work out just how the users will go about their business. There is a real hurdle to overcome when trying to use a system as a user rather than as someone who’s deisgned (in terms of workflow at least) and built it.

It’s easy to get into the kind of mindset of “well of course you then click X to get to Y” which is why usability testing is really important. We have to remember that web sites will be used (hopefully) all the time by people who’ve never been there before and hence things should be logical and flow… and when this is not always so simple provide enough guidance to aid the user.

Sometimes folks can go too far… and in fact confuse the user. Take a look at the screenshot below and think about where you’d instinctively click to go to the next page. Bear in mind that it’s likely you’ve just scanned down the text (although I’ve blurred it here but please pretend that the text might be semi-important).

Too helpful?

I would think that most people would click the right facing arrow at the centre bottom of the page, bearing in mind that they’ve just scanned the text above. Yup, the one with the word continue written next to it. Either that or they also see the button at the top right and then may think “Oh, which one do I press and does it matter at all?”. Sadly you’ve got at best a 50% chance of going nowhere. In fact these arrows at the bas of the page are not buttons at all but simply ‘helpful’ instructions about the arrows that will appear at the top right corner of each page.

So what’s the lesson here? Testing is important… and it’s no good just testing something yourself as you know what and how a system is meant to work.

Cupcake – First Impressions on the Android Update

This morning I received the Cupcake update for my UK T-mobile G1… and so far I have to say that it’s a great improvement… in terms not just of niggles I had with the last version but also in reference to some of the new tweaks and features that have now been added.

Android Cupcake
Android Cupcake

The update took no more than 10 minutes during which my phone was unusable. There was, however, good visual feedback letting me know at least that something was going on. Straight after the G1 had rebooted I clicked on the ‘ToggleBlu’ application icon to switch the Bluetooth off (it is on by default… I’m not sure as to why but perhaps I’m in the minority here) and sadly it failed. I started to dread that the update would break all my downloaded apps… things were not looking too bright. So I started playing with the other Market downloads to see just how they’d react to the new release of the OS.

From that point on everything seemed a great change; all the other applications whether installed by default (contacts, gmail, etc) or third party software all seemed to run fine… and some with some nice new features.

Here is a list of just a few of the key things that I’ve noticed.

  • Faster scrolling – perhaps it’s because I’m excited but I do seem to notice an improvement in the scrolling.
  • Batch options in Gmail – you are now able to bulk archive, set labels, etc,
  • Auto rotate – without any additional software the orientation of the screen can be automated
  • Screen animations – some nice ice candy when moving between screens
  • Calendar – more control over events and a better “agenda” view
  • Improved Camera capture – seems much quicker and has a better interface/interaction with gallery
  • Video playback/capture support – I have only played with this briefly but seems pretty good and also supports audio.
  • Browser – 1 click zoom to 1:1 option, a “most visited” tab in the bookmarks page
  • On screen keyboard – although I really love having a “proper” qwerty keyboard I think for quick SMS creation this may come in useful.

All in all I have to say I’m pleased so far… I’m also excited about the coming of 3rd party widgets too so to sum up… my phone just keeps improving!

UPDATE (08/05/09): Kudos to¬† Andrew Schwimmer who had a fix for the ToogleBlu app out yesterday. Also just noticed a nifty “double tap to unlock” feature when on a call. Looks like “Shake Awake” is no longer needed.