Posts from the ‘iphone’ Category
September 30, 2013
ios7 was a long time in the making- and a big move for Apple. It’s the first major break from the iconic visual design driven by Steve Jobs and the warm, homey graphics that made the techie device feel familiar: to-do lists that looked like lined paper, a bookshelf that looked like wood, and most importantly, easy to read text, links and buttons.
In this update, the new flattened design takes flat too far. The text is a pretty pale grey and the links a pretty pale blue, making both hard to read. All links are treated equally, so that “skip this step” and “next” links, for example, look exactly the same. The new tool icons are flat and colorless, which combined with the pale blue outlines- make them hard to distinguish. They just don’t pop off the page. The one that’s highlighted is great- if they were all treated that way, they’d seem less diminutive and more actionable.
I like the idea of modernizing the graphics, but this fails in the execution. The graphics are reminiscent of early web design that was less well attuned to customer experience mandates such as legibility, clear calls-to-action and ease of use. The newstand is still a newstand, and I can’t pull my New York Times out of it, so it continues to be two clicks away. The bookshelf design looks like something you might find in a windows app, with books floating on varying shades of blue. The safari icon looks like a compass. And I can’t find the new ‘easier’ to find spotlight search no matter what I do.
The critical issue: The text and link treatments are too pale. Too subtle. These are key elements of the design- and they need to be made legible.
The good stuff:
On the upside, ios7 seems stable and has some great new features. The new control panel is fantastic- it puts key functionality one swipe away, instead of multiple clicks- you can now access sleep, do not disturb, airplane mode- and even a flashlight with a quick swipe. Love that.
The camera is noticably better- with easy controls, and more accessible controls for a panoramic shot, square or video.
And the new App scrolling feature is cool- with two clicks, you get mini screens you can scroll through to see what apps are open and click directly in. Very nice.
There’s lots to like about the new OS release. Though I’m not a fan of how far they took the flattened design, I believe it’s easily fixable. The critical need is to fix the oversimplified text and link treatments. I hope that Apple will recognize the need to do this quickly in upcoming releases. The rest is just a matter of taste.
July 8, 2012
The dreaded VRU. How did it come to be such a brick wall? It’s a great tool for efficiency, of course- just not for us. No doubt it saves millions in staffing costs for companies, while creating a tedious, frustrating, and mind-numbing experience for those of us who spend infinitely more time navigating through the gauntlet of menus, only to find that none of them offer the right options- none offer a human. I’ll start to feel my blood pressure rising, the frustration growing, finally talking louder and louder to the VRU, as if I were talking to someone hard of hearing, saying, “I WANT A HUMAN!”, then getting the inevitably even-toned “I’m sorry, that is not a valid response. To return to the main menu, please press 1, now”.
It wouldn’t be so bad if there were always the option to speak to an agent, but many companies remove that option. Others offer it, but only after you’ve followed a path of automated responses that exhaust all possible functions the system has in its arsenal. The thing is, I don’t actually want to speak to a human. I’d much rather be able to solve everything through email or online. But sometimes, you can’t- and you really need to speak with someone, and it just shouldn’t have to be so hard.
Used the way they were intended, VRU’s have a place, providing answers to frequently asked questions, saving time and money- theoretically leaving more time for qualified agents to deal with more complicated issues. I get it. They can be a tolerable evil, to a degree, as long as there’s always the option to speak to someone. It’s just plain irresponsible to omit an option to do so.
In the early days of web shopping, you practically had to have connections to get a phone number at Amazon. There was one- but you could not find it on the site. It simply wasn’t there. When my friend AMB got the number- it was a big score- and we all saved it in our address books for future reference. It was like having privileged information. They’ve come a long way since those days.
Even now, there are a surprising number of high-profile companies that don’t provide phone service at all. Companies that just can’t handle the volume, or plain don’t want to. Some surprisingly big companies in the mix. See “Tech Companies Leave Phone Calls Behind” in yesterday’s New York Times- Quora doesn’t provide a phone number at all. Twitter has one, but it hangs up after directing you to email. Facebook is no better. In the article, Amy O’Leary describes the Linked In VRU cycle as a telephonic version of “Groundhog Day”. That pretty much sums it up.
And then…there are the times that speaking to an agent seems almost as existential as working your way through a VPU. Check out “The Theater of the Absurd” today in the NYT business section, for a humorous article on the subject, including a transcript of a baffling conversation between Alan Alda and a McAfee customer service agent, in which he says to her, “I am now in the land of Kafka” after going around in ridiculous circles. Worth a read.
I wonder if Siri could help. Try asking her to get you an agent at <company name here>, and see what happens. Let me know how that works out. I’m a generation behind, on the iPhone 4, so wouldn’t know. It would be worth the upgrade if she has that kind of power.
February 2, 2012
How many pictures do you take in a year? Now that we all have smartphones- it’s probably thousands. Tens of thousands, for many of us. But how often do you actually print them? I find that now that everything is digital, I print less and less. I don’t feel the pressure to print and share, and make albums, because I can so easily share my albums online or on facebook, in the instant (and for free).
But sometimes it’s just nice to have a few prints for your mom, for your office- or for the holidays. Well, there’s an app for that. A bunch of them, actually. We’ve been able to share and order prints online for years, but this makes it easier. And a lot more fun.
Sincerely.com has apps for both iphone and android. The newest is Sincerely.ink, launched last fall. With the app, you can create and send a customized print card with photos and your personalized text, for about what it costs to buy a generic card at the drugstore.
Postagram allows you to simply send prints directly from your phone- via email, facebook, twitter- or mail.
My new favorite is the PopBooth app. You can take photos on the fly and turn them into a photo strip- choose color, black and white or sepia- or overlay color filters, and then send prints, email or post your photo strip online. It’s fun stuff. Check it out.