Some feedback: WordPress reader on desktop

Navigation in reader

  • There are no visible cues hinting at ability to navigate from one expanded post to the next (or previous).
  • Navigating back to the post list (using back button), and then to next post makes it slow, and click heavy.
  • Keyboard shortcuts work, but there are again no visible cues indicating even their presence.

Keyboard shortcuts

  • No visible hints that any keyboard shortcuts exist
    • Keyboard shortcut discoverability is solely by trial and error, or ‘Google’
    • Traditionally, pressing ‘?’ (in, say, GMail or Pocket) brings up relevant shortcuts modal. Doesn’t work in reader.
    • One suggested hint could be to place a keyboard icon next to the help (?) icon, at the bottom, in the left navigation bar.
  • Navigation shortcuts
    • j/k navigate to next/previous post as expected. However, the more ‘lay’ user-friendly left-arrow/right-arrow versions don’t.
    • esc key works the same as browser’s back button – navigating back through history stack (i.e. going back to last viewed post).
      • A better (expected) implementation would be to jump out of expanded-post view to the posts list view, ideally scrolled to the last viewed post.
  • Like keyboard shortcut, l, works as expected. Adding f as an additional activator would be useful – a lot of platforms use favourite as an alternative to like, and some users may be more behaviourally trained to press f instead of l

New idea: minimalist blog editor app

Yet another Chrome1 app idea:

A minimal, no-frills blogging app with markdown editing2, inline tagging support3, and draft auto-sync4 to WordPress and Medium

I find WordPress‘ editor too cluttered (despite the distraction-free mode), and Medium‘s too fiddly-gimmicky. In fact, I write most of my posts these days in another Automattic product – Simplenote, and then copy it to my WordPress blogs, or Medium for final editing, formatting, etc.

My WordCounter Chrome app already supports Markdown Extra. Reusing that code, adding Medium & WordPress API support, and adding a #tag parser shouldn’t take long. The only question is do I care about it enough to prioritise it over all the other stuff that’s on the backlog?

For the last couple of months that I’ve had this idea, the answer has been no.

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App Splash Screens – The Good, the bad and the ugly

I’m not a fan of app splash screens. They delay app usage without presenting any useful, or even pleasant, information or interface. To me, they imply either:

  • badly thought out app design requiring loading loads of data before the UI can even be shown, or
  • a pathetic branding attempt that spoils UX by unnecessarily delaying app access

Here’s some thoughts on how to (not) do splash screens in apps:

The Ugly

My pet favourite object of splash screen hatred is the MyFitnessPal app. It has not one, but 2-step splash screen. The first one shows a progress bar, which I assume shows the status of data stored locally on my device.

Myfitnesspal - Splash screen stage 1
MyFitnessPal – Splash screen stage 1

This is followed by another phase of splash screen madness under the Synchronising data title with a rotating symbol this time (so no indication of progress).

Myfitnesspal - Splash screen stage 2!
Myfitnesspal – Splash screen stage 2!

Only after the local data has been ‘loaded‘, and synchronised with the servers, is the user allowed to see the app UI. And despite this, the headline daily dairy numbers they show on landing screen is wrong most of the time. Specially if another app (Garmin Connect for me) has synced exercise calories with MyFitnessPal.

This feels so wrong. Why can’t they just show me the default landing page UI right away, letting me do what I do on most app uses – log food consumption – as quickly as possible. The changes can all be synced in the background.

The multiplicity of logos on the splash screen, as well as several other UI decisions in the app seem to convey that MyFitnessPal has a weak UI/X team being overridden frequently by a politically strong marketing/content team.

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Text screenshots on Twitter are a desire path across the wall gardens around content in apps and platforms, and Twitter’s text-dominant streams.

Twitter cards, though a handicap on pure, free sharing of content, provide a way through the content wall gardens. But even the cards don’t provide the break through text clutter that images do. Specially, on 3rd party Twitter clients.

Trello labels – UI delight!

Trello Is Gold
Trello Is Gold!

A few weeks back when Trello announced their unlimited labels update, I wrote a post about how it broke my usage pattern by significantly increasing keystrokes required to label cards.

Just discovered, by mistake, an even faster way to label than I’ve ever used before. Not sure if this is new, or I was just doing it the harder way all this time.

When hovering over a card, or with a card open, just press the number(s) of all the labels you want to toggle. No need to prepend it with ‘L’ at all!

Here’s how the keystroke count (from the earlier post) looks now.

Target: toggle labels 1 & 3.

My old usage pattern: 4 keystrokes (L + 1 + 3 + Enter)

Forced usage pattern after unlimited labels update: 6 keystrokes (L + 1 + Enter + L + 3 + Enter)

New usage pattern: 2 keystrokes (1 + 3)

Simply put, the number of keystrokes to toggle N labels has gone from N+2, to 3N to just N.

I’m not just pleased, I’m positively delighted! My love, respect, and addiction, for Trello just keeps on increasing!

Trello label upgrade – UI fine tuning

image

Trello, probably my favourite software out there, implemented an awesome new feature today – unlimited labels. Before today, users were restricted to the 6 system defined labels. We could rename them to what they meant for us, but couldn’t add new ones. This handicap was removed today.

Thanks for the unlimited labels, team Trello!

However, this upgrade also breaks a very useful keyboard ui pattern.

Earlier, I could press L (shortcut for label interface), followed by digits (codes) of all the labels I wanted added, and be done with labeling a card in one go.

Now, I need to press L, followed by label digit, followed by enter, for each label separately. Adding 3 labels to a card went from 5 key strokes to 9 strokes. Makes it harder, tiresome.

I understand the need to break the earlier pattern because of the possibility of double digit label numbers. These would make it impossible to decipher if L13 meant apply labels 1 & 3, or apply label 13.

My suggested alternative: reduce the number of custom labels from UNLIMITED to 26. Then you can use alphabets as codes for custom labels. Now L1C could mean apply labels 1 & C, while L13 would continue to mean apply label 1 & 3.

I hope 26+6 labels would be sufficient for most use cases though the teams at Trello would have better data to check the hypothesis.

Would love to hear views of Trello UX, design teams.

And, thanks for an awesome product!

A caution, while redesigning the old, boring credit card form

 

Old Credit Card Form

We’re living in an era of creative disruption, and no thing – however big or small – is immune.

A small one, out of the millions of things being disrupted, is the credit card form. After years of suffering the old and boring credit card input form, I’m glad to see designers and developers attempt new UI patterns for the payment form.

Brad Frost's Single Field CC Form
Brad Frost’s Single Field CC Form
Ken Keiter's Skeuomorphic CC Redesign
Ken Keiter’s Skeuomorphic CC Redesign

Some of the new attempts are really beautiful. Others make filling the forms much easier. A few manage both. I like them. I like the attempt to remove a painful hurdle to payment (as a user) / conversion (as a business manager).

Yet, could they be just creating a new hurdle while removing the old ones?

I use LastPass everywhere. Including to fill in credit card forms for purchases (from an almost always empty bank account).

While I’ve disliked the old credit card forms ever since I first encountered them, with LastPass, they aren’t much of a hindrance any more. Just click a button, enter a long, meaning-less password, and voila! LastPass fills the form, I get new running shoes and sink deeper into bankruptcy.

I’m sure quite a few other people too, irrespective of their bank balance status, use software like LastPass, 1Password, etc to fill in their credit card details on web, and, maybe, even in apps.

The newer variants of the credit card forms need to ensure that they’re not just easier to fill for those who type in details manually, but also for users like me who use other software to fill the forms for them, specially on the desktop. They could do this by the showing a new or old version of form, after checking whether Lastpass, 1Password, or other similar Chrome extensions are installed. Or they could have a full form hidden on the page, with fields only made visible one at a time. There must be quite a few technical solutions. All of them more elegant than the two I just shared.

But my point is that care needs to be taken. Else a variant that was meant to slightly ease the pain of one set of credit card form fillers, would end up significantly increasing the pain for another set.

Posted from WordPress for Android

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Smart wearables – ‘Game Theory 101’ case study in the making

Balogh Concept Watch

Google announces a platform for wearables, inviting its industry partners to conceptualise, design, and deliver actual devices.

Apple will release its device(s) – polished, with unified design, closely integrated with rest of its hardware offerings.

Google can then choose to let its industry partners respond, or actively force direction with a Nexus watch kind of product.

Apple might choose to respond by adopting features from Google where it’s lacking, attacking with lawsuits where it’s leading, and with refining the allure of its own product where it sees the need.

It’s a multi step game, one side has huge brand loyalty and an integrated device-platform play, the other has flexibility in strategy and ability to flank. One wants to maximise earnings from hardware sales, other wants more users on its platform.

Neither will play for a draw, though that’s a result both will gladly (eventually) accept.

Place your bets, buckle up, and get ready for a ride.

It’s Game On. Again.

Continue reading Smart wearables – ‘Game Theory 101’ case study in the making