Biometrics – to identify, not authorise

Biometrics are your username, not your password.

This tweet by Koushik made a lot of sense on first reading. But I couldn’t place my finger on why I agreed with it. Until I read the paragraph below:

All ‘passwords’ should be replaceable. If your credit card gets stolen, you can block it and get a new card. If your Aadhaar number and fingerprint are leaked, you can’t change it, you can’t block it.

Pranesh Prakash in HT

That clinches it for me.

If my password gets stolen, I can reset it to something new, something stronger.

What do I do if my fingerprint is my password? Can’t get a new fingerprint.

Can’t get a new retina, or DNA either. And they’re all a fair bit easier to steal than a strong password.

Sure, use biometrics to identify if you want. But follow the identification with authentication (with a password, or more), before giving that identity any authority.

Android Keyboards in India

Why don’t Android phones sold in India come with Google’s Indic keyboard set up as default?

Specially for phones that don’t ship with proprietary/3rd-party keyboards, doesn’t it make a lot of sense to pre-install Indic keyboard over the default English keyboard?

It’s such a small step, yet can be quite a big enabler for the users (and, even, possibly a differentiator) – using the power of defaults to deliver a better user experience!

A case for splitting up the WordPress mobile app

Venn diagram of readers and writers on WordPress, specially on mobile.
Readers vs writers on WordPress

By integrating ‘reading’ and ‘writing’ in the same app, you’re forcing the bigger user group1 to also confront tools designed for the smaller user group.

On mobile – skewed by design more towards consumption, than creation – I assume the disparity in these two user groups is even bigger.

Having a standalone reader app, allows it to reach a much larger use case – ‘Help people follow, read, discover’.
Compare this to current use case – install it if you…

  1. post to WordPress frequently from mobile, or
  2. love reading in WordPress reader, despite having little use for other three tabs – write, manage, and notifications?!

A really good standalone reader helps plug in a singular user need2 – reading. That need, in terms of following blogs and websites, only rarely overlaps with the other need that the app currently fulfils – writing.

Though it will place it in competition with feed readers like Feedly, it also has 2 unique benefits as well:

  1. Close integration with a writing platform (related posts, comment & like directly from reader),
  2. The abandoned Google Reader audience that just wants to follow and read feeds, without being overwhelmed with magazine interfaces and more.

A good, successful reader mobile app with large user-base will, eventually, help close the RoI loop: suggest (through ‘discover’) other WordPress/Jetpack blogs, creating an incentive (or delivering reward) for creators using WordPress.


  1. One definition of readers and writers:
    – Writers: 7-day active writers – users who posted at-least once a week.
    – Readers: Unique visitors per week – including logged-in users, not-logged-in readers, and from feed readers.
    Another definition (more relevant to determining use case ratios):
    – Writing: Posts /week.
    – Reading: Page views /week – again, including not-logged-in readers, and from feed readers. 
  2. Should some day also write a similar, smaller, post on WordPress Calypso’s interface – how it needs to be split from current two, into three sections. Currently, the ‘write’ and the ‘manage’ use cases are mixed into the same tab, while ‘read’ is in its own.
    Ideally, ‘write’ and ‘read’ – each a singular, frequent use case – should have their own tabs. ‘Manage’ can be in a far-removed tab, or behind a ‘manage’ button. 

Facebook Android app – a UX minefield

I’m sorry. This is yet another post1 on more UX/UI mess that keeps bothering me.

Starting with something I recently started using after 8+ years – Facebook. FB earned a reprieve from the tech press after its change of heart on native smartphone apps. But their Android app is still way below par for what is the primary user interface for vast proportion of their users.

Here are 2 bits that bugged me right away…

FB Issue #1 – In-post touch areas

Touch Targets - Facebook Mobile
Touch Targets – Facebook Mobile

Facebook states that stories/posts that are posted natively get shared more widely to the followers, compared to those posted as links. Yet, the mobile interface makes it practically impossible to click-through to read those very natively-posted long posts.
Continue reading Facebook Android app – a UX minefield

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.

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

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.