I like observing people, and listening to them talk about themselves. So, naturally, I love observing user testing sessions. These are some unrelated (to the user test) notes from some recent sessions.

Like listening to audio books because can listen while doing other stuff… washing, walking, cooking, driving.

I’m emotionally blocked on the idea of listening to books. R loves them. But these are exactly the times when I listen to podcasts or, more recently, radio — walking, gardening, cooking, driving.

Have Bluetooth headphones but forget to keep charging them, so mostly use wired headphones.

Wonder if other heavy headphone users face this too. I’ve heard people saying they prefer wired headphones for audio quality, or Bluetooth unreliability reasons. This feels like a much stronger behavioural reason to me.

Love their Pixel phone – fits in the pocket, fantastic camera, clean, no crap apps. But miss lock screen player notification for Spotify app where they could pause, play and rewind (their previous Samsung phone had this).

This is likely a case of the default privacy settings on Pixel not allowing notification content to be visible on lock screen. A point for the privacy vs convenience debate, and the power of defaults.

Prefer browser to apps for news reading. Love the option to open lots of links from home screen in background tabs and then read them. With apps, can only read one at a time, and then FOMO kicks in – whether something more interesting/relevant down the page will disappear by the time they go back to the home screen.

I’m the same. My wife uses the Amazon app. I use the browser. I can search for something on Amazon, then open all interesting results in individual tabs, read them all, switching between them to compare, before deciding which one to buy.

The Pixel doesn’t have a back button, only a back gesture where you swipe from the right to go back. This interferes with swiping between photos. I accidentally close and go back when I need to go to the next photo.

I love gesture navigation. All my devices have it. I also agree with them. I do often, accidentally, close instead of swiping next. Interference with swipe actions on lists and cards is the same. The edge swipe for navigation drawer is just… dead.

It’s also interesting that they don’t know that we can swipe from either edge, left or right, to go back. Gestures are powerful once we learn them, but really hard to discover.

When looking at photos, videos start playing automatically. This happens everywhere these days. On photos, on Instagram, Twitter… can’t quietly check photos.

Attention/advertisement metric driven features spoiling UX. And yes, I hate this too.

Continue reading Asides

Switches and checkboxes

tldr: Say no to switch toggles. Say yes to checkboxes. (Unless you are Airbnb)


Switches can be ambiguous about their state and their intent.

IRL, they are usually vertical

Which side is on?

Or labeled for choosing modes


They don’t do RTL well

Using an RTL language? Which is the on side—turned to the right, or to the left?

The accent colours on the switch are a helpful clue.

But the colours can’t help when Digital Wellbeing turns on the grayscale mode.

switch settings rtl grayscale
Grayscale turned on by wind down mode. Which switch is ON, again?

But Google uses them

Yes, they do. They also appear to be learning the folly of their ways. Check out these screenshots from upcoming Android 12:


If it’s filled, it’s on. If it’s empty, it’s not.

There’s no right, left, up or down. Language doesn’t matter. Colour doesn’t matter. No ambiguity1. No confusion.

Gmail. No colours for hint. No RTL support on an RTL device. Yet, no confusion. Checkboxes FTW!

Continue reading Switches and checkboxes

Not chat apps

Chat apps were once for digital p2p1 communication—chatting.

Now chat apps have become the media for news, faux news, entertainment, memes, commerce, and more. They are a combination of, for old school web-ers, a portal, a usenet or yahoo group or bulletin board, and mass email (with everyone in cc).

With chat apps no longer primarily the medium for p2p digital communication, what is the new chat app?

In corporate environment, this p2p role is partly fulfilled by Slack DMs and email. Which app will fulfil this role in personal use case?

Continue reading Not chat apps

Two GTD tweaks for Todo.txt for Android

I follow a slight variant of GTD, and use my Todo.txt for Android app for task list management. Here are two tweaks I use in the app for parts of the GTD process—quick capture, and easy identification of next actions.

1: Use a special project for quick ‘capture

I use ‘+quicktask‘ as default project for all new tasks to quickly capture them. This allows me to just note the task in plain English and continue with the task at hand. I don’t need to think about their priority, due date and all other things at the time of capture.

Writing the task down closes the loop and frees the mind. Applying the +quicktask project allows me to easily find the task later during the clarification stage.

When I’m in the clarify or organise stage, I filter the task list for +quicktask and process them.

2: Use a special tag to mark the ‘next action

Pending next actions
Pending next actions

I use ‘#next‘ tag to indicate the next task to focus on in a project. During the organise stage, I mark one task in each active project as #next. This ensures that I don’t have to look through the task list for what to focus on next.

My task list widget is now filtered by #next and sorted by due date. What’s on top, is what I need to focus on now.

Chrome Extensions I use (start 2018 edition)

This is the updated, early 2018 snapshot of the list of Chrome extensions and apps I use.

Favourites/recommendations are in bold.
My own extensions/apps are marked with an asterisk (*).
Extensions by Google are marked with a (G)

The previous list, from late 2015, is here.

Continue reading Chrome Extensions I use (start 2018 edition)

Chrome Extensions I use

Just thought I’d share the full list of Chrome apps and extensions I use. Favourites/recommendations are in bold.


General / Productivity:

Platform + App + API = Shortcut to Win

As a cyclist, I keep exploring route mapping and live tracking apps. This weekend it was the turn of mapmytracks, thanks to all the attention focussed on rocket2 LEJOG attempt.

But this post is not about a route mapping / tracking website, or about that attempt. It’s about the interesting approach mapmytracks has taken to app development.

They’ve developed official iPhone, Blackberry and Nokia apps. They don’t have an Android app, yet, but openly link to alternative Android apps that work with their API providing both live tracking and route mapping.

I like this approach, coming as it is from a website in a cluttered & competitive space. By providing an API and advertising / linking to compatible apps, they don’t have to compete with the huge number of similar apps in Android marketplace. Yet, they enable people on the most widely used smartphone OS to connect to their platform.

In one move, they’ve reduced their own efforts towards developing an Android app, ensured presence on multiple apps on that platform, and yet given them the option to, some day, buy the app that emerges as most successful on Android.


  • Are there other small firms out there, developing and owning the platform while providing APIs and encouraging outside developers to provide mobile apps for it?
  • Why don’t more startups that are targeting to become a ‘platform’ use this with an app+api strategy?

Continue reading Platform + App + API = Shortcut to Win