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

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.
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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

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!

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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Trello labels – UI delight!

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

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!