Archive for the ‘functionality’ tag
The accelerometer embedded in our smart devices is typically used to align the screen depending on the orientation of the device, i.e. when switching between portrait and landscape modes. This capability provides great opportunities to create better user experiences because it offers an additional layout with a simple turn of a device, and without pressing any buttons.
However, designing for device orientation brings various challenges and requires careful thinking. The experience must be as unobtrusive and transparent as possible, and we must understand the context of use for this functionality.
Nearly all mobile and tablet applications would benefit from being designed for device orientation. This article covers some of the basic concepts that designers and developers can use to add device orientation to their process. We’ll present some of the challenges when designing for device orientation, along with some solutions.
Using Device Orientation For A Secondary Display
YouTube’s mobile application is a great example of device orientation design. Portrait mode offers a feature-rich interface for video discovery and the user’s account. Landscape mode provides an immersive experience with a full-screen video player and playback controls. When the video ends, the display switches back to portrait mode, prompting users to quickly tilt the device back and browse for additional videos.
However, using orientation to display a secondary interface can be confusing for users. For instance, in CardMunch (a business-card reader by LinkedIn), users can convert business-card images into address book contacts using the smartphone’s camera. Rotating CardMunch to landscape mode changes the interface altogether to a carousel overview of all of your saved cards.
This interface lacks any visual clues about its orientation, and it has limited controls. You are unable to edit or add business cards, making the carousel screen somewhat frustrating and confusing, especially if you’ve launched the app in landscape mode. In addition, the lack of visual clues in this landscape mode will deter most users from rotating the device and discovering the app’s other features.
Categories Of Orientation Design
To help UX professionals and developers, I have categorized four main patterns of device orientation design.
This interface simply adjusts to the new orientation’s size.
Pocket’s mobile interface: same layout, different width.
This interface adjusts to the screen’s size, adding or subtracting layout components according to the dimensions of the chosen orientation. For example, IMDb for the iPad uses the wider screen in landscape mode to add a filmography on the left. This list is also accessible in portrait mode by clicking the “All filmography” button in the middle-right of the screen.
Providing visual elements and functionality in any orientation ultimately gives convenience to the user. However, not forcing the user to hold the device a certain way is crucial, especially if the desired functionality does not appear in the default orientation.
With this interface, a changed orientation triggers an auxiliary screen with relevant supplementary information. An example would be a mobile financial application that displays data in the default portrait mode, and then provides a visual graph when the user rotates to landscape mode. The orientations show similar or complementary data and depend on each other.
Like YouTube, a continuous design enables the user to access a secondary interface by a simple rotation of the device. An example would be using a smartphone as a remote control for a smart TV. Rotating the device to landscape mode would reveal a full program guide, while also maintaining functionality for changing channels, browsing programs and recording future episodes.
Considering The Default Orientation
Above & Beyond is an interactive eBook for the iPad about the life and work of the American caricature artist John Kascht. The beautiful art in this book is displayed in both portrait and landscape modes. However, horizontal mode shows important interactive elements that do not appear in portrait mode, such as a way to return to the main menu. Portrait is the iPad’s default orientation, so including this type of added interactivity only in landscape mode might confuse many users.
While portrait mode shows a detailed look at the art, and the interactive eBook provides some instructions at the beginning, a solution might be to allow users to tap the screen to reveal the menu. The default orientation for most smartphones and for the iPad is portrait. However, landscape is the default for Android, Windows 8 tablets and BlackBerry’s Playbook. To avoid confusion, remember that the primary orientation of your app should always serve the device’s default mode and functionality, not the other way around.
Understanding The Context
When designing an application for smart devices, consider the context and circumstances in which that application will be used, particularly when designing for device orientation. Case in point: interactive cookbooks have become very popular. Hardware and accessory manufacturers are creating devices to help us use the iPad in the kitchen, including a washable stylus for use while cooking.
We can use orientation to create a better experience in a cookbook. Using the iPad’s default portrait orientation, users can flip through the book and view the full recipe and ingredients list for a particular dish. Rotating the device to landscape mode will change the interface to a cook-friendly layout, with large buttons and step-by-step instructions. This cook-friendly interface would also prevent the tablet from auto-dimming, and it would allow users to flip pages by waving their hand in front of the built-in camera to avoid touching the screen with messy hands while cooking.
The Betty Crocker Cookbook for iPad is an example of a cook-friendly interface.
Understanding the context of the kitchen and how people cook with the iPad would make the interactive eBook much more functional. With the added consideration of device orientation, the user experience would be better overall.
Visual Clues About Orientation
An auxiliary screen or added functionality that depends on orientation can sometimes be counterintuitive. Without any visual clues in a particular orientation, a user might miss the added functionality altogether. A classic example of this is the iPhone’s built-in calculator, as pointed out in Salon’s post “How to Change the iPhone Calculator Into a Scientific Calculator” — functionality that many users do not know about.
When designing for device orientation, visual clues increase findability and makes the user experience intuitive and transparent. Below are a few examples of visual clues for device orientation.
Affixing the title bar to the top of the default position in either orientation is a subtle clue for the user to tilt their head (or device) to read the text in the bar. This technique is essential when using orientation for a secondary display and serves as a gentle reminder about the added functionality.
Note: This method will not give affordance to the added display in the default (portrait) orientation. In this case, I recommend coach marks, a quick tutorial or a walkthrough video (when appropriate) to illustrate that the application is using orientation for a secondary display.
Much like the universal icon for sharing or Apple’s familiar action button for sharing, I propose a standard icon to represent device orientation. You can download the icon shown below and use it freely.
The icon should appear at all times and be used as a toggle switch between orientation displays. Using the toggle would not require the user to rotate the device for the secondary view, but it would gradually encourage users to rotate the device to view the secondary interface without pressing the icon. Rotating the device back to the default orientation would automatically adjust the display. Ultimately, this icon would serve as a visual reminder for the added functionality; the user would not need to use this control to switch between orientation displays but would simply rotate the device instead.
Below are illustrations of this toggle icon in use:
If standardized, the orientation icon would give affordance and serve as a visual clue. Here is an illustration of this toggle icon in a corner triangle.
Note: The device orientation icon is not a proven idea, and the value of adding this somewhat redundant UI control is debatable. However, in my opinion, the idea is simple and effective and would enable designers to more fully rely on device orientation to enhance and extend their applications. Hopefully, the proposals here will spark a conversation in the design community and lead to a solution whereby, with a simple turn of the device, essential functionality is added to any application.
The idea here is to show a drawer-like control that users can tap or swipe in order to see the secondary view. Rotating the device would automatically open the drawer, much like a curtain opening. By using an animation to open and close the drawer, the designer can create a memorable effect for displaying data based on orientation.
Designing for device orientation is not new. For example, when rotated to landscape mode, smartphones open a larger virtual keyboard, and the email applications in tablets switch to a master–detail interface. However, device orientation design is widely treated as secondary to the main interface because it is often missed by users who stick to the default orientation, mainly because they are not aware of its availability. By adding simple visual clues to the interface, UX professionals can make the case for using device orientation to enhance their products and, ultimately, for providing more engaging and user-friendly experiences.
© Avi Itzkovitch for Smashing Magazine, 2012.
This sponsored post is produced by Appcelerator.
Join Appcelerator’s first-ever Mobile Developer Challenge!
They will be awarding over $25,000 in prizes and giving the top two apps the chance to present their app on stage at CODESTRONG 2012 in San Francisco…plus, the top two apps will have the opportunity to pitch their apps to Appcelerator’s “VC Panel” at CODESTRONG!
Top prizes include:
- $15,000 cash
- Trip to San Francisco to join Appcelerator CEO Jeff Haynie on stage to launch their app at CODESTRONG
- Meeting to pitch your business to Appcelerator’s VC’s
- $5,000 cash
- Trip to San Francisco to join Appcelerator CEO Jeff Haynie on stage to launch their app at CODESTRONG
- Meeting to pitch your business to Appcelerator’s VC’s
Box Bonus Prize:
- $5,000 cash
- Any app that uses the Box API is eligible to win this prize
- Award will favor business-oriented apps
- This prize may be stand-alone ($5k only) or may be added to one of the other cash prizes
Top 10 Apps (10)
- Nexus 7 Tablet
What kind of apps are they looking for?
Create an app that will be beautiful, addictive, and useful. Apps can be built for consumers, businesses, or for social good. They’ll judge apps on the following criteria:
Depth of Integration with Appcelerator
Does the application take advantage of the unique functionality offered by the Titanium platform? Does it leverage Appcelerator Cloud Services? Is it integrated with modules from the Open Mobile Marketplace?
Is the application useful to a consumer or businessperson? Does it achieve one of the two objectives of mobile apps (to help people make money or waste time)?
Is the application easy to use? Is it appealing? Is it addictive?
Originality of Concept
Is the application unique and innovative? Does it bring new functionality to mobile devices?
Any new mobile application that is developed on Appcelerator Titanium is eligible for the Mobile Developer Challenge. Here are the key dates:
- Now through September 30th – Form a team (or go it alone!), come up with an idea, and build an app
- September 30th – Submission deadline (5:00pm PT)
- October 12th – 10 finalists announced
- October 23rd – 1st and 2nd place winners launch their app on stage at CODESTRONG 2012
- October 23rd – 1st and 2nd place winners pitch their app to our “VC Panel”
To help you get started, they’re holding a number of meetups around the world. These are a great place to brainstorm and discuss the feasibility of an idea with our developer relations staff, connect with others who are participating in the Mobile Developer Challange, and learn more about Appcelerator. They will also be holding webinars if you’re unable to attend in person. For a list of events, and to find all of the information that you need about the Mobile Developer Challenge, visit Appcelerator.challengepost.com.
Roximity’s app for iOS promises relevant offers to deals around you based on location and user preferences. To take that location-awareness a step further, it will offer this functionality in the car through Ford’s Sync AppLink, which brings info from your smartphone to your dashboard so you can better (and more safely) interact with it.
“While driving, users can simply say, ‘lunch deals,’ and their favorite lunch options will be read out loud,” Danny Newman, co-founder and CEO of Roximity, in a statement. “Other deal services offer coupons for the entire metropolitan area or for things that are not relevant to you. Roximity is personalized and will provide you what you want, when you want it.”
Roximity was recently selected to be part of the Techstars program in Boulder, Colo. and has eight employees. Notably, Roximity is the first app to have Ford AppLink compatibility at launch.
In the glut of daily deal offers from Groupon, LivingSocial, and others, I appreciate the idea of using location to give me the best digital coupons. But do I need it in my car while I hurriedly drive to work or to my friend’s house. No, not at all.
Check out the video below for more on Roximity’s integration with Ford’s Sync:
Photo credit: Roximity video screenshot
Filed under: mobile
When I wrote about Google Places listings becoming Google Plus Local Business pages (see my post from June), I thought it would take months for Google to allow the new G+ Local pages to be merged with the Business pages that people had created as part of the Google Plus social network.
Thankfully, Google has already announced that this can be done. To avoid confusion, let’s recap. Google initially gave us functionality as part of Google Plus that allowed the creation of business pages, including the same social features of a G+ profile. At that time, it was also possible to have a Google Places business listing, which was linked to Google Maps. In June, they rebranded Google Places listings, calling them Google Plus pages – even though they did not have the same features as Google Plus pages.
Now, for businesses that have both a G+ business profile and a G+ local page, it’s possible to merge the two. Here are Google’s instructions of how to do it:
“Your business’ presence across Google Search, Google Maps, and Google+ will be unified,” says Google. “You’ll be able to manage this page from Google+ Pages admin.”
If you look at your Google Plus Business page and you see an “unverified” link next to the page name, click that to start the verification process. This works in a similar way to the Google Places process, with a postcard being sent to an address with a pin number, then you have to follow instructions to go to a web address to type in your pin.
Verification is still needed, even if your two Google Plus business properties were set up using the same Google account.
There’s a nice walkthrough, with screen shots, on blumenthals.com.
I’m going to do more digging on this and report back because it apparently only works if you already have both a G+ page and a G+ Local page and there is no further information direct from Google, so I’ll write an update on this topic at a later date.
The tablet market is still relatively young, with penetration in the fast-forward U.S. market only reaching 47% by 2013, but we are already starting to see some usage patterns emerging, according to comScore. In a survey of 6,000 tablet owners in the U.S., the researchers have found the Kindle Fire has more female than male users while iPad skews to males. It also found that Apple’s tablet has the highest satisfaction ratings of all tablets — although across iPad, Android and Kindle Fire tablets, all rate relatively close to each other, and all of them are higher than the average satisfaction ratings for smartphones.
And when assessing what motivates purchases, brands play second-fiddle to functionality and price, with apps availability, along with cost, scoring as the most important factors considered when a consumer purchases a tablet.
ComScore found that Amazon’s tablet has a customer base that is 56.6% female, the highest imbalance among iPad, Android and Amazon devices. The ‘why’ behind this finding is not addressed but it could have something to do with Amazon itself, being first and foremost a reading and shopping site, skews more to women, as we have also seen with its earlier Kindle E-Reader products. It’s also a funny coincidence that Amazon promotes the products with a woman’s hand (pictured).
The iPad attracted a 52.9% male audience, while Android tablets appeared to have the most evenly divided user base. In total, tablets as a general category are equally split between male and female owners. In comparison, smartphones seem to attract a slightly more male than female audience, at 51.9% to 48.1%.
When it comes to age, the 25-34 year-old bracket is the most-common for tablet and smartphone owners, regardless of the make; with the 35-44 segment the second most-popular. This shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise; this age range would hit the sweet spot of having enough disposable income to buy a product that can cost upwards of $199, and being digitally switched on than older users and possibly more sedentary than younger users. Also unsurprisingly, the most common income bracket for both tablet and smartphone owners are those consumers with a household income of over $100,000.
What’s perhaps more surprising is that even the Amazon Kindle, marketed as a price beater with its $199 tag, is largely following the same trend as more expensive tablets. That suggests that either Amazon’s $199 price is still too high for consumers with less money, or that tablets are still largely aimed at a particular kind of user that fits into a specific socioeconomic class — or likely both.
Turning to what gets users to buy tablets, comScore found that on average apps availability and price are just as important as each other to consumers. (That should quiet those who say apps are secondary to the web.) That result varied among different categories — for example the more expensive but app-tastic iPad scored higher for apps than the largely cheaper Android and Kindle Fire tablets. It seems to indicate that if Apple did launch a cheaper device but with most of the same functionality, it could potentially blow all the others out of the water.
Still, today brand name/tablet OS are both a close second. The fact that consumers are so aware of the OS is interesting to me: it seems once more to indicate we are still looking at early adopters here. Interestingly services like music, video and social networking are broken out from apps, and all score lower on their own.
Lastly, in the area of device satisfaction, Apple’s iPad, the most popular tablet in the market today, scored the very highest. But not with as wide a margin as you would assume, given its market share. Apple had an 8.8 on a scale of 1-10, but the Kindle Fire was nearly as good with an 8.7 rating. Interestingly the un-forked Android tablets scored the lowest at 8.2, but that category will contain a very wide range of models. Similarly, the catch-all category of smartphones also showed a comparatively low score of 8.1.
Awareness has added an interesting feature to its social media management solution with a new release this week. It’s essentially an influencer scoring and ranking functionality that allows you to set parameters or point values for a person’s action (Tweet, Retweet, Like, etc.) then score how they react or interact with your brand or content.
Scoring can be time dependent (more points if they’ve re-tweeted you in the last 14 days), geographic in nature (more points if they’re closer to you physically) and certainly reach/impact in nature (more points assigned to actions by those with higher follower counts, etc.).
What this allows marketers to do is automatically pull in fan and follower data, including specific information found in their social profiles, and grade how often or well they interact with or amplify your brand’s content. Unlike voluntary influencer programs like SocialToaster, GaggleAmp or Brandsforce, Awareness’s functionality scores anyone you’ve connected with socially. While you can certainly get deeper analytics from those voluntarily using your influencer tool, the Awareness approach has better reach and is potentially more useful in identifying passive influencers who might like your brand.
It’s kind of a CRM system meets influencer scoring to create your own internal Klout score for your audience members.
You can even use your monitoring streams within the Awareness Social Hub platform to cast a net and score influencers in a given topic without having a direct connection to them on the social grid. It’s an interesting new addition to the SMMS space and gives an already robust and powerful platform another highlight to attract new customers.
Another thing I like about this type of functionality is that you control the parameters. You’re not depending upon a Klout score or some other index whose algorithm you don’t even understand. It fits your needs. And that’s the truest form of influencer measure — that which is relevant to you and your brand.
Hat’s off to Awareness for adding the feature. Have you seen something similar elsewhere? How quickly will this piece of the SMMS pie be replicated in other tools? Or perhaps more meaty a topic to discuss, what parameters would you pick as the most important in determining influencers for your company? The comments, as always, are yours.
Even though Nuance’s desktop voice recognition software is getting a bit long in the tooth, the company clearly understands the potential for its technology in mobile devices, after powering Apple’s Siri and releasing useful apps of its own.
Today Nuance announced Nina, a collection of personal assistant technologies that will bring Siri-like functionality to customer service mobile apps for the likes of banks and insurance companies. Using a combination of voice biometrics, speech recognition, natural language recognition, and other Nuance tech, Nina will be able to recognize your voice and also step you through customer service options.
Basically, Nina could mean the end of convoluted customer service phone trees. It’s also the natural progression for Nuance’s voice recognition technology, which, in addition to powering Apple’s Siri, runs dictation on Android and other mobile platforms.
Naturally, Nina includes a software development kit for developers to tap into, and it comes with a pre-made virtual assistant persona. Developers can also customize the persona to their apps — allowing for a more intimate customer service experience than a traditional phone tree. Nina is powered by Nuance’s Virtual Assistant Cloud, which handles all of the heavy-duty processing for voice recognition (so it’s not entirely reliant on your device). The company claims that Nina is the first virtual assistant software to combine voice biometrics and voice recognition.
Nuance announced today that the USAA, which provides banking services to the U.S. military, has already signed up to use Nina in its app. The USAA will launch a pilot program featuring Nina in August, and all of its members will have access to the technology in early 2013.
Nuance is targeting Nina at large businesses instead of small indie developers. Businesses can sign up for Nina starting today.
A hack for searching for tweets by date, with help from Google Spreadsheets @ NixonMcInnes: Social media goodness. Translated. Created. Delivered.
Very clever hack by Steven Winton of NixonMcInnes to get around dropped search functionality in Twitter search, using Google Spreadsheets.
The opportunities for even small businesses to access better-than-basic social media management and monitoring tools got a lot bigger last week as Viralheat launched what I believe to be the first free social media management platform. The long-time social media monitoring provider has added publishing and engagement as well as a fair set of analytics pass throughs from Facebook, Twitter and the like to form the basis of a simple SMMS platform. And they’re not charging for it. Sign up for free and try it if you like!
The core functionality most small businesses have always wanted but could only get in bits and pieces from freemium tools like HootSuite is there. You can publish, schedule posts, read and respond to mentions and followers, conduct cursory social media monitoring functionality and output reasonable metrics reports, all for the basic, free account.
While It still doesn’t have the full range of what we’ve discussed as a complete offering (see more in our discussion of social media management platforms and their feature sets), it is the first I’ve seen that offers at least four (and with some connectivity and additional work through bit.ly, a fifth) of the SMMS core functions.
The interface on Viralheat is very Facebook-like. Left-side navigation helps you easily bounce from a dashboard that shows an overview to your specific accounts (Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn for my testing purposes) where you can find your messages and analytics for each network, your messages and your profiles. Here’s the Facebook Brand Page engagement page through Viralheat’s lens:
This is a little confusing if you’re not used to the Viralheat environment. “Profiles” is their label for the topics you’re monitoring on the web. Keep in mind they started as a monitoring service. This is where you can dump in your Boolean keyword searches to find what people are saying about you or your brand online. “Accounts” is where your social profiles are kept.
Then there’s “Messages” which shows you a list of the out-bound messages you’ve sent through the tool. It doesn’t do much else, like show you analytics for each message, but you can see what you’ve posted, have scheduled to post and such.
One of my biggest hang-ups with Viralheat has always been user experience design. While the interface is very Facebook-like and some might find it easy to find things, there are some little things that would be nice that don’t seem to be there. There’s no real social inbox where you can see all your streams together in one place. Or at least I couldn’t find it. You have to go into each account — Twitter, then LinkedIn, then Facebook, etc. — to see and interact.
The individual messages you post don’t seem to show metrics for them — retweets, shares, etc. — though there is a neat widget on the dashboard that shows you by network what messages you’ve sent that have “gone viral” with numbers of shares. Still, individual drill downs on messages don’t appear to be there.
The metrics offered within each of the social network portals in “Accounts” are well presented. They bring in cursory analytics for Twitter and all Facebook insights. If Facebook is your primary network, you should be pleased with the analytics panels Viralheat offers. But their LinkedIn integration only brings in your core news stream and lacks any analytics or integration with LinkedIn Groups, Answers and other areas you might need to monitor.
While I think my role here is to establish some expectations for you, it’s probably time I remind us they’re offering this up for free. At the end of the day, it’s more than you can get elsewhere for the same price. For no charge, Viralheat allows you to offer a total of seven social media accounts (LinkedIn, Facebook or Twitter accounts) and up to 5,000 mentions of you across accounts. For $49 per month, you can upgrade to 15 social accounts, two monitoring profiles to search the web and up to 10,000 mentions. THen there are prices for $149 and $499 per month for larger entities.
Overall, Viralheat has evolved from a monitoring platform to a social media management platform. And the fact they’ve offered a cursory set of features for free is noteworthy. Small businesses have an option. In many ways they didn’t before. If you’re looking for a place to start, Viralheat is a good one. And you can’t really beat the price, now can you?
Do you use Viralheat? If so, let us know your thoughts, tricks and tips in the comments.
Have You Registered For Explore Minneapolis?
Don’t miss two days of intensive learning with some of the leading thinkers and practitioners in the digital marketing and social media marketing space. Join SME’s Jason Falls and Nichole Kelly, The Now Revolution co-author Jay Baer, Edison Research’s Tom Webster, Ad Contrarian Bob Hoffman, Scott Gulbransen, Kevin Hunt, Kipp Bodnar and more at one of the leading digital and social media marketing events of 2012, August 16-17 in Minneapolis, Minn. DON’T WAIT TO REGISTER! Seats are filling fast! Reserve yours today!
WordPress’ Matt Mullenweg just announced that the WordPress.com interface and all the blogs hosted on the site are now optimized for high-density displays like the ones found on Apple’s new iPad and Retina MacBook Pro. Through JetPack 1.6, which also launched today, users with self-hosted WordPress sites can also enable the same functionality.
The arrival of these high dots-per-inch (HiDPI) devices took many developers by surprise and while many Mac apps, for example, have already been optimized for Retina displays, most developers are still playing catch-up. Things are even worse on the Web. As Mullenweg notes, most web sites “don’t have high-resolution equivalents of all their graphics to take advantage of the new screen, so they get “doubled” and look fuzzy, they stand out like a sore thumb.”
With this update, WordPress.com will now serve high-resolution images on its blogs for all users who can see them. To do this, says Mullenweg, WordPress will take the images its users have uploaded and then sized down to fit their theme and serve them at a more Retina-optimized resolution. The WordPress team also optimized the dashboard, reader and all of its own sites to take advantage of these new high-density displays.
As for self-hosted blog, WordPress plans to integrate all of these Retina improvements into its upcoming 3.5 release, but for the time being, users will have to enable these features through Jetpack. Besides Retina support, the latest version of JetPack also introduces Pinterest share buttons.
Gravatar, too, is now Retina-ready and, as the company puts it, its users’ profile images will now “be looking extra sharp to anyone who views [a] Gravatar profile or Hovercard from a device like the iPhone 4.”