With all this focus on the Pebble, the rumoured Apple Watch, and even the iPod + Lunatik setup - I’d love to see some actually useful applications like Strava ported across to work on this new medium.
I think where watch apps would actually add value, instead of simply being a gimmick, is by acting like a HUD for apps when you don’t want to risk your phone being out of your pocket or bag.
iOS eBay: The Good, The Bad, The Ugly
Mike Rundle, author of Design Then Code, is a firm believer in an iOS application being a pixel perfect representation of a company’s branding and unquestionable design. He can be a real stickler, calling out poor design or UX conventions on Twitter and just generally being a loveable prick about it all. But every so often he does stop and remind us that there are real people behind these decisions - and that things are often beyond their control.
The people responsible for the eBay iOS applications care enough about their product to trawl Twitter looking for whingers like myself. And they’re not just looking to mitigate complaints, they’re keen to hear feedback and where people think they have room for improvement. They were sure to pre-empt criticism by stressing that the original application was rushed out in only 5 weeks.
Okay, you caught me out. I was more keen on using the “Good/Bad/Ugly” metaphor than actually thinking up reasons why both the iPhone and iPad eBay apps are “Good”. They both do some pretty cool things (barcode scanning, being more picture/gallery oriented than the website), but that’s not really what this post is about. This post is more about where the apps fall flat on their face.
Branding and Consistency
The only thing marketing experts love more than cocaine is “synergy”. But what the iPad app delivers is an icon and UI different to that of the iPhone app, and eBay’s branding in general. I’m not entirely sure what page in the styleguide the blacks and deep greys come from, and for some reason it really irks me. I think eBay’s marketing department may have overlooked the inconsistant approach for the sheer joy of being able to say they have an iPad app. It was, as mentioned, rushed out in only 5 weeks.
Considering the difference at the simplest level, picking up an iOS device and trying to flick through screens full of apps to quickly locate the eBay app can be difficult. It’s hard to remember that, for example: “oh, I’m on an iPad now, I should be looking for a grey icon, not the yellow one, silly!”
In fact the icon differences just draw attention to the fact that the two apps are presented separately in the app store, and not part of a universal application. Dropbox, Twitterific, Instapaper. These popular apps, free or paid, all have universal installs. I can’t imagine the eBay code-base being very different. Merging the two would even avoid inconsistant language and interaction between the two, like refining how far an item can be from your location:
eBay Mobile - “Local Search”
eBay for iPad - “Max Distance”
Frankly, I haven’t seen diagonal scanlines used in web or app design since the early-00’s when I was abusing them too. I really can’t understand why eBay pushed an update that replaced the original simple graphics with dated scanlines. Subtle Patterns is a brilliant website for discovering and previewing modern designs of tiling patterns. All of which are free. They’re rich and tactile. They’ll date just as quickly, but scanlines already have a head-start.
Odds and Ends
There are also a few less critical odds and ends that need cleaning up. Prioritisation in lists could do with some work. As a category, “Won” probably is third-most important in the following view. But when the proceeding categories are empty, is it still relevant to show them at the top of the page?
In terms of showing when refinements have been applied to a search, the iPad app takes the better approach. Normally black buttons turn blue when criteria are applied. The iPhone app uses text instead, with a lazy check/square root symbol.
iPad App - Normally black buttons become blue
iPhone App - Text only indication
Also strange is the way in which setting a price range is not enough to trigger the refinement indicator in the iPad, while the search radius is.
There are also plenty of other little bugs and enhancements, but no app is perfect. The inability to enter a landscape keyboard mode in the message centre could probably be fixed and pushed out quickly. The caching of gallery images when flicking between items is probably just as straightforward. These are less UX issues and more programming bugs.
It’s far too easy to get to a point in your search where you can no longer get back to your results, or preserve your refinements.
For me, one of the most interesting functions I can perform on eBay is to view a sellers other items. I’ve done this countless times on eBay and Gumtree (an Australian Craigslist), and it can result in beautiful things and some absolute bargains.
If you were to click “View Sellers Other Items” on the iPad app, you can kiss your search results goodbye. This is incredibly frustrating when you’ve spent time narrowing your search with refinements. I want a road bike. Only from the cycling category. Within 100km of where I live. Only the recent listings because I’ve seen the rest. You might find a cool bike, but the size isn’t right or it’s already well outside your price range. The seller mentions they restore bikes, and suggests you check out their other items. Maybe you’l have some luck there? Boom. Search results, refinements and position gone. No back button. Start again.
Oddly enough I just noticed this only happens on the iPad app, the iPhone app remembers exactly where you came from. Another reason to merge code bases.
Can’t Refine Location Unless Logged In
All iOS devices at this point should be able to geolocate themselves, regardless of 3G connection. Apple and Google are both conducting some wizardry where they can pinpoint your location based on Wi-Fi signal alone. But unless you have an eBay account and you’re signed in, the eBay application gives you no way to filter search results by location.
The user is offline, or Safari can’t determine the location of this particular Wi-Fi router? Store with window.localStorage and it will persist between sessions. Simple.
What appears to be a fairly straightforward issue to resolve can be immediately attributed to reviews in the app store:
Can’t Update Location When Travelling
Travelling overseas or even interstate will not search where you are now located. This can be directly attributed to the apps reliance on the user’s location listed in their account profile, and not the device’s geolocation. While definitely an edge case, it would also be resolved while addressing the above issue.
I think that my personal frustration stems from usability issues that could be handled better as a mobile web application. That’s not to say I would ever suggest that eBay goes down the path of only offering web apps. Native will ALWAYS trump web facsimile. But with that being said, if you know that performing a particular action will always break your workflow - you get used to opening that link in a new tab. There is no quick native fix for that. A desktop-sized web app can become a mobile-sized app with a few lines of responsive CSS. There is no quick native fix for that. Merging code bases will be fiddly and time consuming.
Bugs take time to identify. Bugs take time to fix. Submitting to the App Store for a review and update takes time (and isn’t guaranteed to pass). As we speak there are probably similar items as I’ve described, logged internally for eBay’s development teams. But as I’ve discussed, there is no end user work-around for some of these issues - while there would in a mobile app. eBay still offers both, but it highlights a flaw in the native vs. web app argument.
I hope that the product owners and dev teams can take some of what I’ve said on board. This isn’t unwarranted criticism. Staff at eBay have expressed a desire to learn more about what UX people like myself think they can improve on. Here’s to a better UX for everyone.
I’m in a bind. See, there’s this brilliant iPad app called Flipboard. When it first launched I knew it was special. In the weeks leading up to buying an iPad 2, I watched this video nearly once a day. Then I actually had the iPad in hand, Flipboard on screen - and I came across a perplexing problem: it’s completely free.
I love Flipboard. It’s the best iPad app I’ve used so far, and probably the best iOS app I’ve ever used. It’s smart, it’s dynamic and it never crashes. It constantly leaves me satiated, grinning stupidly at it’s glowing screen. But it’s completely free.
Someone tweeted at me saying that they aim to make their money off content suppliers, and not end users. What I’m saying is I pretty much have a blank cheque here, and nowhere to send it. I’m so pleased with the app that I’ve done everything else I can think of: tweeting, blogging, water-cooler-ing… but I still feel like I haven’t shown my appreciation enough.
Flipboard, you’re swell.
How to Fix Runkeeper’s Inaccurate Waypoints
You’re pretty chill. I mean, you made yourself free for all of January, and then decided to just make yourself free forever. But goddamn do your GPS waypoints just suck arse.
The above is a little snippet of tonight’s 4km run. Somehow when I say 4km run (even if I map it as a route beforehand) you just decide to go and make shit up and call it a 3.4km run. The inaccuracy of this renders the post to twitter/facebook functions useless (for me at least) because it consistently reports less distance than you actually covered. This shouldn’t really be a problem, but let’s be honest: the only reason we post a run to twitter or facebook is to be a bit of a wanker anyway.
Don’t even get me started on the UI to correct all of these waypoints. After my eight or ninth attempt in various browsers, I decided to simply create a route and enter a time (this was also frustrating as it’s pretty hard to go over the same road twice).
But the solution is really simple, for my scenario at least.
When I start an activity, I should be able to enable “snap to roads” just like I can when editing an activity after completion. The absolute worst case scenario is that the odd waypoint ends up being put somewhere between 0-30m up a side-street or past a turn. Then it becomes a matter of correcting that single point, as opposed to every single waypoint and it’s relevance to pace and elevation needing to be updated.
Everyone in the office who has used the app.
PS. We still think you’re awesome and we’re so much fitter having known you ;)
The Crikkket web app for streaming the Ashes’ scores is up and about. We’re constantly pushing changes to it, so if something breaks send us a tweet!
Simply point your iOS or Android device to http://www.crikkket.com and add it to your home screen for the best experience.
Designed and coded by me (@taitems) with back-end wizardry and data scraping by Brenton (@sesh).
(This is a live screenshot dumped into an iPhone PSD)
iPad Application UI & Design Roundup
Note: This post is no longer updated, as it was written to provide a pre-launch collection of designs and UIs for inspiration. I highly suggest you check out Landing Pad for a more up to date list of iPad UI designs.
Kobo iPad App Preview
Kobo continues the trend of hyper-realism in iPad UI design. To top it all off, it’s all customisable! Watch the video to see what I mean. Could Kobo potentially be better than the iPad’s own iBook?
iMockups iPad App Screenshot + Video
iMockups for iPad seems like a fun environment to work within. You would think it would be an application better suited to a PC workspace, but it seems to go alright. The drag and drop, resize/pinch etc seems to work really well in an iPad simulator.
Bento iPad App Screenshot
Macrumours announced today that Bento will be making an appearance as a launch title for the iPad. The screenshot they broke the news with shows that the iPad design trend continues to favour hyper realism and textural approaches. LukeW discusses that more in iPad Apps: Physicality and Heightened Realism.
Yahoo iPad App Screenshots
This post on 9to5mac features a big collection of screenshots from the new Yahoo iPad UI. While some screenshots employ a sense of 3D space borrowed from “Classics”, “iBook” and others, the rest are just okay.
‘Tilt’ iPad Pinball Game
This looks like a bit of fun, and something to really test out the handling and usefulness of the iPad for the gaming market. High-res screenshots are typically underwhelming with jagged edges. One day the iRange will get better, one day.
Delivery Status iPad App Teaser
The guys at June Cloud posted this little teaser on their website. From what I can tell, Delivery Status on the iPad looks exciting!
iPad Magazine Cover Concept
This is probably the third iPad magazine concept I have come across, with the other two being VIV Mag and Wired Magazine, both of which are featured in this post. I think this raises a lot of questions about how we will consume our content on the iPad. Will the cheerleader effect turn people off digital magazines or keep their attention?
Digital Post iPad App Teaser
I wish I could tell you more about this Digital Post, but this was all that Louis Harboe (@spiralstairs) let slip.
Updated: 1Password iPad App Mocks
The guys at the Switcher’s Blog have released part two in their series of iPad UI related blog posts. While they remain tight-lipped about most things, it is possible to see the design evolution producing a really polished product. Clicking on an image will take you to the latest blog post, which explains the mocks better than I could ever attempt to.
“Mixr” iPad DJ App Mocks
The stunning looking Mixr iPad application was brought to my attention by user Pixil in the comments section. Careful attention has been paid to the beautifully realistic tactile environment, and the screenshots just crave to be touched.
See more @ Noe Ruiz’s portfolio
IM+ iPad App Screenshots
German blog Touch This was lucky to receive a series of screenshots from the developers of IM+. There are a total of four screenshots demonstrating how they intend to make use of the extra space. The omni-present level panel contains the contacts, and they even use some modals (to questionable effect). All in all they’re not the flashiest things you’ll see in this post.
See more screenshots @ Touch This.
Comic Zeal V4 (for iPad) Mockups
One of the most common uses of the iPad arising from these mockups appears to be as a comic book reader. Where companies like PanelFly succeed is through their reputable content selection and overall good UI/design. ComicZeal looks interesting, but appears to have nothing on PanelFly in terms of content selection or usability.
Instapaper iPad App Mockups
Instapaper is a “simple tool to save web pages for reading later”, and the simplicity of its functionality is also conveyed by its iPad application. The way in which you can choose your font and size in one of the mocks reminds me a lot of the Readibility bookmarklet. The post these images came from explains a lot of design/UI reasoning.
Viv Mag iPad Video Concept
All digital magazine Viv Mag have released a video demonstrating the conceptual interface for the iPad platform. It looks simply amazing, but my biggest concern comes from the completely linear progression of the “magazine”. Read more @ Mashable.
1Password iPad App Mockups
The blog post centred around these mockups is what initially got me interested in the iPad. Until I saw these images, and the effort taken to create them, I just couldn’t visualise what people were going to produce for the iPad. These mocks were published three weeks ago, and I think it’s sad that nothing of this calibre has since been posted anywhere. Excitingly, this is only part 1 of the iPad mock series, but when I contacted the people behind 1Password, they said not to expect part 2 any time soon. Read more.
Panelfly iPad App Mockups
Panelfly’s adventure into the iPad app market is one of the only other reputable attempts. Panelfly for the iPhone already has glowing reviews, and as you can see, their iPad experience continues to push the boundaries. Check out their iPad dedicated page to learn more.
Artist’s Touch iPad App Teaser
While there is just the one image to go on, the Artist’s Touch iPad app looks like it could be a bit of fun to play with. Check out their home page for a chance to win 2 FREE iPads.
A purely conceptual DJ application for the iPad. While not visually outstanding, it is another example of a potential use of the iPad as more than just an eBook reader. Check out more work by John Kumahara.
Wired Magazine’s Tablet App Video
The following application prepared solely for viewing Wired Magazine has been lauded as the future of print media. It is said that the print industry, supposedly on its death bed, should look to reinvent the way it delivers content.
IKEA iPad App Concept Video
A nice little conceptual demonstration of how an IKEA iPad application could look. The motion tracking (and more) highlight that this is an composited render, and not a working physical prototype.
So what are you waiting for, get designing!
iPad GUI PSD by Teehan+Lax
iPad UI Roundup by Cocoia
Are you currently working on something new and exciting, like an iPad App?
I’m guessing most people who take a look at Here, File File! in the next few weeks are going to draw comparisons to Dropbox and their multitude of competitors. I simply want to highlight a really cool effect that they have employed on their website.
jQuery image sliders are past “trendy” status and are a pretty commonplace part of modern web design. They are most often seen in software development company websites as a way of quickly traversing a set of screenshots.
What Here, File File! have done is tie their captions to their buttons, such that they slide in sync with the screenshots. A pretty simple bit of code, but couple that with their 3D effects, it looks great.
Check it out @ http://herefilefile.com/