Tag Archives: UX

App Updates: Less Is More

134/365 - Waiting for it to be over

The astute observation made by Mozilla’s Jono DiCarlo regarding Firefox’s overly ambitious software release cycle may partially explain why Google Chrome has finally jumped ahead in the Web browser popularity game.

The notion Firefox’s software updates occur too frequently and may actually aggravate Mozilla’s loyal user base suggests a somewhat less intrusive method could be explored.

In fact the behaviour of software updates (specifically frequency and duration) is often glossed over in the grand scheme of things but rounds out a critical aspect of an application’s UX footprint. With such a competitive market for digital apps, software offerings now come in every shape, size and flavour. Developers can differentiate their wares by adopting less-invasive approaches to the necessity of updating source code.

But Firefox, no doubt with the best of intentions, isn’t alone in presuming users want regular software updates constantly interrupting the Web browsing experience. Perhaps it’s worth considering past offenders in the overzealous release cycle department. Adobe’s Flash Player and Acrobat Reader come to mind. Apple’s iTunes too, flagrantly demands to be updated on what sometimes feels like a near obsessive–compulsive basis. What gives?

The average user likely doesn’t care much about the seemingly inconsequential bug fixes or obscure back-end optimizations, which usually provoke such release builds in the first place. Rather, the user is largely preoccupied with what’s happening on the surface, what they can see and click (though the surface and the technical underpinnings are inextricably connected).
So when software updates routinely intrude upon one’s workflow and cause delays for no discernible gain, in terms of performance and/or added stability, users invariable begin to question the merit of constantly rewiring things under the hood.

By the same token, visual design and user-interface changes to a digital application, which tend to be more readily apparent (and arguably much more disruptive) on the surface, can be met with equal—if not significantly greater—resistance among end users. Changing iconography, altering the colour palette and other established visual design conventions can seem perfectly justified internally among design/development teams under the premise of following well intentioned “user-centered” design principles, but can be interpreted as arbitrary and superficial tinkering by outside users.

Mozilla’s Jono DiCarlo comes to a rather sobering conclusion on his blog:

“After years of aspiring to improve software usability, I’ve come to the extremely humbling realization that the single best thing most companies could do to improve usability is to stop changing the UI so often! Let it remain stable long enough for us to learn it and get good at it. There’s no UI better than one you already know, and no UI worse than one you thought you knew but now have to relearn.”

In digital application development, as in most design oriented disciplines, the adage less is more seems dutifully relevant here.

Image source: ElvirasDADA

The Social Skies Have Arrived

KLM Meet & Seat

Expect more airlines to follow KLM’s lead with ‘Meet and Seat‘ over the next few years. The new program allows you to share your Facebook or LinkedIn profile through KLM’s booking management system. Passengers who opt-in can view the profile details of other passengers and determine where they might want to sit on the plane.

Never mind watching in-flight movies or pre-recorded television episodes —content you’ve likely already seen at home. Wouldn’t you rather chat with someone you’ve recently met in the digital space? Perhaps someone with whom you’re casually acquainted but may never have the opportunity to meet face-to-face.

Does sitting next to a social media maven or someone sharing your interests mean you’re more or less likely to engage in conversation than if you were sitting next to some random person?

As a freelance art director I might want to sit next to a potential client based on their Linkedin profile or a digital strategist I follow on Twitter (though not included in KLM’s M&S) who’s resourcing creative for an upcoming campaign. Things could get really interesting if you decide to sit next to someone outside your professional field or immediate area of focus.

While aligning seating plans to social media profiles doesn’t automatically mean conversations are poised to blossom among passengers, it’s a great way to improve the flying experience.

If you’re concerned about sharing too much information about yourself, KLM says, “You can always choose to show less or more profile details, or remove your profile details from the seat map entirely”. Although, as more flights begin offering free wi-fi, once enroute you could easily Google the names of your fellow passengers.

Recent Airport Experience

Toronto Pearson Airport televisionThere’s something mildly agitating about large flat panel television screens occupying public spaces. Go figure, I design stuff for some of these screens.

The airport is a prime example.

After wading through a couple hours of mind-numbing line-ups: a long baggage check-in, customs, then security, weary travellers stumbling towards their gate at Toronto’s Pearson International Airport are greeted by a series of loud television screens indiscriminately scattered throughout the travellers lounge area.
The sound of news, sports and weather highlights blaring in continuous loops is obnoxious and difficult—if not impossible—to escape. Their presence only adds to the already high ambient noise levels and overall sense of chaos most of us grudgingly accept as unavoidable aspects of the airport/travelling experience.
I remember writing a post last year citing some of Roland Krundt’s thoughts on this very subject. One passage in particular seems relevant here, again:

“When TV in public spaces intrudes uninvited into our awareness, it’s a form of theft. The intrusion is most shamelessly predatory in spaces where, of necessity, people are temporarily trapped: for example, in elevators or taxi cabs. We’re being coerced, robbed of choice about how to allocate our attention. Our presence contributes to the revenues of the TV provider, but we’re not getting paid in return.”

If you can get far enough away from the television screens in the waiting area (at Pearson) you’re likely stuck hearing the top-pop-40 elevator music filling the airport corridors. This fizzy music is of course periodically interrupted by loud random mechanical buzzing tones (denoting what?), followed minutes later by pre-recorded airport safety reminders, repetitively sounding-off over and over again. Yes yes, I know, we’re not supposed to leave our bags unattended—okay, I get it.

Would it be possible to accept some sort of travellers EULA prior to my airport visit so I wouldn’t have to constantly hear these PA system alerts before my flight?

I really just want a nice quiet place to sit and relax. I don’t want to be force-fed hockey highlights or the latest stock market reports at 110 decibels. After all, I, like every other traveller, carry with me a number of Web-connected devices that allow for instant access such information at my discretion. So why do we need these TVs again?

I wish I had a pair of noise-cancelling headphones at this very moment.

Maybe airports could start incorporating designated “noise-reduced” areas for travellers looking for a little peace and quiet. Perhaps a place for meditation, quiet study, reading or power napping before flights.

Just a thought.