Tag Archives: iPhone app review

6 iPhone Apps to help you maintain, manage & improve user experience

2 Sep

If you’re often on the move going from one meeting to another, or you’re on the train to and from work regularly you’ll often experience those moments where you have ideas about your site that you wish you could do something with while they’re fresh. Perhaps you’ve just come from a productive meeting with your design team to discuss changes to your site, or you’re on your way home from work and an idea strikes you. Here are 5 iPhone apps that can help you maintain, manage and improve your website user experience.

Read & Note

Read & Note

This app includes a full-screen browser which allows you to annotate a web page, or copy and paste from a website. With this app you could browse the web for inspiration, make amends to your current website copy, plan user tests, or use it to annotate web pages to pass to your design and development teams to look at. This app is so versatile it could even be used to share and upload documents for access to importand documents while on the go.

Additional information: iTunes Preview , App Website

 

 

iBlue Sky

iBlue Sky

iBlue Sky is an easy to use mind mapping tool allowing users to capture ideas, organise and re-order them all in one place. Mind mapping is a fantastic method to capture and make sense of ideas after meetings and can be an excellent way to structure your thoughts on the way home from observing user tests.

In addition to capturing ideas and notes in one place, this app can be used to draw up site structures and reorganise entire sections of a website. When you’re done you can export it as a PDF or PNG to email to yourself or directly to your team for feedback.

Additional information: iTunes Preview , App Website , YouTube Video Demo

 

 

Sketches 2

Sketches 2

Sketches as the name would suggest allows users to create basic sketches. Users can create simple diagrams or wireframes while on the move. We also liked this app because in addition to illustrating basic concepts you can take a screenshot* of a web page and then use the app to draw boxes, arrows and new buttons. It is a fantastic tool to facilitate quick and dirty amends and recommendations to designs.

We also found the tool to be extremely useful in sending directions to friends or colleagues by taking a screen capture of a map and drawing quick lines to show the route to take and the final destination.

Additional information: iTunes Preview , App Website

* To take a screenshot, press and hold the Home button at the bottom of the iPhone and then press the ‘sleep’ button at the top of the iPhone. The screen will flash and make a camera sound, then when you navigate to your photos on the ‘camera roll’ you’ll see your screenshot.

 

 

Analytics

Analytics

This well designed App allows you to review Google Analytics for your site on the iPhone. With access to data wherever you are you can use it to research and refine your website improvements using understanding from current user behaviour. We’ve found it particularly useful in preparation for a meeting to get access to the data to help firm up an idea before discussing it with the team.

Additional information: iTunes Preview , App Website , YouTube Video Demo

 

 

Work Timer

Work Timer

Although this app is designed to help people keep track of the time spent working on different projects, we’ve found it can be useful in timing tasks for on the fly user tests. Say you’ve got an idea that there’s a usability problem with your site. You’re round a friends house and you’d like to get them to complete some tasks on the site for you. Rather than setting up the timers to track hours for different projects, the app can be used to track the time it takes a user to complete a set of different tasks. There’s a very simple play and pause feature and when the test is complete you can email the results to yourself. It’s far from perfect as a usability tool but it can be useful to allow you to focus on what users are doing while gathering some interesting data to understand which tasks take longer than others to complete.

Additional information: iTunes Preview , App Website

 

 

Instaviz

Instaviz

Defining simple user flow charts is an essential process in working out how a site will support users in completing their goals. When coming up with a new idea for the site this App is great in allowing you to capture your thinking in a logical flow chart to map out how the site will react to each user interaction. Essentially this app allows you to draw up flows on the move just like you can on a whiteboard.

Additional information: iTunes Preview , App Website , YouTube Video Demo

 

Which apps do you think should be included in this list?

Related services: App Usability

 

 

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Damian Rees

About Damian Rees

Damian has worked as a usability and user experience consultant for over 13 years. He has worked in senior roles within companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services where he has researched and designed for users in a variety of different contexts including web applications, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. Follow Damian on twitter @damianrees

World Cup App Review

11 Jun

If, like us, you are unfortunate enough to be working for most of the World Cup, you’ll want to download an app to keep you up to date with the latest team news and up to the minute scores. As you might imagine, there are several apps to choose from, so we thought we’d take a look to find the one that delivers – in terms of usefulness and, of course, usability.

We wanted a World Cup app to do 3 main things:

  • Give a clear picture of which games are on when so we can make a plan for the must watch matches.
  • Provide up to date team news on upcoming games.
  • Deliver latest scores and player stats i.e., scorers and assists.

 

ITV 2010 FIFA World Cup App

Price – Free , Link to iTunes

ITV 2010 Fifa World Cup App

For keeping up to date with the latest news and scores, ITV’s iPhone app initially looks promising as it offers to show you all the goals for the World Cup, ideal if you can’t take the time off work, or your boss doesn’t believe you have contracted man flu (again).

However, after a play around we found a few usability issues. The app utilises a news ticker that is limited to showing two or three, often partial, words of a headline rendering it largely incomprehensible. The headlines for the feature boxes are also truncated. We found that the video used in this app isn’t formatted for the iPhone’s screen.

If you’re going to make an iPhone app then ensure you make use of the phone’s features, it also runs the same advert before and after a clip, hopefully it will have more varied advertising during the tournament.

 

Telegraph WorldCup

Price – Free, Link to iTunes

Telegraph World Cup App

Moving on to another World Cup news app we found the Telegraph app benefited from some slick design where the front page of this app looks smart and gets straight to the point listing the upcoming matches. However, our problems started with reading the news, each headline is prefaced with "World Cup 2010:" leaving maybe one word and three or four letters of the next from the actual headline. It makes for an annoying guessing game, helped by the brief description of the story below the headline.

The photo gallery at the bottom of the app shows thumbnails of the latest images, click on one and you can browse them at full size. The whole app is well designed and laid out but fails to deliver when it comes to providing clear news headlines.

 

Sun Football World Cup Edition

Price £2.39, Link to iTunes

Sun Football World Cup Edition

The Sun’s app is home to the paper’s full flood of World Cup news and events stories while also packing in a virtual interactive wall chart and one of those noisy vuvuzela horns that you’ll be hearing plenty of over the tournament. The app delivers news well with more headline space than rival apps, and with features like polls you do feel like you’re getting your money’s worth out of the application, even if the essential news is freely available elsewhere.

 

Mahango World Cup Schedule

Price – 59p, Link to iTunes

Mahango World Cup App

This app takes slightly odd approach to navigating the tournament where you have to choose a date from a calendar to show which matches are on that date. This makes a rather frustrating way to navigate. The alternative is to find teams by their federation. Both strange choices of interface design.

Unfortunately the unintuitive navigation, coupled with the fact that it doesn’t offer anything that the free applications cannot provide, and lacks the updated news, means that there’s nothing here to make you want to choose it over a free product.

 

South Africa 2010 Tracker

Price Free (59p for non-ad version), Link to iTunes

South Africa 2010 Tracker

This app is probably the simplest in terms of design and navigation as it is purely designed to provide a view of which matches are being played, either by group or by date. Because all the matches are displayed in one scrolling list, it is easy to scroll down by date and see what the next matches to be played are, while also seeing the scores for previous games.

The app promises to update the scores and provide match summaries. Although the app lacks any real news capability, its simplicity means it offers something really useful and we see ourselves using it regularly during the tournament to stay updated and plan which matches to watch.

 

Conclusion

Unfortunately, none of the apps do everything we wanted in a clean, easy to use way. Based on our experiences with these apps we would recommend the Mubaloo South Africa 2010 Tracker to easily see which matches are on when and stay up to date with scores. In addition, we would suggest that the Sun’s application is the best to stay up to date with all other world cup content and news.

Most of the apps are still making some basic usability mistakes and it is clear that none of them have invested in usability testing which is disappointing. There were some simple usability issues that should have been spotted and fixed before these apps were released, the most common being trying to cram headlines into tiny spaces. Other quirks appear that also shouldn’t appear in professionally developed applications but as the World Cup is the first mega-event in the iPhone era (we think the 2008 Olympics was just a little early) hopefully they will learn for next time.

Have you found a good World Cup App we haven’t mentioned?

Related service: iPhone App Usability

 

 

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Damian Rees

About Damian Rees

Damian has worked as a usability and user experience consultant for over 13 years. He has worked in senior roles within companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services where he has researched and designed for users in a variety of different contexts including web applications, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. Follow Damian on twitter @damianrees

ShopStyle iPhone App Usability Review

26 Jan

Nicole Cook from ShopStyle recently approached us for a review of their iPhone app. Following previous user feedback they made enhancements to the app, so we thought this was a great opportunity to kick off some more regular reviews of mobile apps on our blog. Let us know if you’d like your app reviewed.

We’ve put this review together following usability testing with a mix of regular iPhone app users and novice iPhone app users, as well as an expert user experience audit.

What is ShopStyle?

ShopStyle is an application which pulls together a number of different retailers into one place, allowing users to search and browse products on one app rather than visiting different apps or websites. Users can refine their searches to see all the products from the retailers signed up to the service, saving time and effort visiting different stores. Once a product is found, users are taken to the retailer’s site to complete their purchase.

The Good

  • Saves users time searching through different retail sites for products
  • Good categorisation of products
  • Users can quickly mark an item as a ‘favourite’ to build a list of items they can look at in more detail later while they browse
  • Users can discover products from brands and websites they may not have heard of or would not have found on the web
  • Very visual way to browse through products which supports users high street shopping behaviour of flicking through clothes racks
  • Refine options show how many items match the search criteria

The Bad

  • Loading times can be slow as the app downloads lots of images in one go
  • Even when users have refined their search criteria, there can still be a lot of items to scroll through.
  • Some of the prices in the app are not accurate when clicking through to the website
  • Prices are excluding delivery so it’s difficult for users to get an accurate view of how much they are likely to spend, instead users have to visit the website and find delivery costs and returns policy information
  • When scrolling through a number of items it is difficult for users to tell how many more items are left as there is no scroll bar
  • Refining options can be a little clunky if users want to refine a number of different items at once
  • Accessing product information is a little unclear
  • Some product images include model shots and other don’t which can give users a slightly disjointed experience

Our Top 3 Usability Improvements

  • Limit the number of images loaded at one time -  Because the app is so image heavy, it can take a while to download all the images when users are on the move.  Flickr deals with this by downloading 40 thumbnails and then users can ‘load 40 more’ which allows the application to load a smaller number of images quickly

  • Give users more control over filtering and sorting by price – Most users are price conscious and therefore rely upon price filters when searching for suitable products. With ShopStyle, users are forced to select a predefined price category when refining by price. Users however, want to search between their own minimum and maximum criteria e.g. John is willing to spend between £45 and £60 on a pair of jeans but has to search through a selection of jeans priced from £25 to £100. In addition, users need the ability to sort the results returned. We feel that allowing users to sort by price would be very useful for users.

  • Improve button placement - When users wanted to refine their searches by more than one criteria users tended to select the filter, then click ‘Done’, which took them back to the products listing. They would then realise they needed to go back to ‘Refine’ to add another criteria. We feel that this problem could be solved by improving  button placement and labels. Bringing the two options closer together and labelling them ‘Refine more’ & ‘Done’.

Other Usability Improvements

  • Add a scroll bar to searches
  • Improve navigation options to make it clearer how to move left and right, and how to see product information
  • Add a feature to allow users to compare details of the items listed in their ‘favourites’
  • Allow users to save their personal preferences such as their shoe size, waist size etc. to provide personalised searches
  • Add user ratings to searches and encourage users to add their own ratings to products
  • Allow users to filter results by stores offering free delivery

Conclusion

Overall, we found the ShopStyle app offered users a good experience and users found the app to be extremely useful to them. The app does have some usability issues but none are showstoppers. Despite this, we feel that the improvements we recommend above will make significant enhancements to the overall experience and will become more important as more and more retailers sign up to ShopStyle. We look forward to seeing the improved version

Do you have an app you’d like us to review?

Related services: Usability testing & iphone app usability

 

 

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Damian Rees

About Damian Rees

Damian has worked as a usability and user experience consultant for over 13 years. He has worked in senior roles within companies like the BBC and National Air Traffic Services where he has researched and designed for users in a variety of different contexts including web applications, voice recognition, and air traffic control interfaces. Follow Damian on twitter @damianrees