Creativity is just connecting things.
— Steve Jobs

Tag Archives: design

Facebook Updates: Why People Get So Upset and How To Improve Them

Today, with the noticeable numerous UX changes on Facebook, many people I’m directly connected to or read about via 3rd party social media news websites seem to be more upset about those changes than others in the past. I think I might know why.

Dealing with Change

Last night I was watching What Not to Wear with my wife and noticed a connection between two pretty disparate things. If you’re not familiar with the show, an individual is “nominated” by their “friends” to participate because the poor soul has a horrific wardrobe and can’t/won’t/doesn’t realize she needs to change. The participant then agrees to bring her full wardrobe to NYC for an on-camera evaluation by 2 stylists. The evaluation ALWAYS ends the same: with a large trash can full of the entire wardrobe after a funny yet somewhat harsh review of the clothes and the participant’s verbal explanation/rationale for dressing the way she did. Sometimes people cry when their clothes are thrown in the can. Others get mad. A very small number of these people are genuinely happy and prepared for the journey ahead.

From a logical point of view, getting $5,000 for an entirely new wardrobe with the help of professional stylists sounds amazing, right? Emotionally, people’s identities are being thrown in that can. They’re being ridiculed; made into fodder for us to laugh at and say “What was she thinking?” The emotional bond all people have with their curated physical identity (their clothes) is very similar to the digital identity they’ve created: their curation of friendships and ways of navigating the Facebook environment.

It’s In the Delivery

Software companies like to update their products. On the iOS platform (iPhone/iPad), it’s usually a “good thing.” People are excited to see an update. They’re generally happy with fixes, are easy to install, and ultimately feel better off for doing so. On a bigger scale, the Mac OS updates have historically had more hoopla. More of an explanation of the changes that are about to occur, and most importantly, the litany of benefits to be had by the user. The biggest thing to note about an iOS update is that it’s optional. Theoretically, a user never has to update an app if they don’t want to. They can continue to use it as is for eternity because they enjoy the benefits the features and user experience (UX) affords them.

Facebook isn’t like that at all.

Facebook changes happen overnight. They happen with no warning, and they also happen with no backward path to the experience you had before. It’s very darwinian, and to me, would measure very low on an emotional intelligence scale.

Emotional Intelligence?

Of the numerous similarities between a computer’s operating system and the Facebook UX, one stands out to me today. It involves the handling of a user’s personal data. I’m not talking about privacy settings. I’m talking about the general user experience one has with the pieces of information they’ve either created or accrued over time. That data tends to be irreplaceable. Just ask anyone who’s suffered from a hard disk failure.

It seems to me that Facebook might not fully grasp, or at least heavily factor into it’s decision making process, the type of data they’re addressing when making these changes. (I’m sure if someone from Facebook reads this, they’ll dispute it. To which I will say, let me sit in on a meeting and we’ll see…)

I think Facebook should try to incorporate a new way of feeling about UX.

To me, Facebook needs to understand that their UX decisions are directly connected to a person’s emotional understanding and organization of their social network. People spend time in Facebook making sure they see what they want to and who they don’t. They’re not doing this to “streamline their UX,” but to help recreate the mental image and feelings they have about the people they know.

Should Facebook be more open about it’s plans? I think we have enough examples of this “launch and don’t look back” approach to say yes. A simple heads up and potential for a backwards path or delayed upgrade will help users understand where things are headed. It will also help calm the regular threats of defection to Google+ or outright calls for mass “Facebook suicides.” Those options are not in their brand’s best interest.

Maybe an Apple-like presentation about the upcoming changes would be good to introduce them. Walk people through the rationale behind the updates and how it’s better. After the show, there could be this interesting dialogue where not only users could discuss them but Facebook could LISTEN and LEARN from those comments. Maybe expand this conversation online? Somewhere these people already are…where they could feel safe and like they’re being heard….Surely there has to be a place for this, right?

Flash and the AppStore Part 2

It seems the CEO of Adobe and I think alike. Back in July of 2010 I wrote this blog post:

I’m really getting the feeling that most people are missing the bigger unspoken point about Apple’s position on Flash: Apple does not want a revenue threat against their AppStore.

Today, Adobe CEO Shantany Narayen seems to share my point of view:

“It’s control over the app store that’s at issue here,” Narayen told Walt Mossberg, according to All Things D. We allow people to author once and get as wide as distribution as possible. …If you build in Flash, you can run the apps on other platforms.”

Multitasking on iOS

It always starts with three little letters, right?

W h y

To manage your running apps on the iPhone, you must hit the home button twice. That triggers an animation that dims the screen and slides up everything on the screen to reveal a row of full color icons, sitting at the bottom of the screen.

At this point, it would appear to the average user that only 4 apps are currently running on the iPhone. If the user slides to the right from the starting position, iPod controls are displayed.

To manage the running apps, the user is expected to swipe the row to the left to reveal another set of 4 active apps. Swiping from right to left can continue for quite a while if numerous apps were running.

This design decision made me wonder why Apple chose to display only 4 icons?

Finder vs. Dashboard

In the Mac, Finder allows users to quit processes many different ways:

1. Force Quit via command-option-escape
2. The Dock via control-click on an icon
3. Command-Tab then Q on any icon in the floating row of icons.

Finder, however, is not the only app management service on the Mac.

Another was added a few years ago: Dashboard. Dashboard runs widgets, mini-apps that are technically not considered to be apps. Widgets are not affected by the Finder process termination methods. Dashboard functions in an entirely different way.

After activating Dashboard, users may click a “+” icon in the lower left corner of the screen. This brings up a row of icons that fill up the width of the screen and include pagination. These icons represent all available (not running) Widgets. Dashboard also places an “X” button at the top left corner of all running Widget “windows” that float above the row of icons at the bottom of the screen. Click an “X”—terminate a process/close a Widget.

Skinning the Cat

There are many ways the iPhone iOS allows users to delete one item at a time while viewing multiple items.

1. The list view with the either left aligned red circle with the white “-” inside.
2. The list view with a right aligned red “Delete” button.
3. The “Edit” button found in Mail that triggers a new set of actions (select then delete).
4. The Camera app does away with a “delete” button and uses the trash can icon.
5. The Photos app uses a curving arrow in the top right corner that, upon activation, transforms itself into a “Cancel” button also while revealing a new row of buttons at the bottom of the screen that includes “Delete”.

However, NONE of those solutions were used in the multitasking UX. Why?

I think the Dashboard has become extremely useful to iOS UX designers when solving for multitasking support on the iPhone. However, it still doesn’t answer the question of why use a single row of four icons at the bottom of the screen.

My Turn

If I had the ability to mock something up, I’d modify the experience to this:

When a user double clicks the home button, the display would use the 3D flip animation. Whatever screen you were looking at when clicking the home button would flip over and reveal a full screen using the existing textured background behind the single row of icons. All running apps would be arranged into rows of icons like the current home screen, however, the bottom row will be replaced with the iPod controls. If the user wants to kill a process, they could simply swipe vertically or diagonally across an icon to trigger the poof effect. Icon sorting will ensue, but it will make the running processes screen more functional and intuitive to the user. It will remove excessive swiping and remove the need for the Delete button or a row of control buttons.

Can Experiences Be Designed: A Response

I just finished reading this revealing post by Oliver Reichenstein over at iA (which I think is amazing) and can’t help but react to it.

The gist is this: “UX” has become warped by people in many ways (in practice, in title, in promise) that he’s fed up and needs to set things straight.

The question he posed is definitely worth discussing:

Can experiences be designed?

I’ll try to answer that now:

Of course they can. But that doesn’t mean they are static. They need to evolve over time, just like every living thing on this planet. If you, as the UX person responsible for evolving the experience, aren’t reacting to user needs, you won’t help your client remain a viable business. It’s that simple.

How do you do this? The biggest thing a UX leader can do for a client is to champion the vision of the experience while being open-minded. Business drivers change, products change and even sometimes the key decision maker changes during a project.

The way to stay open-minded is by separating your ego from the work. Ego is the single biggest project killer and time waster of them all. It takes the wind out of every team member, makes the client think you’re controlling his/her destiny (which is never the case) and worst of all, keeps you from listening to the users.

On the other end of the spectrum, I’ve also seen egoless teams in action and it. Is. Agonizing. I’ve watched them go back and rethink initiatives because they worry there might be a shred of new information that could undo all of their work. The truth is, there will ALWAYS be a shred of new information. Sometimes, they come in bunches! By keeping an open-mind, they just might inform rather than “undo” the work.

As for Oliver’s side conversation about UX titles and how people unjustly claim them, I can’t help but agree. For me, the proof is in the work and, most importantly, the results. Anyone can claim almost anything on an agency website, resume or Linkedin profile. However, if they can directly speak to the results, and equally important, the things they learned along the way to achieve those results, then they’re worth engaging. Simply claiming a title doesn’t mean you’ve produced anything of value to a client, user or your own organization.