Creativity is just connecting things.
— Steve Jobs

Tag Archives: iOS

WWDC Thoughts

Yesterday’s WWDC announcements were at times fascinating (airplay sync’d gaming & Siri updates) and wildly boring (Reminders). Who would have guessed that social media had a shot at stealing the show? There were many important social media-related bits presented during the show that, honestly, seemed a little uninteresting to the people who were presenting them (listen for the “bright idea” comment during the Mountain Lion segment). To the general public, however, they will have a profound effect on their near term social experiences. Below are my personal opinions. I have no official or inside knowledge at Apple or Facebook.

1. The Ping Bang

I’ve written about how Apple’s avoidance of Ping during earnings and WWDC events was a bad sign. Now Facebook integration is coming to the iOS and it’s the dagger in Ping’s heart. If Apple’s claims of “deep integration” are true, I hope the music app on my iPhone becomes aware of the artists I’ve already Liked on Facebook. Will Apple keep their own tally of the Likes just in case Apple wants to learn more about it’s customers? Who knows. From what I recall, access to user data was the big sticking point between Apple and Facebook in the past.

All this Ping news reminded me of this “Top Secret” movie clip:

2. The Official Approval of Facebook and Disapproval of Google+

Steve Jobs’s war cry against Google is still echoing in the halls of Apple. Notice how Google+ wasn’t included in the iOS 6 update? Unless hell freezes over again AND Google+ can demonstrate engagement and audience numbers equivalent to Facebook, it will not be integrated into the iOS system anytime soon. The concerted effort to remove all traces of Google tech (Google Maps & G+ snub) is well underway. What’s left to pull? Gmail/Calendar support? I doubt that would happen any time soon.

3. iAd and Facebook

Facebook needs mobile ad dollars. I’m sure they are close to a solution, but it’s potentially one of the most sensitive updates they will ever have to launch. If people don’t respond well to their method of delivering mobile ads, I think Apple is going to be in a prime position to come to the rescue. Apple is not dependent on advertising revenue, but would love to grow it while learning more about their customer’s social preferences. If a revenue sharing model could be reached, I could see iAds running in the Facebook app. Who knows what level of data could be tracked by Apple to better target their iAd offering.

4. How Passbook and Ping Passed Like Ships in the Night

Concert tickets are a wonderful memento, and based on what I’ve seen on Facebook, get posted there regularly. I can’t help but wonder why concert tickets weren’t included in Passbook. Possibly because they’re not barcodes, but so what? Let’s say Ping wasn’t really slated to be killed. I think Passbook could be connected to Ping and iTunes in a way that would drive conversation and lure people back. Especially if a financial incentive was offered, like free music downloads or content for those who either attended the show or participated in the conversation on Ping.

Why Ping Failed

This wasn’t part of the show but let’s talk about it anyway.

Assuming the All Things D report of Ping’s near-term demise isn’t true, here are my top 5 reasons why I think Ping needs to get pulled back into Apple for rethinking:

1. No ability to upload images or videos. Photos and videos from concerts are a compelling source of content for social networks, but Ping didn’t allow it. All you could do is write a text note.

2. Poor store integration. If you look at the Ping front page, it’s all about what music your friends have purchased. And that’s it. A long receipt of their purchases in chronological order—not very compelling. If you click into an album that a friend has purchased, you see the typical album page in iTunes and your friend’s content is buried in the left column of the page.

3. Apple doesn’t understand how music fits into the larger content consumption by their customers. People don’t obsessively discuss music on Facebook. They also don’t want to do it in the confines of a store like iTunes. Music to many people on Facebook is like an FYI. It’s not the majority of compelling conversations or interactions.

4. Lack of persistence to bring me into the fold. The setup process and pressure to add friends or go find artists is lacking. People need prodding to make a social network work for them. Ping didn’t do that. Once you passed the basic setup process, you were left with your friend’s shopping receipt.

5. Lack of response from friends. The typical display of the receipt shows no reaction or rating of the album or song your friend purchased. That lack of return experience really makes the place feel dead. I would love to know what my friend thought of the record or song. I would also love to know if they included it in a playlist. I think Spotify does a great job of this.

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?

Ping and the WWDC Keynote

Apple sure had a big day yesterday at it’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). Many new and overdue innovations were presented, but one thing was curiously missing from this list of Apple Wunderstats:

Apple Misc:
#1: App store’s rank among software retailers
5,200: Number of developers at WWDC 2011
14 billion: Apps downloaded from store in its history
425,000: Apps in the app store
2.5 billion: Amount paid to developers building apps
130 million: Books downloaded iBooks store

iTunes:
225 million: Number of credit card accounts linked to iTunes store
15 billion: Songs sold from iTunes store
18 million: Songs offered in iTunes
#1: Apple’s rank among music retailers

iPad:
25 million: iPads sold in 14 months
90,000: Apps made specifically for the iPad

iOS Misc:
200 million: iOS devices sold
44 percent: Share of mobile market Apple claims to have
#2: iPhone 4 camera’s popularity ranking on Flick
Over 1 billion: Tweets sent per week by iOS users
100 billion: Push notifications sent to iOS devices
66 percent: Amount of mobile browsing done on mobile Safari

Mac:
54 million: Active Mac users
73 percent: Number of those users with laptops
28 percent: Amount Mac sales rose year-over-year in Apple’s last quarter
3-4 million: Macs sold each quarter

MobileMe/iCloud:
$100 per year: Cost of MobileMe
$0: Cost of iCloud
$24.99 per year: Cost of iTunes Match
10: Devices that can be used with iCloud

MacOS:
$130: Usual cost of OS update
$30: Cost of OS X Lion update

Ping, Apple’s social network functionality for iTunes, is a no-show. On top of that, go to Apple’s website and you’ll see the last Ping press release was published on September 3, 2010. My guess? If it had even a shred of success, it would have made the list above. Everything from Macs to iOS devices to NUMBER OF CREDIT CARDS in iTunes made an appearance.

Take Apple’s silence on Ping and combine it with the financial stats around music sales:

225 million: Number of credit card accounts linked to iTunes store
15 billion: Songs sold from iTunes store
18 million: Songs offered in iTunes
#1: Apple’s rank among music retailers

This data has most likely started an internal conversation at Apple: “Is social media even necessary to facilitate a profitable online music business?” It doesn’t seem like it.

So, will Ping get phased out? Looking at the list of accomplishments in that data table above, if it wasn’t worth mentioning at a major conference like WWDC, it might not be worth pursuing at all.

However, now that the Mac will get an integrated AppStore via Lion, it is easy to visualize Apple expanding Ping’s reach outside of iTunes and into the OS itself to make it more comprehensive with Apps. Ping needs to drive revenue, and the Mac AppStore is a good coattail to ride.

If Apple doesn’t integrate Ping into the MacOS, I believe Ping will disappear within the next 12 months.

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.”

Gone In A Flash

Back in July of 2010, I wrote a post about Flash and the AppStore. In that post, I brought up the notion that if Flash was such a security issue with iOS devices, Apple should consider removing it from their desktop OS.

Today Daring Fireball confirmed what I thought Apple might do with Flash for their MacOS based machines.

Starting with the new MacBook Air, Flash will not be pre-installed on the machine. Instead, users will have to visit adobe.com or a Flash-enabled website and ultimately download the plugin themselves.

UX Implications

I have worked with designers who tended to take Flash for granted. This new development will put more pressure on them to create fully functioning versions of their experiences for non-Flash users. It will also force them to truly consider whether or not a Flash version of their experience is worth the investment. This isn’t such a bad thing.

Not only will this affect designers, this will put more pressure on front-end developers. If UX teams start to demand levels of interactivity formerly provided by Flash, guess who will have to step up to HTML5 and possibly other means to get the job done? I hope developers make their code open-sourced to further the HTML5 effort.

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.