Improvement to the iTunes Movie Download Flow

I was getting ready for a cross-country flight and decided to download a movie to watch. After I selected the movie and made the purchase, I was presented with the error message below. 

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This error state was quite the unpleasant surprise and exposed two potential points of improvement for this flow. 

(1) I was allowed to make the purchase before I received the actual product. Ideally, the user would be warned that they do not have enough storage on their device to download the movie now so that he/she can decide to back out at that point. Getting the error message after the purchasing commitment opens the possibility of paying for something that you will not be able to consume now.

(2) Assuming the business case of letting the user get this far before warning them is more important than the user unfriendliness of this design, there is one way that this error message can be improved. The user needs to be told exactly how much extra storage is necessary to continue the download. For the message above, touching OK does nothing but take you back to the screen you were on, and touching Settings takes you here:

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At this point, I had no idea how large the movie file was and how much extra storage I needed to free up on my device. Knowing that I had a back-up of my mp3s on my laptop, I just started deleting songs from my phone – one album at a time – and kept checking back into the download screen to see if I had enough free storage. This was a very manual process and finally at a certain point, I was able to start the download as can be seen below. 

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Safari, Google, and Browser Search

Noticed an interesting change from Safari 5 to Safari 6 in OS X. In the Safari 5 header, there are two text entry modules: one for the URL, and another for a search query.

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In the upgrade to Safari 6, the two separate fields have been combined into one that serves as both the URL entry as well as the search module:

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Some things that come to mind:

1. Looking back at the history of the internet over the last 20 years, there was a moment where Search got really big. What I mean by this is we reached a point where the majority of users who came to the internet initiated their session by searching for something. Very recently, say in the last 3 years, with the boom of mobile apps, there has been a shift away from search as the starting post and more toward apps as the starting post for the user. What I found interesting is that this browser change pushes the user just slightly back toward the direction of search as a starting point.

2. Apple vs. Google. It’s an open secret that Steve Jobs was not particularly fond of Google toward the tail end of his time at Apple. While initially Apple and Google had some partnerships i.e. Google Maps and YouTube being two of the very first native apps on the iPhone, the relationship between the two companies went sour with the heavy investment of Google into Android. Just recently Apple has received a lot of negative attention by creating their own version of Maps for iOS instead of using the already beloved Google Maps app. So in this angle, it is very strange to see Safari, an Apple product, make it much easier for the user to use Google.

3. Web vs. Mobile. While this change has been incorporated into the web version of Safari, the iOS version of Safari remains the same with two separate fields. This is interesting for two reasons: (1) Apple has created an inconsistent user experience across different platforms OS X vs. iOS and (2) It is strange to see two separate fields in the UX for the platform with extremely limited screen real estate. If anything, one could make the case that there’s more justification in the web flow to have two separate entry fields due to an incredibly wider screen than a mobile view which has a much smaller screen width.

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An Enhancement to iOS Image Sharing Within Text Messages

One thing I like to do on my iPhone is to take an image which is sent to me via MMS (basically text messaging but for images or videos A.K.A. “multi-media messaging service”) and send it to another friend. I recently noticed that the process to do this rather simple exercise can be improved. Here is an example of an image that is sent via MMS:

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By clicking on the top right menu, I see the various options available:

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What’s interesting is that there is no option here to forward this image via MMS to another user in my address book. What I end up doing is selecting the option Save to Camera Roll and then going to my camera roll to select the image:

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By selecting the menu button in the bottom left corner of the screen, the user is shown the following options:

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As can be seen above, the MMS option is available only after saving a local copy of the image to my camera roll. Ideally, this should not be a prerequisite and the OS should have the ability to let me send an MMS of the image directly from the text message view I was previously inside of. Worst case scenario, the OS can keep a local copy of the image and then delete it after the message is sent. By requiring this extra step, the end-to-end process has become more challenging.

A Couple of Improvements to the Apple Online Store

I recently got a new iPhone 5. One of the things that’s important for me is to have a backup charger at my work in addition to the charger I keep at home. Naturally, I went to Apple.com to search for this item. Through this process, I noticed two specific spots for improvement. 

First thing I did was to click on the Store link in the header menu and to search for iphone charger. To my surprise, these were the search results:

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Only three items were returned, and none of them was the main charger that Apple sells for the iPhone 5. What gives? After further searching on the site, I realized that the reason why I couldn’t find the item I was looking for was because I was using the wrong search terms. According to Apple, the items I am looking for are referred to as:

– Apple 5W US Power Adapter (this is the plug portion of the charger)
– Lightning to 30-pin Adapter (this is the USB cable portion of the charger)

If Apple’s Store search was a bit smarter, it would be able to determine that a query for iphone charger should show the products called out above. 

The second improvement I’ll call out is something I noticed when I finally found the items I was looking for. They were located listed in the iphone accessories section on the site. Here’s what they look like: 

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So the thing that is strange about how these items appear in the search results is just how challenging it is to discern what the photograph looks like. Why? Since many of these Apple products are white themselves in color, the contrast between the product’s color and the white background of the website is virtually nonexistent. Thus, as a user it is very hard to make out what these products look like. As an enhancement, Apple.com can consider changing the background color from something other than pure white. Perhaps off white or gray can work. 

iOS Update All Apps Bug (iOS Version 5.1)

Bug description: When going through the “Update All” flow in the iOS App Store, when the user hits the cancel key on the Apple ID login prompt, the user can no longer update their apps in flow. 

Steps to reproduce & actual results:

1. Go to the App Store when you have multiple Apps that need to be updated (note that this bug may also exist for the use case where only one app needs to be updated)
2. Click on the Update All button 

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3. On the Apple ID login screen, do not enter a password, and click cancel:

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4. You will be brought back to the previous page, BUT the Update All button has now been disabled. 

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Expected behavior: The Update All button should remain enabled. 

A New Feature for the iPhone Clock Alarm

Just like the majority of working folks, I use an alarm to wake up every morning Monday through Friday. And just like a huge chunk of those folks, I use the iPhone clock alarm to get my attention and summon me out of bed. There is one aspect of this daily routine that is unnecessarily annoying.

Let’s say I have two alarms. The second one scheduled as a back-up in case the first one doesn’t wake me up. Or in case I wake up and (in an act of self-sabotage) I instinctively turn off the first alarm and go back to bed.

Similar to many people out there, my body has trained itself to wake up 5 or 10 minutes right before my initial alarm goes up. Basically, it’s gotten used to the routine so it just wakes up itself -instead of being prompted. So at this point, I’m awake and ready to get ready for work. But, I have two active alarms that haven’t been triggered yet. If I do nothing to the alarms and go and take a shower, the phone will start to make it’s LOUD alarm sounds while I’m gone. This could be a distraction and an annoyance to anyone nearby who is (lucky for them!) still sleeping. So why don’t I just turn OFF the alarms? Well, because if I turn them off, then I have to turn them on again every day to be prepared for the next day. This completely defeats the purpose of having a recurring alarm notification.

I propose a new feature. We can call it a one-time-snooze, or a one-time-OFF, or maybe we can come up with the name later. But how it would work would be: for a given alarm notification, the user can request that the application forgo the immediate upcoming alarm reminder. That way, I can go off and get ready, the phone will not sound an alarm for the morning, but it will be ready to do so the next morning!

Dieter Rams: The Steve Jobs before there was a Steve Jobs

A couple months ago, I saw an exhibition on Dieter Rams at the SF Moma. Dieter Rams is a designer widely known for the products he designed for Braun. This guy blew me away. His products immediately reminded me of Apple products in the sense that they were simple, elegant, and very intuitive. Yet his designs came decades before the modern day Apple products we all know and love. 

Dieter Rams created the Ten Principles of Good Design. To me, having a deep understanding of these principles is crucial for any web designer, app designer, and most of all for any product manager or CEO. 

Taken from the wikipedia page on Dieter Rams

Good design:

1. Is innovative: The possibilities for innovation are not, by any means, exhausted. Technological development is always offering new opportunities for innovative design. But innovative design always develops in tandem with innovative technology, and can never be an end in itself.

2. Makes a product useful: A product is bought to be used. It has to satisfy certain criteria, not only functional, but also psychological and aesthetic. Good design emphasizes the usefulness of a product whilst disregarding anything that could possibly detract from it.

3. Is aesthetic: The aesthetic quality of a product is integral to its usefulness because products are used every day and have an effect on people and their well-being. Only well-executed objects can be beautiful.

4. Makes a product understandable: It clarifies the product’s structure. Better still, it can make the product clearly express its function by making use of the user’s intuition. At best, it is self-explanatory.

5. Is unobtrusive: Products fulfilling a purpose are like tools. They are neither decorative objects nor works of art. Their design should therefore be both neutral and restrained, to leave room for the user’s self-expression.

6. Is honest – It does not make a product more innovative, powerful or valuable than it really is. It does not attempt to manipulate the consumer with promises that cannot be kept.

7. Is long-lasting – It avoids being fashionable and therefore never appears antiquated. Unlike fashionable design, it lasts many years – even in today’s throwaway society.

8. Is thorough down to the last detail – Nothing must be arbitrary or left to chance. Care and accuracy in the design process show respect towards the consumer.

9. Is environmentally friendly – Design makes an important contribution to the preservation of the environment. It conserves resources and minimizes physical and visual pollution throughout the lifecycle of the product.

10. Is as little design as possible – Less, but better – because it concentrates on the essential aspects, and the products are not burdened with non-essentials. Back to purity, back to simplicity.