September 12

You’re reading my mind, Apple …

So we’re a mixed household. Some Apple, some Windows, and a few Androids tucked away here and there.

Our digital data is similarly patched together: Some Amazon items, Google Play titles, and a lot of Apple TV content.

A recent announcement out of Cupertino really has me wondering if Apple is reading my mind.

When we see an interesting movie, we’re faced with a dilemma: rent it or buy it? Sometimes the prices are close enough that it’s a tough choice. Will we want to watch over and over again? Will we regret buying it? Will we pay almost double to rent it and then buy it?

Take, for example, the movie Beatriz at Dinner. Currently, it’s $5.99 to rent, and $9.99 to buy.

We could rent it, love it, then buy it for a total of $15.98.

We could buy it, love it, and spend $9.99.

We could buy it, hate it, and have “rented it” for $9.99 instead of $5.99.

Yeah, I know, #firstworldproblems .

But here’s where they’re starting to read my mind. I’ve always wanted Apple to let you treat the rental price as a “try it before you buy it” option. Continue reading

Category: Apple, Data Architecture, future, hardware | Comments Off on You’re reading my mind, Apple …
June 1

Designing your mobile game to flail: A look at the UX in PokémonGO

Years and years ago, there was a really great Super Bowl ad for a job site called monster.com. The premise was kids dreaming aloud of grown up jobs, but speaking of their dreams in ridiculous terms. The one that resonated most with me at the time was a dead serious tween: “I want to file all day.” Nobody wants to file all day.

And this goes for gamers, too. The equivalent of filing in video games is organizing and maintaining your inventory. Chasing through ridiculous amounts of menus just sucks the enjoyment right out of the game. No gamer is thinking to themselves: “I want to click through menus all day.”

But that is exactly what you do in PokémonGO. Click through unnecessary menus all darn day. It hurts gameplay, and I bet it’s even suppressing recurring player counts.

I’ve been playing PokémonGO on and off since it’s public release. There have been some changes to the “capture” side of the gameplay that are fantastic. Improvements to the “battle” side of the gameplay experience are still lacking, however.

Capture Gameplay Improvements:

  • Sliding Capture Menus
  • Appraisal function on the secondary character screen
  • Buddy System  

Continue reading

January 31

I’ve been losing FitBits since 1.0

I lost one in September 2010, one in November 2010, and a few more since then. The original “clip” design failed for me … it kept popping off my ample waistline, and didn’t do well clipped to my shirt or bra, either. The hardware’s inability to handle multiple wake ups overnight didn’t do me any good, either.

Fitbits were originally priced around $99, and have mostly gone up in price. And complexity (still no Smart Alarm). And when you add on a new, more comfortable band … the cost goes up even more.

Another one, an Alta this time, has wandered off. We have an idea of where it might be, but it depends on the honesty of everyone else there. More likely it’s on eBay or Craigslist.

My suggestion is this: how about a “lock out” button? You can report your cell phone stolen to your carrier, why not the same for a fitness band? Heck, it’d be a revenue stream to subscribe to a return service; you try to sync a “stolen” subscribed band and you get a reward for returning it. At the very least, a “lock out” of a stolen item will reduce the resale value of stolen goods ….

user-edited Fitbit App screen.
Click the lock to lock it out from synching to a new user profile. Brick it till you get it back.
Category: Data Architecture, fix it already, Free Beta Testers | Comments Off on I’ve been losing FitBits since 1.0
November 30

Fixing the Functionality Tree: Pokemon GO

Pokemon GO is one of a new generation of mobile games, tied to the real word using GPS and user-mapped locations for gameplay. Users walk around to find fixed play points, such as Pokestops and Gyms, as well as to find wild Pokemon at random spawn points. Each of these actions are tied to action trees for capturing game resources or reagents as needed.

There are several interlayered game play actions required to play the game, but my main annoyance is this: I can view the Pokemon I’ve “captured” in the game, but I can’t heal or repair them within that screen. I have to chase all the way back out to the main view screen, switch to the Items menu, and then guess how to heal or revive a Pokemon.

If I want to “upgrade” or “evolve”, I have to drop back to the main view screen, select the Pokemon to work with, and then upgrade or evolve the Pokemon.

While I understand that the reagents used in these game play actions are gathered in different ways (repair items are picked up at Pokestops, candy and stardust from capturing wild Pokemon), it doesn’t make sense to me that they have to be accessed in different game play action trees.

Accessing healing and revival through the Items menu allows players to wholesale heal and revive their Pokemon. Tap a Pokemon, heal them up. But players who want to min max their resources are stuck. They can’t see how many hit points a damaged Pokemon has – should they use two twenty point potions, or one fifty point potion?

Allowing a player to access potions from the Pokemon primary character screen would make it easier to manage resources. See a Pokemon’s hit points, select a healing potion, and apply with ease. You don’t have to take away the ability to mass-heal groups of Pokemon for players who choose to play that way; just allow for more precise gameplay for us min-maxers.

More detailed gameplay is under the cut, if you want to know more about how the game works.

Continue reading

Category: Data Architecture, Free Beta Testers, games, Niantic, User eXperience | Comments Off on Fixing the Functionality Tree: Pokemon GO
September 23

Break Fast. Learn Things.

Maybe it’s my love of logic puzzles, the fun of breaking things, the fun of learning things, or all three that keep me interested in technology. Whether it’s answering all security questions with the answer “zerbert” (What is your father’s middle name? ZERBERT What is the name of your first childhood pet? ZERBERT) or seeing how my “unusual” name breaks a naming schema, I’ve found that trying to break things is a great way to test and learn things.

A smidge of mischeviousness also has me adding false data into “the system” when it doesn’t matter. I’ve got a dozen birthdays, a zillion ways to spell my name, and ad networks are always trying to sell me diapers, lizard food, and reverse mortgages (lately).

My brother recently shared the news that his neighborhood was serving as a testing ground for self-driving cars. First thought that sprang to mind? Cosplaying as stop signs. Didn’t hurt that I had one handy …

But given the recent needed changes to Tesla’s auto-pilot (ought-to-pilot?) … mayyyyyyyyybe this is one realm where I shouldn’t plant false data? Or maybe it’s even more important to teach these toddlers what fools us mortals be.

image of a woman pretending to be a stopsign
When you trick or treat in a neighborhood populated with self-driving cars …
Category: Data Architecture, Free Beta Testers, User eXperience | Comments Off on Break Fast. Learn Things.
May 5

Information Developer or Content Developer?

 

Paul Noth's Duck Gods vs Rabbit Gods war
“Okay folks, it’s purple vs green again ….”

Once upon a time, I was a technical writer. My friends were technical writers. My bosses were (usually) technical writers, or, had been, once upon a time.

I was pretty busy honing my trade, so I didn’t give much thought to what we wrote versus, say, what the Education folks wrote. Or the Marketing department put together. Those sell sheets came from somewhere, sure. We’d check for technical accuracy and contribute as SMEs for certification classes and exams, but other than that, our paths rarely crossed.

My boss at the time was quite adamant that Education and Technical Writing should be distinctly separate. I was new, I was learning the industry, and I took her word for it and filed the information away for later. I get it, now, but I didn’t then.

Later on, my colleagues at Citrix started calling us Tech Writers something else — Information Developers. There were many things going on then, so I didn’t give it much notice. After all, our employee records still said Technical Writer. I’ve recently noticed Citrix finally officially fixed that, and they’re all Information Developers now (yay!).

But over a decade on from those first discussions of the term Information Developer, I’m seeing movement towards calling Technical Writers by a new name … Content Developers.

The big BUT is … content isn’t always information and information isn’t always content. And this further on into my career, with exposure to much more than Read Mes and technical dictionaries, I can really see that.

I wonder if my colleagues heading down the Content Developer path aren’t headed in the wrong direction? Focusing less on the information aspect of writing?

From working with them, I know they aren’t actually working less with information. Many of them still wrangle direct, specific, technical information that users and administrators and software developers need. They aren’t focusing any less than Information Developers on architecting information properly, or organizing it in a way that makes sense for users. And we’re all doubling down on “touch once” and content management systems, and producing presentation-independent documentation.

But in branding with “Content Developer” rather than “Information Developer”, I think they’re treading on a fuzzier path. Maybe it’s my perception alone that “information” is something you use, and “content” is closer to entertainment and lighter on information. A more casual way of communicating.

And, from my recent reading, the term Content Developer is being used more and more heavily in marketing by copywriters to expand their explanations of what they do in an expanding environment of available work. So I’m not saying the term Content Developer is a bad thing, just that someone else got there first.

Maybe I’m just worried that Content Developer vs Information Developer devalues what Technical Writers do. Especially with the whole Epic lawsuit going on.

Maybe it’s just ducks vs rabbits … and there shouldn’t even be a ‘war’.

Category: Data Architecture, Uncategorized | Comments Off on Information Developer or Content Developer?
April 22

Waze should have laughed at me.

The privacy-aware side of me was a bit freaked out the first time my phone decided to let me know that if I left for work right now I’d probably be on time.

Information my phone gives me
“Shouldn’t you be heading out soon?”

It knew, though it didn’t know why, that I tended to do a weird morning routine. Loop through the school parking lot at 7:10, drive to the grocery store at 7:15 and park, do a loop-de-loop around the school parking lot again at 8:10, before finally heading into work by 9:00. Fuh-reak-y.

But carrying around a cell phone is a walking, talking, data-collecting elephant to begin with. What’s a little more data? That useful part of it makes the data and usability nerd in me happy.

Hyper-Realtime Traffic Info

I got to thinking about the head to head race I had this Easter Sunday. I was thinking about it as I was running errands at lunch, my usual use of that hour. Did I have time, I asked Waze, to skedaddle west eight miles and south ten miles to pick up paperwork from a medical office?

Waze assured me in it’s non-judgemental way that I’d be held up by rail crossing closures and heavy lunch time traffic. And, oh yeah, a huge festival (one of what, 50 this year?) that had a major arterial road blocked off for at least half a mile. I might make it ….

What it didn’t tell me, but I remembered in time, is that the office closes every day for lunch. I put that errand off for another day.

But what if Waze was hooked into NAP data, too?

I gave Waze the address of the place I wanted to go by sending it information I dug by hand from my contacts list. But what if I were able to send that info automatically? And put hours into my contact information for someone? Say, that the office opens at 9am and closes from 12:30 to 1:45 for lunch? We could Waze could read that, too, and then laugh at me tell me I was attempting a fool’s errand.

Or even better; if Waze was hooked into Google’s NAP data, with open and shut times? I wonder if it even supports “siesta” times? It’d be darn helpful if it did.

Category: Apple, Data Architecture, Google, User eXperience | Comments Off on Waze should have laughed at me.
April 15

What’s in a name? A Bluetooth by any other name would be so much sweeter.

I like having lots of Bluetooth devices. When I bought my Prius ten years ago, I figured I’d never need Bluetooth phone connection, so I didn’t upgrade to that package. Big mistake. Now Bluetooth rules my life and my devices.

Image of iPhone Bluetooth options screen.
Even my backups have backups.

As you can see by the screenshot, I have BlueDotSound speakers. They’re pretty neat; they allow me to be LazyMom and wake the kids remotely. Click to connect to BDS, start streaming roosters and cool music to wake them up. Stream fog horns and The Itsy Bitsy Spider when they are moving too slow.

The P311s are pretty nice, too. Cute headphones (though I’ve worn the fake leather off of the ears). But I can’t tell which pair is the green and which pair is the black. Clicking to pick one on this screen is a crapshoot. Often times I’ll just delete them both, and go through pairing just to pick the “right” one.

I only have one BDS “discovered” at the moment. One is upstairs in the hall, and one is in one kid’s room. Keeping it “undiscovered” is a handy way to pick the right one every time at dark o’clock.

I’d rather, Apple, ahem, be able to name them.  But heck. My phone has a camera! What if you let me take pictures of the speakers, or something? Then I have a little teeny image to know which device to pick! If you don’t want to go that hog-wild, at least give us some image options that we can click to change …

Image of iPhone Bluetooth options screen with added icons.
Now I can tell the twins apart.
Category: Apple, Data Architecture, Free Beta Testers | Comments Off on What’s in a name? A Bluetooth by any other name would be so much sweeter.
April 12

20-20-24 hours a day … I wanna be in beta …

I suppose the UX folks finally were allowed to fix the “I own every episode” problem on the new Apple TV. Scrolling through eight or nine seasons of a show to find the newest episode was driving me insane.

I’d scratched together a post about it, then they went and dadgum fixed it. Yay, Apple!

But there are a few other things they can fix.

For example, take advantage of the touch technology on the remote and in the software:

  • Long clicks. It’s part of the newer iPhones, and the Apple TV remote.
  • Customizable actions.
  • Recordable actions.

Put them all together and you can fix something that annoys me … play movies without six zillion clicks.

  1. Click to select movies. Fine.
  2. Drag to move over to Purchased movies. Fine.
  3. Click to get to the point to look at the movies you own. FINE.
  4. Drag and click to select a movie to watch. Fine.
  5. Get shown the  splash screen of the movie. Play is highlighted.
  6. Click Play.
  7. THE MOVIE DOESN’T PLAY. You usually get taken to an ‘extras” interactive screen where you can click Play, or start thumbing through extras.
  8. Click Play.
  9. Half the time we are asked if we want to pick up the movie where we left off instead of actually playing the movie. Another Click.

Things are no longer fine.

How about this?

  1. Click to select movies.
  2. Drag to get over to Purchased movies.
  3. Click to get to the point you look at movies you own.
  4. Drag and long-click to select the move you want to watch and start playing it from the beginning.

Four steps instead of seven to nine. If I want to watch extras, I could double-click to get to the “extras” interactive screen. Or to play the movie where we left off. Or whatever else I customize and record. Or triple click to switch back to the Apple TV homescreen.

It would make this user happy. And it would make the process designer in me ecstatic. All those Apple TVs out there, and one in what, fifty super user geeks like me making their own design decisions? I can imagine getting my hands on that kind of data: How the super user geek uses the Apple TV to improve the design for all users.

Come on, Apple. Give us some code!

Category: Apple, Data Architecture, Free Beta Testers, User eXperience | Comments Off on 20-20-24 hours a day … I wanna be in beta …