Fast, easy tips for Tablet app usability


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Tablet application design talk given at GOTO Amsterdam 2012, covers design guidelines based on how tablets are used in real life and tips for fast usability tests.
-- How people work differently with tablets
-- UX tips for exploiting tablets' strong points
-- fast ways to get actionable user feedback as you develop your app

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  • I do user experience work. I am not a designer – I am a user experience researcher. I bring data about users to the creation process. I normally work at the level of wireframes, but test everything from paper prototypes through to finished code. I work WITH developers rather than throwing a set of pretty pictures over some wall at them.
  • We’ve come a long way with mobile devices.I’ve been user testing mobile devices since this one came out…
  • First I’m going to tell you some things(I hope) you already know so that you think I’m a credible source of information.Then, I’m going to talk about some user experience findings from tablet studies that you may not have heard of. Applying those will make your tablet app betterFinally, I’m going to show you how you can quickly test your UX with real people to see whether it’s likely to work for them.
  • Set some context based on research done into how tablets are really used – YOU ARE NOT YOUR USERSING talk –iPad is different interface to iPhone. Different app.
  • First most cited reason is HYPE (the cool factor)“entertain me” is different from purposeful consumption of a specific item. People WILL watch videos longer than 3 mins, but only when they’re in the mood. tablets used for longer sessionsLong form video is preferred over shorter on tablets
  • 74% of smartphone owners use phone to get real-time location-based information, 18% use geosocial service to check in or share location with friends.
  • 56% had made mobile purchases at home, 42% while out, 36% while in a physical store. - Comscore study (
  • Tend to defer other tasks until there’s a keyboard
  • Some things to consider about the unique form factor and what that means for usability
  • Stayed with friend in London who is CIO of Markets group of a large UK bank. “House” ipad, his ‘n hers ipads, kids had iPod Touch and old iPhone, wife had iPhone, integrated into home sound system, etc. THIS IS NOT NORMAL.
  • Did set of interviews w/ business users. Google Docs, Keynote, PDF reader (+ annotation), some industry-specific apps.Very distant third most cited reason for getting tablet. And most of those people are probably just finding justification for work to buy it for them. GREAT opportunity to see what people are doing today with standard apps, and then build something better.
  • Biggest issue with laptop is that it doesn’t have instant-on. Apple (and MSFT) are getting there though.
  • Probably social rather than physical reasons, but it just doesn’t happen as much. OK to use camera as part of task (take photo for some reason like QR codes). Less likely to be for posterity.
  • Always try and pair WHY data and WHAT data (what you’ve observed qualitatively vs. instrumentation, other (secondary) research)Obviously no control for quantity of each device, but still… (4/27/2012)
  • Does app maintain state when closed/sent to background? When device is switched off? Does web service keep track of state?
  • Google Docs – it’s just saved. Not even a button for it. Also needs infinite undo.
  • Lots of INFO on the screen, but one TASK (reading tweets) plus access to other tasks. Not a perfect example.
  • Might look OK on PC screen, but lack of formatting makes it hard to come back to recipe and find your place again. GOOD: nice that you can make text very large for kitchen use.
  • UI to sign in (link to sign up takes you online – lower fidelity experience)Might need UI to choose between several users (games, social media accounts)…
  • If you feel the need to give people instructions, your UI is probably too complex for the iPad. Existing users should have already learned – so how do you get them to learn? Make everything apparent in the UI. Design for people who have existing expectations (ABC is a NEWS site – expectations of news isn’t seeing a globe, even if that’s part of your icon)
  • for secondary/maintenance tasks – people are changing their task at that time so hiding content behind nav is OK. (Pulse, FLUD, BBC, etc.)Target sizes at least 1cmx1cm (this won’t change until our fingers evolve)
  • Autodesk’s Sketchbook pro
  • 1cmx1cm targets, no crowding – NASA app
  • ABC News globe
  • Work out what people really meant – that leads to delight – “It just knows what I want…”Location awareness, device state awareness, etc. – don’t be like app that won’t allow texting while the accelerometer thinks you’re in a car (or on a bus, ….). Photo of biz card = OCR, photo of wife = family album, photo of landscape = add GPS infoSTILL PROVIDE OPTION to do other things.
  • YOU try selecting these without zooming in. (target crowding)
  • Escape routes (ability to call you to order, for instance)Explore/play – provide new stuff for people to see (user generated content on flickr, latest headlines in BBC site, newest RSS stories in FLUD)Status update – provide up-to-date information (latest messages, flight times, etc.)Find – be smart: you know where someone is, so you can provide hyperlocal answers – get to intentionCreate: if your app is built for this, make it a KEY function. If it’s not, consider whether you really need it, or whether you can streamline the process to involve very little typing. (creating photos may work on phone, less so on tablet)Browsing, consuming, checking in, comparing, locating, cataloging, improving, transacting, creating]
  • Start with web site, learn from it, move to app when you hit constraints (or when you want access to larger audience)Still, app has to do something BETTER than a plain Web site. Everytimezone.com / / is important again – less http requests, lighter pagesDetect user agents, but also let users choose mobile or desktop site (& measure how many do)JN says build 2 sites, but that’s brokenCopied links won’t redirect properly (copy mobile link, won’t go to desktop site if shared)
  • Lots of rules of what to do/not do… but best thing to do – esp. on an emerging platform is WATCH PEOPLEWatching users trying to do tasks before you build your app will show you what problems to solveWatching users do tasks with your app will show you where the sticky bits are- Popularized by lean startup (steve blank, ericreis), but we’ve been doing it for years.
  • CONTEXT is importantYou can test paper prototypes in your office, but as soon as you’re on the device, you need to go to where your users would normally work with the appGive them the device, get them to read the task out loud, then ask them to think out loud as they try to do the task (can ask people to pair up if they are unlikely to talk otherwise)Shut up and watchSave your questions for afterwardsGive them something to say thank youDiary studiesPeople e-mail or tweet every time they use the app, say what worked/didn’t Field studiesFollow a user around as they use the app (not so useful for casual apps)InstrumentationKnow what questions you want to ask before you add hooks to the code
  • Neal Stevenson Baroque Cycle
  • Taming evil interfaces/Creating heavenly experiences
  • Fast, easy tips for Tablet app usability

    1. 1. FAST, EASY TIPS FORTABLET APP USABILITY Chris NodderChris Nodder Consulting LLC
    2. 2. @uxgrump Taming evil interfaces Creating heavenly experiences
    3. 3. User-centered information How users work differently with tablets UX tips for exploiting tablets’ strong points Fast ways to get actionable user feedback as you develop your app
    4. 4. Tablet tasksHow people use tabletsTop task types
    5. 5. EntertainingSecond most cited reason for buying a tabletBrowsing: news, sports, videosConsuming: books, movies, gamesChecking in: e-mail, social media First most cited reason =
    6. 6. Source: OPA (
    7. 7. SearchingAnswer immediate questionsComparing: shopping, restaurantsLocating: what’s near me
    8. 8. TrackingKeep lists, measure progressCataloging: recipes, photosImproving: fitness, diet
    9. 9. TransactingShopping, online bankingdo happen on device
    10. 10. CreatingOnly urgent tasks
    11. 11. Tablet propertiesPhysical considerations
    12. 12. Shared resourceStill too expensive to be per-userSign-in, identity management
    13. 13. BusinessCo-opting consumer apps
    14. 14. Mobile (sort of)Phone still default device for immediate accessLaptop still preferred device if creating
    15. 15. PhotosSharing only: tablets aren’t good cameras
    16. 16. Designing for tabletsUX tips to make use of tablets’ strong points
    17. 17. Design for distractions86% of mobile internet users use device while watching TVTablets used in public spaces – may have to quit at any time
    18. 18. Distractions: Constant savingOne idea per screenSequential flowPauseConstant saving
    19. 19. Distractions: One concept per screenOne idea per screenSequential flowPauseConstant saving
    20. 20. Distractions: Scannable contentOne idea per screenSequential flowPauseConstant saving
    21. 21. Design for existing/repeat usersAllow account creation but aim for sign IN, not sign UPSharing devices means people will log in/out of apps
    22. 22. Existing users: Sign in easier than sign up One idea per screen Sequential flow Pause Constant
    23. 23. Existing users: Design for exploration, not instructions One idea per screen Sequential flow Pause Constant
    24. 24. Make content into navigation Content is the most important thing Only display key task navigation (actions, back) Hide other navigation behind a “menu” button OK to use a big nav pop-up for secondary tasks
    25. 25. Navigation: Content is nav
    26. 26. Navigation: Hide menus
    27. 27. Navigation: Targets > 1cm2 No crowding
    28. 28. Navigation: Content should be discoverable
    29. 29. Infer intention (intelligently)To really win, figure out what people meant Search: typically want local answers Transact: pull up correct loyalty card for location Entertain: Airplane mode = movies, not youTube
    30. 30. Infer: I want to eat near to where I am
    31. 31. Build for one key task Entertaining, Searching, Tracking, Transacting, CreatingInclude escape routes
    32. 32. Develop an app when…You need interactionTask flow is non-linearBeing in app stores is beneficialApp adds extra value Use a Web site when… Mobile use is secondary Task flow is linear You update very frequently
    33. 33. User testing the tablet UXUsers can’t tell you what they need,but they can show you Get out of the building Find out what problems to solve Learn where the sticky bits are
    34. 34. Go to where the task occurswaiting areacoffee shopbuilding sitesofamorning commute Give people a quick task and a gift Tell them what their end goal is, then shut up and watch. Save questions until afterwards.
    35. 35. Paper prototypes for early conceptsSketch your interfaceOne sheet per screenReact to user’s “touch”Gives early insightSaves costly mistakes
    36. 36. User Experience research tools
    37. 37. Other data, search “tablet”
    38. 38. Taming evil interfaces Creating heavenly experiences All photos © 2012 Chris Nodder