iPhone App Design: A user-centered approach


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User-centered iPhone app design talk given to the launch event for Girls in Tech Silicon Valley on September 10, 2009

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  • Since my slide notes didn’t transfer over, I wanted to mention that the participant photos are from user research conducted in July 2009 by Ginsburg Design in collaboration with Reamy Research & Design. Diary studies were combined with field interviews in New York and The Bay Area.
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  • These stories are based on user research conducted in the fall of 2009 by Ginsburg Design and Reamy Research & Design. Diary studies were combined with field interviews with 12 participants in New York and The Bay Area.
  • This participant used to have a laptop (iMac) and a mobile phone. When her laptop broke she was torn between replacing the laptop and getting an iPhone. In the end she decided to get an iPhone since she has access to a desktop computer at work. In these photos, you can see a variety of ways that she uses the iPhone at work—to take pictures of framed photos to send to clients and to check if paintings are level. Other apps she likes to use at work include converter and translation apps.
  • This participant is a sophmore majoring in Chemistry. While he’s very busy with school, he also holds two part-time jobs: one at a hotel, another as a private gymnastics instructor. From the minute he wakes up, he uses his iPhone—it’s his alarm clock! Sometimes he’ll lay in bed for a little while as he checks email, the weather, his calendar. On the way to school, he’ll use other apps for checking the various bus and trains schedule. At school, he uses a variety of apps, e.g., the periodic table (above), graphing calculators, and a whiteboard app for collaboration.
  • This participant mostly uses the built-in apps on the iPhone—the calendar, email, photos, camera. When she goes to the flower market, she’ll use the Notes application to run through the list of flowers she needs to buy. She often takes photos of plants and flowers to send to clients. Even though the quality isn’t the best, it’s “good enough” as a communication tool. She’ll use her SLR or hire a professional photographer if she needs something of higher quality.
  • Participants often cited issues with setting up and/or registering for iPhone apps. For example, this Accuweather app takes 3 steps before you even see any weather. Having the “Terms of Use” upfront is far from welcoming for first time users. Two participants said they really wanted to use this app, but gave up since it was too complicated to get started. They ultimately deleted the app from their phones.
  • Participants also cited simple tasks taking much longer than they expected. For example, adding a to do item for the app above takes 5 steps. In contrast, the built-in Notes app takes just one step.
  • Participants expected apps to behave a certain way based on their experiences with a desktop or web application. This is not to say that iPhone apps should work exactly like their desktop or web counterparts, but it’s problematic when the differences create additional work or dead ends for users. For example, the built-in calendar doesn’t synch to do items on the phone, thus the participant (first image) added the items as all day events.
  • iPhone App Design: A user-centered approach

    1. 1. User-centered iPhone app design Suzanne Ginsburg Principal, Ginsburg Design September 10, 2009
    2. 2. People are doing cool things with their iPhones Three stories….
    3. 3. The gallery salesperson
    4. 4. The student
    5. 5. The floral designer
    6. 6. People their iPhones but some things could be better…
    7. 7. Setup is too complicated (& unfriendly) App: Accuweather
    8. 8. Tasks require too many steps App: To Do’s
    9. 9. Inconsistent and/or Unable to Synch with Desktop or Web version Built-in calendar Epicurious doesn’t synch Can’t edit LinkedIn doesn’t synch to do list with online recipe box profile via app
    10. 10. Other common themes Tasks require too much typing App doesn’t remember where user left off No content for given location
    11. 11. What can you do?
    12. 12. #1: Conduct upfront user research Upfront user research will help you better understand your users’ needs. Research will help you make informed design decisions; you may also uncover fascinating app opportunities. Methods to consider: Shadowing, Field Interviews, Diary Studies
    13. 13. #2: Brainstorm & sketch like mad Explore a wide variety of design directions early on. Read Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines for the iPhone, but try to see beyond the basic frameworks. Learn what’s possible with the iPhone technology and consider ways it can benefit the user experience.
    14. 14. #3: Refine & Test Promising Directions Usability testing your concepts will help uncover issues related to setup, flows, terminology & more. Alternative approaches: - Paper prototypes - Screenshot based prototype on the iPhone - Interactive prototype on the iPhone
    15. 15. Thank you & good luck! Suzanne Ginsburg @suzanneginsburg Also thanks to Michelle Reamy for her user research work in NY: michelle@michellereamy.com