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Showing posts from March, 2014

How to Build Excellent Software part 2

I release my initial post on building excellent software may have sounded a bit anti-UX. The UX "movement" is all about providing an excellent, unique, crafted user experience that rewards the user and delights them with your product.

I perhaps implied that "features" don't matter. Yet little rarely used features are often the ones that delight us the most. I recently owned a Samsung Galaxy Note. With the stock Samsung firmware it was extremely feature rich, there was lots of nice stuff like sending the screen easily to my TV, some nice gesture support, eye tracking screen time-outs. However, I chose to install a custom firmware that was extremely stripped down by comparison. This was purely because the standard firmware was too slow for my liking, I felt I was always waiting. Of course I missed some of the features but the large increase in responsiveness in 99% of the actions I would perform on the device more than made up for the missing functionality. I hav…

HTC One M8 - worth the wait?

Well the original HTC One got T3's phone of the year. Not a bad choice, certainly a very good all-round choice. The ultra-pixel camera managed some mixed reviews, general considered acceptable, but behind most of its immediate rivals like the S4 in the majority of comparisons. Not everyone agreed it was the smart phone of the year with some like Engadget pointing to the Motorola Moto X. The Moto X pipped the HTC with a few features such as always on voice and glance notifications as well as a more pleasant shape to hold.

HTC did however get so much right with there phone their new M8 has the potential to rule the roost. Unlike most phones it has front mounted speakers, HTC Sense is a genuinely pleasant UI with all of the basics that a user can want well covered, and it is also one of the prettiest phones. Obviously there were some minor flaws, the relatively small battery size, which is not removable and the lack of an SD card slot means there was some room for improvement.

So wit…

N95 Nostalgia Blinds Users to the Facts

I colleague commented to me recently that Windows XP was the best OS Microsoft ever made. An interesting concept, however, I strongly disagree, Windows 7 is substantially better than XP and additionally I felt that Windows 7 brought great new features where as Windows XP feature wise was practically the same as Windows 2000. You could even argue that outside of the business domain there was no real productivity leap for the home user since Windows 95. Windows 7 instead made the task bar easier to use, the snap to left and right are features I use all the time. I would argue that Windows 8.1 is better than Windows 7 in many respects, but in the same way that Windows XP is not a step change from Windows 2000, I would class Windows 7 and its new features as the first genuine universal productivity improvements for a long time making Windows 7 the best Microsoft OS so far. I feel that nostalgia can often blind people to how much a new product has improved or to all the flaws that irritate…

Radial Menus in Android 5.0?

Google has patented a new radial menu system. Many usability texts I have read advocate radial menus because of the proximity benefits, Kirill Grouchnikov even blogged about how nice they are over the more common context menus. They do have some usability issues however:

1. The target area gets smaller the larger the number of menu items.
2. It is difficult to travel through all of the options via a keyboard and screen reader depending on how you allow the arrow keys to work, especially you have multi level radial menus.
3. Any uncommon navigation method can be distracting to new users.

Google of course does not need to implement the patent but I for one am interested in seeing what might arise. Google's patent for a pop-up radial menu that uses two fingers to operate one is an anchor and the second is selector.

The main issue with pop-up menus on touch screen devices is that they are always activated via holding down a finger on the screen. It would be great if they could be acti…

Living with Windows Phone 8

I have been using an Android phone since the Samsung Galaxy S was launched in the UK. It has grown from an OS which was only slightly better than Symbian and perhaps a little worse than iOS to the best selling OS in the world and with 4.4.1 arguably more polished, functional and usable than any other OS.

However, I have been curious about Windows Phone for a while. In terms of a mobile phone my requirements go in the following order

1. Phone calls
2. Camera
3. Web browser
4. Deezer
5. Email
6. Whatsapp
7. PDF reading
8. BBC iplayer
9. Youtube

Now Nokia has been releasing phones which are perhaps the best in terms of the first 2 criteria. With IE11 Microsoft have arguably one of the best browsers available so I was hopeful the browser would be good enough quality. Also due to the lack of popularity of WP the prices drop very quickly.

I picked up a Lumia 1020 and here is what I can report:

1. Phone call quality - definitely better than my last Samsung phone, probably the best I have eve…

How to build Excellent Software

Requirements It does not matter what language, database, framework or methodology you employ making excellent software requires a strong focus on 2 major aspects and then an iterative end user focus on their use. The most important aspects to focus on are responsiveness and accuracy.  Responsiveness Any request must be actioned in a timely fashion, and if possible always faster than the end user can keep up with. Yes there are plenty of processes which are so computationally intensive which require second, minutes or even hours to perform, however, it is vital that the application is responsive. If someone presses the "compress video" button then you should be immediately aware that you have successfully pressed the button, hopefully there should be an ETA on the process and/or % completion time.

It can also be a good idea for an application to remain responsive while other actions are being performed. So you are compressing a massive file, is the user likely to want to sel…

Google Now, annoyingly not good enough...

I read an article recently , the author stated he could not leave android because he was dependent on Google Now. I have had the opposite experience. Google now has progressively become less useful for me over time.

Every day I have at least one card...this is a weather widget. I have never really understood the desire to see the current weather. I am never far enough away from the window to need my phone to tell me the weather, what would be useful is being told how the weather might change, this however is a whole click away, and I rarely need this information anyway.

The second card is my commute tune to work. This is always wrong. I can guarantee that it is wrong by at least 33%. Google navigation even if it was right does not seem to offer traffic redirection.

There is a third card that I receive which is an update about my football team's up coming matches. This is the only card which is occasionally helpful, however, it is unreliable, for example last season it did not ment…