Applying Google’s Material Design language to a concept NBA app by @makeshowlearn by Natashia Tjandra

The idea

I’ll be designing an app for checking out NBA results. Not mind-blowing, but it’ll be good to start with a baseline of existing solutions. I’ll be able to focus on applying the Material principles with some decisions already made.

There’s still some room to work out a few of my own ideas. I think it’d be great to go a level deeper into single plays to see discussions around them. I think it’d help show which plays were most interesting and get a feel for the game.

Takeaways

Google’s Material Design language is comprehensive. I created a mobile example, but the guidelines cover tablet and desktop cases for all the components. And I only used a fraction of the available components.

Going through this exercise helped me get a better understanding of when to use and when not to use different components. I also saw firsthand that following the keylines leads to sensible layouts.

This is a start and I’m looking forward to exploring Material Design further. In particular, it’d be good to take these screens a step further and create a prototype. Motion is such a crucial element in Material Design so that’d be great to explore.

Read more: http://t.co/P52b3GT89b

 

Do users have a hard time understanding hollow icons? by Natashia Tjandra

The takeaway:  Unless it's white-on-black hollow icons, they were no less likely to be recognized than solid icons.  

 

Now that iOS 8 is doubling down on the hollow icon formula, is there any truth to the assertion that hollow icons are more difficult for users to understand than solid icons?

To find out, user experience designer Curt Arledge created a web app that measured users' speed and accuracy in selecting icons with different visual styles. Each user was asked to match an icon with its name, from a grid of 20 icons that used both hollow and solid icons on white and black backgrounds.

Arledge discovered that across more than 1,000 tests, hollow icons were no less likely to be recognized than solid icons. There was one exception: Hollow icons that used white lines on black backgrounds were recognized about a quarter second slower than any other type of icons. Most users' brains, it seems, need a moment to recognize hollow icons when they are presented in a negative color space.

That exception aside, on average, Arledge found no real difference between users' recognition of icons based simply on their being hollow or solid-in. He did find that for specific individual icons, the hollow variant was sometimes recognized faster than the solid-in one, or vice versa. So some icon designs work better one way, and others another. Designers must test both.

Unless you're creating white-on-black hollow icons, the major factor contributing to an icon not being recognized is no different post-iOS 7 than it was before. Whether hollow or solid, the icons people have trouble recognizing are the ones that don't take the user--and test data--properly into account. If people don't understand your hollow icon, don't blame iOS 8. Just go back to the drawing board.

You can read more of Arledge's findings here.

IDEO's Avocado is an improved version of Facebook's Origami. by Natashia Tjandra

For those of us who's been frustrated and struggling with Origami, we can now breathe a collective relief. IDEO launched Avocado, and according to FastCompany, it is an improved version of Facebook's prototyping tool.

"Origami provides the Lego blocks for a prototyping interface, Avocado provides fully formed Lego kits." – FastCompany

Have I downloaded Avocado yet? Yes

Have I tried using it yet? No

Will I be using it anytime soon? Absolutely. Origami was a tad too difficult to master.

Will I be posting my thought on Avocado? You bet. 

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Download Avocado here

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Tidy App by Natashia Tjandra

Tidy organizes your photos with just a simple swipe. It's that simple. 

With smartphones becoming ubiquitous, the way we store memories and references change. We end up taking photos of everything, from things we find funny and want to share, to stuff we want to remember, to beautiful moments. We accumulate tens of photos everyday, all stored in one big mess in our Camera Roll. 

Tidy aims to help you reorganize your photos in one swipe. When you launch the app, the photos will be categorized as "untidy". You can organize the mess in a few different ways, by time (1 hour, 6 hours or day, week, month or year), by location (500m, 1km, 10km, 100km or 1000km), and by shape. This feature is the most unique compared to other photo apps, it will go through your photos an categorize them by squares, portraits, landscapes, panoramas and even screenshots. Needless to say, I start categorizing my photos by shape, I take tons of screenshots.

Monument Valley's enchanting experience is over too soon. by Natashia Tjandra

Gif by Luke Plunkett

Gif by Luke Plunkett

This MC Escher inspired perceptual puzzle game is over too soon. There are only 10 levels. The visual design is really beautiful and the experience enchanting, you can’t help but want more. There isn’t many words in Monument Valley and that’s because you don’t need it. We follow Princess Ida's journey, through mind-bending gameplay and melancholy music. Her journey is certainly felt, not read.

Jaz Rignall of USgames.com writes:

It packs brilliant moments of discovery: smack-your-forehead situations where you're completely flummoxed, but then are utterly delighted when you figure out what you need to do. It has moments of wonder as something comes into view, or something unexpected happens, or when pieces of architecture literally click into place. And it all plays through an audio-visual experience that is of the utmost quality. 

HOW IT WORKS:

Guide the silent princess Ida through ancient abandoned cities, their twisted walkways turning at my touch to produce impossible paths. My job was to facilitate her journey, tapping the screen to manipulate either select bits of scenery or rotate entire stages. Broken roads, turned to the correct angle, became whole. (Source: Mike Fahey).

I will be re-playing Monument Valley from stage 1 as soon I hit the post button.



Reporter. Nicholas Felton's latest project. by Natashia Tjandra

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Designer Nicholas Felton has been reporting various metrics of his personal life since 2005 in the annual Feltron Report. In 2012 alone, he spent 79 hours collecting data. The avid self quantifier launched an iOS app, Reporter, with friends Drew Bruenig and Friends of the Web.

At random times of the day, Reporter asks you to fill in a mini survey, questions such as “What are you doing?, Who are you with?, How many cups of coffee did you drink today?, How did you sleep?”. You can also customize the questions. This allows for monitoring broad trends in your lifestyle. Reporter is an activity-tracking app that aggregates your responses into visualizations and charts of the user’s life. 

The app is really easy to use, intuitive and only 2 effortless gestures are needed: tap and swipe. Some of the questions are can be answered with a yes or a no, while others allow you to type in. Each time you report, the app also pulls in various pieces of information like the current weather, current location (FourSquare API), how many steps you’ve taken today (iPhone 5s’ M7 motion coprocessor), and how noisy it is around you (iPhone’s mic).

I am a big fan of Felton's, and I got the app at $3.99. Reporter requires plenty of manual tracking – the creator argues that it’s the best way to answer the most interesting questions. Part of me wishes for Fuely, the little Nike Fuel cheerleader who gives you a little dance when you completed your goal, and the other wishes for automatic data inputs. The no non-sense questions left much to be desired after a while, unless like Felton, you are a data nut. And yet, there’s something appealing about the simple, purist graphics with 5 customizable color schemes. 

Of course, you can export the data visualizations and print the 'posters' out for you to admire.

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Threes! by Natashia Tjandra

Threes! is infinitely better than Candy Crush and Flappy Bird. Original game design. No in app purchases. Brilliantly simple but endlessly playable. Smile factors such as cute animations and sound effects definitely keep me coming back for more. 

Gameplay consists of sliding numbered blocks onto one another to form higher numbers, but some important rules turn an easy concept into a challenging puzzle. Only like numbers can combine together, for instance, 3 and 3, to form a 6, which can then only combine with another 6. 1 and 2 are limited to combining with each other.

Tis a simple game, but difficult to master.


Here’re some suggestions for improvement:

  1. Retry button. I don’t get why the retry button is way up on the left. It isn’t user friendly, the game is designed for a single gesture : swipe. I play the game with just one hand (which I’m sure many of us do). The stretch for my thumb to tap that button is quite annoying, it’s in the OW zone (as written by Scott Hurff). Move it to the top right please, and replace that twitter button. I think the tweet/share button could be integrated with typing the player’s name after the score. Having said that, I’ll probably forgive the game designers because of the much enjoyment I derived from playing the game. 
  2. Give me my score now. Please? Why do I need to swipe to see my score and swipe again to type my name in the scoreboard? I think a smoother transition without having to swipe would be nice.
  3. Previous games. The other thing I don’t really get is why would I want to see my previous games, they display only the last move on these boards. If I can tap on it and be shown what and where I did wrong, I wouldn’t mind. All I want to do is to continue playing the game (start with a new board) and beat the game!
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RIP Flapper Bird by Natashia Tjandra

Nguyen (Flapper Bird creator) has followed through with his threat. Flappy Bird is no longer available on the iTunes App Store or Google Play as of Sunday afternoon.

The notoriously difficult game gained popularity just a few weeks ago, which brought it to the top of both the iOS App Store and the Google Play Store. What could have prompted him to take the game down? He simply said: "I can call 'Flappy Bird'...a success of mine. But it also ruins my simple life." on Twitter.

Screen Shot 2014-02-09 at 3.31.36 PM.png

Here's original story from the Verge : 

Flappy Bird creator Dong Nguyen has said that he will take the game down — presumably removing it from the iOS and Android app stores — tomorrow for reasons unknown. On Twitter, Nguyen, whose surprise hit is making $50,000 a day in ad revenue, said that he "cannot take this anymore" and would remove the game 22 hours from now, or midday Sunday. He ruled out a couple of the most obvious potential explanations, saying that there were no legal problems, the game had not been acquired, and he had not quit making games.

Facebook's Paper Gestural Hell by Natashia Tjandra

Facebook's release of Paper yesterday on the App Store breaks a string of uninspired releases outside of Instagram, and has many believing it's a glimpse into the future of mobile interaction.

But there's one problem: if this is the future, it's going to hurt. And I mean physically.

There's no doubt that Paper is a fresh and innovative take on content browsing. But while Paper may not ask much of us when we sign up to use the app — it asks a lot of us when it comes to the app's default interactions. So much so that the Paper's heaviest users might need to start popping arthritis medication in a few years.

– Scott Hurff

Here's what users have to do when using the new app:


Source: Scott Hurff. Facebook's Paper Gestural Hell.

According to Hurff, it's because of the "Thumb Zone." 

THE "THUMB ZONE"

Coined by Steven Hoober, author of the O'Reilly book Designing Mobile Interfaces, the Thumb Zone is "the most comfortable area for touch with one-handed use." And while there are many variables at play here, he found that 49% of users held their phone in one hand and used their phone with one thumb.

Let's get specific. Paper was released only on iPhone. So let's look at the Thumb Zone on a 4 inch iPhone screen:

Thumb Zone

Thumb Zone

FIXING THE THUMB HOOK

It's fascinating how easy it is to solve this problem. The only realization it requires is that swipes don't have to occur on a strict X or Y axis; they can follow the natural arc of our fingers.

Let's take a look at how Hurff'd do it:

Thumb Hook Solution. 

Thumb Hook Solution. 

Easy. All it requires is shrinking the space allocated to the Topic section above and increase the space allocated to the story navigation (the swiping part that'll give us arthritis) by 50 pixels. DONE. 

Product Video by Natashia Tjandra

We set out to entertain with our video, mainly because LES by Locals is an app that recommends locally curated places and things to do, that will entertain or pique the user’s interest. 

It was shot with the iPhone, to keep it real and gritty – street cred of LES. Enjoy. 

Video taking too long to load. Check the smaller version here

Jakob Nielsen’s 10 Usability Heuristics for User Interface Design by Natashia Tjandra

This is a reading assigned for my other class, Designing for Usability. 

[It’s] the 10 most general principles for interaction design. They are called “heuristics” because they are more in the nature of rules of thumb than specific usability guidelines.

- Jakob Nielsen

I believe it’ll be really useful as a check list for app development. In this class, we were tasked to test a paper prototype, using these principles. The benefit is that I can spot usability mistakes earlier, before user testing. Don’t get me wrong, we still need to user tests after. This is just a checklist. 

Here’s a video. Made by David Lazarus, who was a student in the class. He broke it down nicely.

If you prefer the text version, you can check it out here.

Best App(s) to explore New York with. Part 2. by Natashia Tjandra

Last week’s conclusion was to keep Urban Daddy: The Next Move App, and Wallpaper City Guide: New York. Let’s see how those compare with Scvngr, Gogobot, Sōsh and Spotsetter.

Here’s the updated Criteria.

1. Easy to use

2. Engaging and makes me want to use it over and over again

3. Accurate information

4. Beautiful

5. Bonus – using iOS touch capabilities

6. Data of the latest places to check out and travel to.

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This week’s contenders are:

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1. SCVNGR (pronounced scav·en·ger)

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Unique Feature Check-ins and tasks are given. When you check-in, you get points. When you complete the tasks, you are given real life rewards. The more daring the task, the bigger reward you get. What makes this interesting is that you are pitted against your friends.

Features Check-in • Location • Tasks • Photo taking • Facebook integration • Friend’s Feed • Profile • Friends • Badges • Places • Rewards • Treks • Social Map •  Notification bar.

Pros

  • Clean, intuitive, easy to use. Loads quickly.
  • Imagine going into your favorite burrito shop, launching the SCVNGR app to check-in. You are being offered the challenge of turning the tin-foil wrapper into an origami sculpture for four bonus points. I totally just made that up. But it’s pretty close to the challenges listed on SCVNGR.
  • All the challenges are either user-created/inspired, or created by the businesses themselves.
  • When you choose a venue to check-in to that screen has three tabs: Challenges, Activity, and Info. The default challenges with every venue is: check-in, social check-in, say something, and snap a picture. You earn points by completing a challenge. The social check-in is a pretty cool challenge. You and another SCVNGR user can bump phones to get twice as many points for that check-in. The more challenges you do, the more points you acquire. Once you’ve gained a certain amount of points you can then create your own challenges.
  • It integrates with Facebook and Twitter. Makes it easy to see what you’re Facebook friends have checked into under the “Friends Feed” section.
  • You have an option to only share your check-ins with your friends or strangers on SCVNGR.
  • The Friend’s Feed displays a list of your friend’s check-ins. It has two sub-categories: Recent and Popular. The neat thing about the Recent tab is it mixes both your SCVNGR and Facebook friends.
  • You can also do a simple search for a user or invite friends 
  • The Leaderboard is where we get competitive. This is where you compare how many points/challenges your friends and you’ve acquired. It doesn’t reset every week like Foursquare, so it’s an overall score.
  • Badges are acquired after reaching a certain status or completing a number of challenges. They are quite nicely illustrated.
  • Places will initially load all venues within your intimidate area. If a venue doesn’t show up you can do a search to add it.
  • Rewards incorporates offers and discounts from vendors.
  • Trek lists challenges for you to complete.
  • The Social Map screen displays a map, with pins of avatars showing recent activities, maximum of up to 24 hours. It shows both mine and friends’ activities.
  • According to SCVNGR.com “Over 550 business are currently paying customers of SCVNGR including museums, universities, and businesses, who use it for things like tours, orientations, and team-building exercises.”
  • SCVNGR also has the more traditional check-ins, the ability to snap and post pictures, and write a quick little review about a location, if you aren’t into challenges.

Cons

  • The only thing wrong with SCVNGR is that not all of my friends know about it.
  • You also can’t interact with the Facebook feed, but it’s at least nice to see where your friends have been to.

Smile factor

A check-in app with a fun twist. It gets me competitive with my friends, I enjoy beating them to a task.

The Verdict

It’s definitely fun and engaging, as I can compete with my friends. We do compare activities and the app constantly become a point of conversation. Now I just have to convince more friends to abandon foursquare for SCVNGR.

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2. Gogobot

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Unique Feature You can create and share online postcards with filters and text, like Instagram, but this app is tailored specifically for travel photos.The Gogobot App also allows users to access the trip plans that they’ve created on their Gogobot.com profiles, including maps, reviews and others.

FeaturesExplore • Share on Facebook and Twitter • Social Network • Plan trip • Postcard • Photos and preloaded filters • Follow friends.

Pros

  • Clean, intuitive, easy to use. Loads quickly.
  • You can create and share real-time digital postcards, find nearby restaurant, hotels and attractions to your current location, and access personalized trip plans.
  • Each postcard is added automatically to a user’s Gogobot Guide on the site.
  • You can navigate Gogobot by searching for places or things and see where a particular user has gone by navigating his or her passports. You can also, choose to discover either the top rated places or your friends’ recommendations.  
  • Lets you add friends from Facebook and Twitter, plus you can share your activities to your Facebook Timeline and/or Twitter feed.
  • Has “Explore” function to search by location and/or category
  • Users can rate and review the places they have been to.
  • The Gogobot App also allows users to access the trip plans that they’ve created on their Gogobot.com profiles, including maps, reviews and others.
  • Additionally, the ‘Nearby’ function lists the best restaurants, hotels and attractions automatically based on a user’s location, making it easy to find recommended places.

Cons

  • There are only 6 recommendations each time the app is launched, depending which friends’ activities are the latest.
  • Users can only see their friends’ recommendations, who you are following and who has Gogobot.
  • My friends are not using the app.

Smile factor

You can create and share online postcards with filters and text, like Instagram but tailored specifically for travel photos. You also acquire points as you share and interact with other members in the community. These points means you start off with a tourist and graduate as an expert, all documented in your “Passport.”

The Verdict

Gogobot is sort of like a Yelp for travel. It is all about big visuals and a social component thanks to tight Facebook (also Foursquare and other services) integration, which I really really like. I can see what my friends recommend, instead of asking them to recommend places to go to and check out. And instead of checking individual apps, toggling between Yelp, Foursquare and etc, I only need to check on Gogobot.

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3. SōSH

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Unique Feature Sōsh models its recommendations off of human behavior. So its less about what’s the closest nearby, and more about what is cool about a place, in the way that you’d explain it to a friend. For that, it pulls in expert commentary from magazines, websites and the social media. These 3 sentences translate to: Sōsh takes all the guesswork out of finding really interesting and awesome things to do nearby, all tightly curated. It’s already big in San Francisco and just recently launched in New York.

Features Bookmark it • Done it • Review • Search • Curated categories • Follow friends • Share on Facebook.

Pros

  • Clean, intuitive, easy to use. Loads quickly.
  • Has “Explore” function to search by location and/or category
  • Recommended places comes with beautiful pictures to browse from and through.
  • There’s a short introduction about the recommended place, with a “More” option, where you can read write-ups from reputable magazines.
  • Connects to a recommended place website, Yelp and Open Table (your pick), so you can find out more information, read reviews and make reservation. Also you can get its opening hours at a glance and location. You can also call to make a reservation or get directions.
  • Sosh also recommends similar places to the one you are viewing.
  • Categories can be filtered by time - This Week, Tonight, This Weekend and Anytime, also by neighborhoods, and other categories such as Date Night, Food & Dining, Good for Groups, Under $30, Nightlife, Get Active, Arts, Classes & Workshops, Sweet Treats.
  • The categories above are displayed on the Homescreen, giving you information at a quick glance.
  • Discovering the latest places is quick and easy.

Cons

  • None that I can see so far, except that it has the same name as another app that improves social skills for the autistic.
  • And the fact that I have only 2 friends who are using this app.

Smile factor

The best thing is that you can bookmark an item and add “done” and “loved it” buttons. I am always reading about a great new place in a magazine and then forgetting about it.

The Verdict

Not having as many friend who’s using the app doesn’t hinder me from accessing information. Although Sōsh doesn’t have the sass or personality as The Next Move by Urban Daddy, discovering all the new and exciting places is easy and quick. The recommendations are tightly curated too.

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4. SPOTSETTER

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Unique FeatureA Facebook account is required to login, the app’s recommendations are prepared and personalized, by pulling data from your social networks. It takes a while, but it gives you the confidence and/or illusion (your pick) that it is personalized. Here’s the really promising official description:

  1. Spotsetter provides personalized recommendations for places to go. "Where to go" is socially relevant and we help answer that through the vast amount of content your friends have already created across all social networks.
  2. These friends set the standard for the best spots and we call them Spotsetters. Not only do they explore all these great places, they also love to share opinions about them.
  3. Spotsetter helps you find these amazing spots and what your friends have to say about them. Find friendly tips, reviews, and photos about these places, no matter where they’ve been shared.

Features Fast map navigation • Integration with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Foursquare  • Bookmarks • Search • Browse friends’ activities

Pros

  • Clean, easy to use.
  • Home screen provides a quick glance at friends’ latest photos/places they’ve been to.
  • Recommendations are entirely based on your social network friends, from the places they have been to.
  • You can set up filters by time frame, who the posts are from (two categories: me or friends), and which social networks to pull data from.
  • I like that there’s the map view that shows friends facebook profile pictures in the “pins” dropped on locations. As I can quickly glance through which places and which friends have been to which places. From there I can delve deeper and see their comments and pictures.
  • Auto-complete tool helps you find all the places, friends, and things they’ve said.

Cons

  • There are only 4 recommendations, every time the app is launched, depending which friends’ activities are the latest.
  • You can’t choose which friends’ travel or places you’d want to feature.
  • There isn’t a pull down or refresh feature, which for me can be confusing. I’d want to constantly update the recommendations.
  • As of now, it seems that my featured recommendations are dominated by instagram users that I follow. I wonder what happen to my Facebook friends who constantly check-in.
  • There is no way to deactivate the networks in the app, you have to email to request for disconnection.
  • The map feature only works on one city, the more you zoom out, the less friends you will see.

Smile factor

Entirely friends’ recommendations and comments of a place.

The Verdict

I’m constantly wondering if the places displayed are the most up to date, but i love the map view, with little “faces” on it. Makes it easier too, to scan and find certain places. I don’t like the fact that I can’t automatically de-activate certain networks. As of now, it seems that my featured recommendations are dominated by instagram users that I follow. I wonder what happen to my Facebook friends who constantly check-in. I’d like to see more improvements in the app. I feel like I’ll get bored of it easily, though the premise and concept is brilliant.

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WHICH APP(S) AM I KEEPING?

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Is it of no surprise that I am only keeping The Next Move by UrbanDaddy, because of its entertainment, engagement and anticipation values? Besides I have confidence in the recommendations because of the app’s supposedly tightly curated places.

I am keeping Sōsh as I get the latest and cool ideas on what to do this weekend with a quick glance.

I am also keeping Scvngr. What can I say, I am competitive. This app gives my friends and I another activity to bond over.

I dropped Wallpaper City Guide, as like what my friend Young said, “If it’s interesting, I’ll read and remember it. To allow an app that you don’t use occupy the megabytes of the iPhone memory is a sin, especially if your goal is to discover and learn from as many apps as possible.”

Spotsetter has the most potential but I deleted it, as the UX irritates me because of lack of feedback and what happened to photos or recommendation from my Facebook friends? Having said that, I’ll redownload it if they are updated and improved. Hear that Spotsetter?

Gogobot had too much information for me, besides currently there are only 5 of my friends who have the app. I can’t benefit from that.

Phew! The end. Thanks for reading.

Best App(s) to explore New York with. Part 1. by Natashia Tjandra

This week I’ll be comparing 4 apps, to determine which is or are the best for exploring New York.

I will also compare reviews that I have done weeks ago of Urban Daddy: The Next Move App (which I will expand) and Dumbo app, with Wallpaper New York, Goings On: The New Yorker, and Not for Tourist. Next week, watch out for comparison with Scvgr and Gogobot.

Criteria:

1. Easy to use

2. Engaging and makes me want to use it over and over again

3. Accurate information

4. Beautiful

5. Bonus – using iOS touch capabilities

 

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This week’s contenders are:

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1. WALLPAPER* CITY GUIDE: NEW YORK

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Unique Feature The locations included in the app are curated with a keen eye for design, as one would expect from Wallpaper*.

Features Fast-track guides • Maps • High quality images • Bookmarks • Neighborhood • Constant updates   

Pros

  • Includes our travel essentials, with their tightly edited selection of hotels, landmarks, architecture, shopping and urban life – all color coded for easy referencing.

  • Short intro easy to read paragraphs.

  • Fast-track curated guides.

  • High-quality images to browse and drool over.

  • Featured venues - an insider check list of New York hottest and design forward spots

  • Bookmarks - to create your own itinerary and share with friends

  • Wallpaper lists things and neighborhoods you need to know and why.

  • You can navigate, search and view several places of interests in the map, with color coded pins. 

Cons

  • Lacking in the hierarchical menu structure where the user dives in and backs out. The app is designed to be experienced like a book or a magazine, where it’s easy for us to flip or ear-mark the pages; which needs getting used to.

Smile factor

Beautiful images of the places, which are really persuasive – makes me want to visit them all. Tightly curated places and guides/tours.

The Verdict

I am a sucker for beautifully designed guides with nicely kerned, easy to read short paragraphs, high design curated places and photographs – I’m an art director/design geek. For that reason, I am keeping Wallpaper city guides.

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2. THE NEXT MOVE BY URBANDADDY

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Unique Feature Jackpot wheel that gives you the feeling of anticipation and adventure. An app with excellent writing – entertaining human voice and attitude. Process of keying in information or setting up the filters is a fun process, it’s not tedious even though there are at least 5 things you need to fill in for the jackpot wheel to work.

Features Automatic location recognition • An app-wide search function • Nightlife and restaurant content • Men’s shopping and grooming selection from UrbanDaddy’s editors • A ‘favorites’ list • ‘Randomize’ option where you roll the jackpot wheel for a random selection • Share via Facebook or Twitter.

Pros

  • Interface is very fun, make filling information a joy. When you first launch the app, you will be asked to set up the filters for the search. Fear not, the process of filling in information or setting up the filters is a fun process, it’s not tedious even though there are at least 5 things you need to fill in for the jackpot wheel to work. The first two are already filled in, with the time and day, and possible location where you are at, all you need to choose is “what do you want?” and “who are you with?” You can choose from a list of things. So an example when the filter is set up is : “It’s Tuesday, around 12AM, somewhere in New York, I want drinks, with a date, somewhere swanky.” The next step is to press submit and the jackpot wheel will start turning.

  • You can choose how you want the results to be displayed, either by list or map.

  • Each place has a super short description, with a picture, phone number and address. You can share via Facebook or Twitter.

  • There’s also another option for the user to access information. You can tap an arrow, located at the bottom, a menu box will pop up from the bottom. It will then give you 4 categories to choose from: Food & Drinks, Shopping, Shortlists, Grooming.

  • After choosing, you will be presented with another list of categories, for eg. under Food & drink, there are body heat, nearest heater, warm brandy, bars to hole up in, one last drink, etc.

  • Tailored to locality, location based

  • Free

Cons

  • Ads, it’s a free app

Smile factor

Entertaining human voice and attitude.

The Verdict

I have been using The Next Move for 2 years now, ever since I arrived in New York. It never disappoints, I’m thoroughly entertained each time I use it. Sometimes I’ll use the mistress filter, just to spice things up.  

 

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3. GOINGS ON: THE NEW YORKER

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Unique Feature The New Yorker is packed full with great suggestions for things to do, courtesy of the staff at the magazine. You can choose ‘Critics’ Pick’ to see recommendations, or search by the date or location. You can buy tickets from within the app, and listen to Audio tours.

Features Categories • Audio Tour • Filters for search function • Get tickets • Favorites • Share via Facebook, email, twitter and Foursquare

Pros

  • The launch screen has the personality of The New Yorker magazine – the sketched graphics make it a pleasure to look at, and the information regarding each event or place is informative and concise.

  • Events can be filtered by date and location; and interactive maps show event and restaurant locations.

  • You can call venues from within the app, buy tickets and look on a map to see where the venue is.

  • You can also tap to see more information about the place, such as the address and what else is going on there.

  • Throw in audio tours, you can walk with Calvin Trillin to his favorite restaurants in and around Chinatown, accompany Peter Schjeldahl through the Frick Collection, take a vintage shopping trip with Patricia Marx, and tour the High Line with Paul Goldberger.

  • Content are written by reputable critics and writers. The restaurant reviews are by the paper’s Table for Two columnists, so the recommendations come from those who are well informed about the city.
  • details of future events and the writers pointing you towards their personal favourite places

Cons

  • Being a free product, it does contain ads

Smile factor

Reputable insider information, with audio tours.

The Verdict

It’s certainly a handy app for New Yorkers and visitors to have around, and while simple, it’s a great guide that could help you find exciting things to do.

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4. NOT FOR TOURIST NEW YORK (NFT)

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Unique Feature NFT has a coolness factor often missing in most run-of-the mill travel guides. The information is honest, anecdotal and for the most part, on par with our own opinions.

Features Automatic location recognition • 3 different options of Categories: Neighborhood, categories, and Guides & Favorites • Time of the day • Other Cities which you can purchase

Pros

  • When you open the app, you are presented the top picks of your location, with four different tabs: coffee, nightlife, hotels and what’s close.

  • When you tap on the top left icon, you will be given a choice of categories or neighborhoods to choose from. You can also select a neighborhood, and the list will update with the recommended places in that neighborhood. The categories include Top Picks, Restaurants, Nightlife, Shopping, Landmarks, Libraries, Farmers Markets and Museums. You can also Search for a place in this section.

  • It’s really useful to have a short, one liner description for the places listed. You can decide quickly if you’d like to visit the place or not.

  • The ability to easily find whatever I might be looking for, get the directions, contact information, including websites if available, as well as have it pinpointed on a map without ever looking like I was lost in the first place is pretty useful.

  • Instead of the name of the app, you get to see the iconic NFT guidebook icon at the top bar. You can tap it, to go back to the app home screen.

  • If you tap the top right button, you will be given a list of Guides & Favorites which is broken down into categories like Art Galleries, Billiards, Bookstores, Bowling, Hotels, Landmarks, Nightlife and etc. The downfall here is however, the extra long text that I have to read, to get the recommendations.

  • Information is accessible offline (or in airplane mode)

  • All listings feature an address, telephone number, price points and an option to bookmark or link to Google maps for directions.

Cons

  • You have to buy each cities at $1.99 each

  • Buttons are tiny, specially the map or slideshow view.

  • The app doesn’t use the standard iOS buttons or iOS standard display.

  • The tabs – coffee, nightlife, hotels and what’s close – are a little bit confusing. I thought it was a list of filters for the list of places shown, specially since the app isn’t using the standard iOS buttons or iOS standard display.

  • Once you are in map view screen, there isn’t a back button or a back option. To get back to the descriptions of the place, you have to tap the drop pin and tap on the pop up box, then you’ll get back to the description screen. A little bit of extra steps there.

  • Not updated frequently, and descriptions are inconsistent. They are not available for all listings, and the ones that are vary from great information to poorly written, out of date, inaccurate portrayals.

  • Long text to read on recommendations under the Guides & favorites screen.

  • Some listings are not linked to reviews.

  • You cannot link to the GPS function and do a search “close by” without an Internet connection.

Smile factor

Honest, local insider information.

The Verdict

I don’t really care for it I’m afraid as I hate reading long texts on my phone. It’s as good as reading yelp reviews, sans the conflicting and subjective opinions. Furthermore, the app isn’t as intuitive as Urban Daddy or Wallpaper, takes some getting used to.

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 Which app(s) am I keeping?

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Wallpaper* and The Next Move by UrbanDaddy, the former because of the high design and beautiful pictures, which makes me want to be in the places listed, and the latter because of its entertainment, engagement and anticipation values.

Next week, I’ll be comparing these two with Scvgr and Gogobot.

 

by Natashia Tjandra

Clickable mockups help by short-circuiting the process. They allow us to start with an idea and then jump to the end and see why it works or doesn’t work. That’s possible because clickable mockups seem almost-real in user studies, so we can get great data with a fraction of the work.

BrandenKowitz. Shortening the build-measure-learn cycle with clickable mockups.

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I’m sold on testing with high fidelity mock ups. For me it’s really useful and it cuts the time that I had to figure out what’s working and what’s not, just like what Kowitz wrote. 

The quote above reminds me of a reading that was assigned for another class – Krug’s Usability testing on 10 cents a day. He drew a chart to outline and demonstrate the difference between one test on 8 persons, and two tests for 3 persons, and the problems found. He concluded that it’s better to test twice with less number of people than doing one test with many people. The reason being that you can find the unseen problems in phase one of testing the second time round, making it more efficient.  

Also this particular paragraph really stick with me: 

"Testing reminds you that not everyone thinks the way you do, knows what you know, uses  the web the way you do.

I used to say that the best  way to think  about testing was that it was like travel: a  broadening experience. It reminds you how different and the same people are, and gives you a fresh perspective on things. But I finally realized that testing is really more like having friends visiting from out of town. Inevitably, as you make the tourist rounds with them, you see things about your home town that you usually don’t notice because you’re so used to  them. And at the same time, you realize that a lot of things that you take for granted aren’t obvious to everybody.” 

- Steve Krug. P.134.

This quote is so true. During user testings, in my first phase of fidelity mockups, I didn’t include any descriptions for the icons on the tabs. The minimalist in me took it for granted that since it’s the standard iOS icons, everybody would know what they mean. Turns out there was a considerable pause before tapping the icons, as if they aren’t sure if the icons still function the same way. 

 

Best Weather App(s) Part 2. by Natashia Tjandra

Last week we compared Good Weather, Haze, and Swackett. And Good Weather came in as the top weather app – it’s functional and fun at the same time. I love the entertainment, anticipation and discovery aspects of the app. It makes me want to launch the app everyday, just to find out the different games that goes with the current conditions.

This week, we’ll look at three more and see how they measure up against Good Weather. First up is Fahrenheit.

4. FAHRENHEIT

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Unique Feature The only weather app that displays the current temperature of any location right on your iPhone/iPad Home Screen. It uses the push notification service to push current temperature,

which makes it possible to always automatically have the up-to-date temperature displayed in the red badge at the top-right of the Fahrenheit icon on your Home Screen. The temperature is displayed on the app icon as the (red) icon badge.

Features Current conditions along with temperature, humidity, air pressure, dew point temperature, feels like temperature • 3-hourly clouds radar (up to 2 days) • 10 day forecast • Maximum and minimum temperature per day • Wind direction per day • Weather condition per day • Precipitation per day • Sunrise/sunset • UV Index • 3-hourly forecast for 10 days • 3-hourly condition and temperature for 10 days

Pros

  • Simple and easy to use interface.
  • Fahrenheit keeps things simple but informative with a 10-day forecast, each day showing high/low temps and a general summary: “overcast and rain,” “partly cloudy,” and the like.

  • You can tap any day to expand a full forecast, complete with UV index, wind speeds, sunrise/sunset times, and temps/conditions in three-hour intervals.

  • If you are like me, with troubles of spelling the notoriously tricky word “Fahrenheit”, this app will help learn to spell it – it’s forever present on your screen.

Cons

  • It is not possible to display the temperature in Celsius. You have to download the Celsius application instead.

Smile factor

It displays the current temperature as an icon badge, in other words, now you and I can finally have a temperature gauge right on your home screen. Without launching the app.

The Verdict

Fahrenheit is practical and powerful, with basic weather information. Should I’d like a more in depth weather information, the app provides an impressive detailed overview with its array of real time information from anywhere around the world. But what is convincing me to keep it, is its ability to display the temperature on my home screen, without me having to launch the app.

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5. SOLAR

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Unique Feature A one-of-a-kind interactive UI and experience. Instead of simply displaying the weather forecast for you, Solar will display different information based on gestures. Don’t get what I mean? See Pros.

Features Current conditions along with temperature, weather, date and time • Multiple locations/cities • High and low temperature • 3-day forecast • Unlock color themes

Pros

  • Gestures based UI and experience. For example, swiping up with scroll through the 24-hr forecast, swiping down will display the 3 day forecast, and swiping left/right will switch between locations.

  • The main screen of Solar is a simple gradient of colors that represent the time of day and weather conditions.

  • The bottom of the main screen displays the location. The upper right corner displays the time, date, conditions and temperature.

  • Swipe down, the 3 day forecast will slide down from the top of the screen. Each day includes the day of the week, high and low, and an icon that represents that day’s conditions.

  • What’s fun about this main screen is that if you don’t touch it, the colors will subtly pulsate to add slight movement to the background.

  • The best gestural based feature though is (drum roll please): as you swipe up SLOWLY, a little analog clock will display in the up right hand corner that represent the current time you are looking up. The digital clock display will also adjust as your scroll. If you scroll slow enough, you can look at every single minute over the next 24 hours hours. As you scroll through time, the temperature will adjust to the forecast and the background colors will also change to match the time/condition.

  • The pinch-to-zoom gesture will let you view up to four different locations at a time.

  • Swipe through multiple pages for locations.

  • You unlock color themes if you launch Solar often enough

Cons

  • If you need a weather app that clearly displays specific information in a traditional format, then Solar is not for you.

  • Not the most efficient way to get your 24-hr weather conditions

Smile factor

The somewhat mesmerizing, swiping up SLOWLY feature, that changes the analog clock and background. See it in action here.

The Verdict

Although Solar is definitely not for everyone, it’s still awesome for many. I’m a sucker for unique, clever UI’s that are exciting to use. And for that reason, Solar is a strong contender.

The iTunes description for Solar actually sums it beautifully, so instead of trying to find a clever way of restating it, I’m just going to share it here:

No vector polygons, no dew point calibration and it won’t remind you to wear a jacket. Just radiant, Rothko-esque colorscapes in a very simply designed, interactive weather forecast app.

A modern tech-cessory for the aesthetically-inspired, new-fashioned adventurer.

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6. WEATHER MOB

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Unique Feature Social network integration to an informative and usually utilitarian app. It lets you express and share the weather around you, how it makes you feel and what it makes you want to do. And “discuss” the weather with people on your network or strangers on weather mob.

Features Weather Videos and photos • Comment and Love • Weather reporting which allows you to record a video, take photos, icons and comments • Facebook and Twitter sharing • Current conditions along with temperature, weather, date and time

Pros

  • Easy to use weather reporting to make your own weather reports with as much or as little detail as you like

  • See weather videos and photos from other users near you, or from your friends and favourite places around the world

  • Eight-day and hourly forecasts

  • Instant sharing to Facebook and Twitter

  • Interact with friends through giving and receiving love and comments

  • Earn points and titles for talking about the weather – be the Bureau Chief for your zipcode / postcode

  • Beautiful intuitive design

Cons

  • No 24-hr weather conditions

Smile factor

Going through other people’s “weather reports” – videos, comments, photos and icons.

The Verdict

Weathermob is a useful – and usable – social weather app, combining real time human reports alongside traditional weather forecast information hour-by-hour for the next eight days. If you ever secretly wanted to be a weatherman or woman, now is your chance.

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THE WINNER OF THE BEST WEATHER APP.
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From the 12 weather apps that I downloaded and tested, I can conclude that weather apps tend to fall into two main categories – packed with information or very minimal. Some apps put everything, right on the main screen so you can absorb tonnes of information at a glance. Others hide away everything but the essentials, either let you dig deeper when you want to, or eschew complexity entirely. What’s clear is that there are a ton of different takes. Some use buttons, some use gestures. Some are static, others dynamic. Some try to match weather with mood, others prefer a dashboard look. Some go for a full-on digital look, while others stick to more real-world analogs. In many cases, the diversity is as thoughtful as it is impressive.

As much as I love interactive and one-of-a-kind UX and interacting with my friends on Facebook, I’ve decided to crown Good Weather as the winner. Fahrenheit came second. I ended up keeping both of them. The former for its entertainment and engagement value, while the latter for its practicality – getting the information that I want without having to launch the app.