I received my Apple Watch this past Thursday. I chose the space grey Apple Watch sport with the black band, which was worth the wait. It’s fairly subtle, with one person (okay, a kid!) thinking it could be a real watch. Overall, I am impressed with its performance, especially for a v1 device with limited connectivity options. Powered by my iPhone 6, even on LTE instead of wireless, there is very little lag in most apps. However, the remote app has some issues connecting to iTunes libraries. It’s fantastic as a remote for the Apple TV, but very limited and challenging to sync with my computer’s iTunes library.
Performance at home is fantastic. I was able to leave my phone in my bedroom and wander all over my apartment with the watch. I made calls on it of durations between 30 and 40 minutes with no problems. I will say the speakers could be a bit stronger, though. It’s hard to hear people if they’re speaking quietly, or also on speakerphone. Messages and alerts come through in real-time, though. Pleasantly, if you’re interacting with an app on another device you do not receive an alert on the watch. While this makes sense, it isn’t true for the iPhone/iPad, so it was a great software addition that should come to more devices in the family.
I was deeply impressed with its performance in transit. Using Bluetooth, the watch is still connected to your phone so you can change music or get activity updates while underground with no cell service. Where there is cell service, it will push notifications to you. I was expecting the watch to be fairly useless while traveling, but that is certainly not the case.
It’s useful while at work. Again, the performance over LTE has few noticeable lags for any app, apart from maybe 5-10 seconds sometimes for NYT updates. The calendar alerts are fantastic. They pop up 10 minutes before your meeting and let you scroll through all of the meeting details. There’s even an option to email the meeting creator, which is the only email option I’ve seen on the watch so far. The dictation is good enough that I wish they allowed text responses to emails. It would be a really useful update. My biggest frustration while using it at work was when I went out of range for a meeting in a far conference room. I didn’t bring along my phone because the watch was a great substitute, but it didn’t alert me as I was exiting its range. Some sort of notification would be helpful, as it’s challenging to gauge distances, especially inside buildings.
The messages app is delightful to use. Being able to dictate messages makes it extremely functional. However, the feature could be improved by making it easier to edit these messages. I’ve definitely found myself canceling messages and re-dictating them due to one or two incorrect words in places that would make overall comprehension challenging. I would also like to be able to send the messages without having to touch the watch. There currently isn’t a verbal command that lets you send a message. Despite these usability challenges, I still found myself sending the majority of my text messages this weekend using the watch. It’s the easiest way to send text messages I’ve seen so far, though it would definitely be improved by easier (or any!) editing capabilities and a way to send without touching it.
Email is surprisingly functional on the watch. Initially, I assumed it would be just notifications, but you can scroll through the entire email. Not everything renders on the watch, especially graphics, but you can see the entirety of provided text, which is very useful. My biggest pain point when using the email feature was how difficult it was to delete emails. When I clicked on a notification, I had to scroll through the email to get to the delete option. In your mailbox you can swipe for a trash option, but as a notification that only gives you the option to clear notifications. Being able to delete from the notification without scrolling through the whole thing would be a useful addition.
My largest gripe centers around Apple Pay. Figuring out how to add a card to the watch was NOT intuitive. It kept directing me to my phone, but I assumed it was the regular Passbook section. I tried re-adding my card, but it didn’t let me. I had to Google how to do it to find out it was in the Apple Watch app on my phone. Even then, I had to re-verify my card for the watch by calling my credit card company. When I tried to use it at Whole Foods by tapping the button twice it kept telling me it was ready, but ultimately it was unable to make the payment. Obviously, this was pretty frustrating. I ended up using my phone. Seeing as the watch is likely one of Apple’s best chances at making Apple Pay catch on, it’s a shame this was the least intuitive watch experience I had all weekend. This experience should definitely be improved. The Apple Pay on-boarding would have been easier with a diagram clearly illustrating where to go on the phone. The BEST solution would be letting me choose on the watch whether to add the credit cards from my phone. I don’t see why I need to go through the phone. I’m not sure why it doesn’t work in stores, but that’s definitely a huge issue that needs to get fixed.
The native activity app is interesting. I’ve given it a small amount of information and it’s been making attempts to inspire me to greater efforts. I personally am not a super active person, but what I like about the activity app as it exists currently is that it works with you. It’s not being overly critical or alerting me too frequently, both of which would result in me turning it off. It’s sitting there in the background letting me know when I’ve hit a goal or reminding me when to stand up. I don’t listen to every stand reminder, but I’ve listened to more than I’ve ignored. I’m curious to see if it changes my behavior over time. It’s definitely a much better way to interact with this information than the Health app on the iPhone, which I’ve always found oddly buggy.
Of the 3rd party apps I’ve interacted with so far on the device, I’m most impressed with the New York Times app. They’ve done a wonderful job of creating a new kind of article specifically for the watch. Some articles feature just a headline, some have pictures, and some have 1-2 sentences. It’s a fun surprise to scroll through them a few times a day. I do hope in the future it’s possible to read full shorter articles on the device, but I understand their choice and think it makes a lot of sense for the watch that exists today. 95% of my interaction with the NYT iPhone app is through notifications, so NYT on the watch is an ideal match. Now I actually get more information with the brief articles and images. I prefer the tablet for actual reading, but again I would be interested in having a more email-like experience for the NYT.
While I was initially unimpressed with the battery life, it was fine over the weekend. It does drain my phone battery faster, BUT it means I’m spending significantly less time on my phone so that evens it out for the most part. Like all Apple devices, I would appreciate a longer battery life, but I will say it survives a 12-hour day much better than the iPhone. Having the two devices has made it possible to have weekend days without airplane mode or constant recharging. Speaking of charging, I wish it were possible to wear the watch while charging it. One of the best use cases for me so far has been using the watch to act as an Apple TV remote. I do most of my Apple TV watching at night, so it would be great to be able to plug it in and continue using it. I’m also curious about the watch’s potential as an alarm, given that the taptic feedback might be a more pleasant way to wake up.
At this stage, I would rate the Apple Watch as a ‘nice to have’. If you, like me, own the whole family of devices and upgrade pretty regularly, go for it. It’s an awesome addition to the family, and you’ll find a lot of unexpected uses for it. I think it needs to be able to stand alone, ideally by v2. However, it’s still challenging enough to use that I wouldn’t recommend it to my parents just yet. I do think it will get there, and I will definitely be keeping mine and not returning it. Its best uses for me are: messaging, Apple TV remote, email, and keeping me off my iPhone (supposedly the #1 secret purpose). Those are important enough things in my life that I find value in a device that improves my access to them.
Note to Apple: I would be happy to put a $5 data share plan on it so I could leave my phone behind while at conferences, meetings, bars, parties, etc.
by Kathleen Henning
While interviewing participants about online shopping habits, regardless of the product, the same issues appear:
I don’t know if it’s true to size
Will this fit?
Is this item good quality?
Will it be as pictured?
What is it made of?
These are the questions that determine whether or not they will make a purchase. Many customers, if they do not get satisfactory answers to these questions, will choose to either locate the item in stores or simply purchase something else from a competitor.
When customers are researching products online, they’re trying to understand what the product would look like in person. There are a variety of ways they currently expect companies to help them do this, but their main research method is customer reviews. They’re looking for information about the quality, the fit, the size, the accuracy of the photos, etc. They’re also looking to see if the reviewer is someone like them. In our research, we’ve found that some users really value a reviewer profile with some demographic details (i.e. age, location, style, size, etc.). Users also appreciate retailer efforts to aggregate some of this information, like the size charts Nordstrom and Amazon use.
Recently, retailers have started providing customers with some of this information on their own, like the features and fit. The most critical element of any website trying to sell tangible products is a good zoom feature. If someone is looking to buy clothes, shoes, or furniture, they want to get an up close view. They may want to buy it online, but they’re looking for the feeling of seeing it in person. The more they can see of the item, the more likely they will be to purchase it online. Some websites, like Saks Fifth Avenue and West Elm, have videos of the products available for purchase that show the product ‘in motion’. Customers find this to be very helpful.
When trying to better understand fit, customers are looking to retailers for support. Some users have mentioned that they find it helpful when the site tells them the height of the model and the size he / she is wearing. Others use services like Fit Predictor, available at Saks Fifth Avenue and other department stores. This uses your size in brands you have purchased to determine your size in other brands and different items. The FitPredictor predicts the right size for you based on what size you wear for other brands. For example, if you wear a size 8 jean from The Gap, then the FitPredictor will predict the correct size jean in the brand you’re shopping.
Companies should think about the fundamental product questions their users have when determining which features to include on the product page. Will these features help users make a purchase decision by addressing common issues such as quality, fit, size, color, etc.? While much of the initial decision about an item is visual and focused on whether it fits a shoppers personal style, the final decision is based on whether customers believe they have a full understanding of how that item will fit into their lives.
Last month, Apple released two new iPhones, both of which represent a significant size increase over the last model. The iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus both come in gold, silver, and space gray models and with capacity of 16 GB, 64 GB, or 128 GB. Apple has improved the camera on both models, though only the 6 Plus has optical image stabilization. Battery life is increased on both, but the 6 Plus offers nearly double the battery life for calls.
I received mine in the mail on release day, and it’s been more of an adjustment than I would have expected. The size is still startling at times, though I opted for the ‘smaller’ 6. The power button has been moved to the side, a big departure from its location on all previous iPods, iPhones, and iPads. Hitting power on the side is still not a natural maneuver, though I now sometimes find myself trying to do it on my iPad. The expanded screen size is more significant than would be immediately apparent. Mobile web browsing is smoother, and it is much easier to read email attachments like PowerPoint and Excel files.
The more rounded shape of the phone is striking, but it’s surprisingly slippery in your hand. Carrying it around with you is somewhat of a challenge, as neither the 6 nor 6 Plus fits in the same places the iPhone 5(S) would have. I found myself purchasing a new small bag so it would fit, since it is definitely not a phone I can keep in my pocket! While I enjoy the new screen for browsing, I sometimes find myself missing the manageable size of the 5S I had before. I had contemplated purchasing a 6 Plus, but I’m very relieved I decided against it.
The new operating system represents another small shift for iOS. Health is now a built-in component, and it’s easy to track your steps. I would enjoy a breakdown by location or time, but I imagine that’s what 3rd party apps are for. Voice and video messages are a neat feature, as is the ability to share your location. All of these features are simple to activate and use, which is a critical part of getting users to adopt them.
With iOS 8, fingerprint banking is starting to look like a possibility. Simple Bank, an online-only bank, has enabled login via fingerprint. As using your fingerprint for ID becomes more normal, it will be interesting to see which companies adopt this model. The fingerprint will be the main ID component of Apple Pay, which should help further normalize the feature.
Apple also introduced the Watch. This will come in two different face sizes and with a variety of different band choices. The feature set is still pretty vague. It will be able to receive and respond to at least some calls, text messages, and emails. It will have access to apps to some degree. The battery life is unknown, as is how much it can do away from an iPhone, which is required for some functionality. What is known is that it will be connected to Apple Pay and have some additional check in abilities, like at airports and hotels. The current launch date is ‘early 2015’ so hopefully as that approaches more details become available.
The big question mark still remaining is Apple Pay. When does it launch? Current rumors have the date as October 20th. How quickly will merchants be added? Will it trickle down to smaller companies and businesses? When will Apple allow 3rd party access to NFC? I’m sure I’m not alone in my curiosity here. Our recent series on mobile payments concluded that while there are some better and some worse options, there isn’t a game changer. This is the first real entrant that has that possibility, so I’m excited to see how this plays out.
by Phil McGuinness
A hot topic right now in mobile user experience is the debate between providing an HTML5 web app versus a more traditional Native OS app. Simply put, HTML5 is a method of programming a mobile website to behave like an app (think m.youtube.com) which can be accessed through any modern tablet or smartphone browser. Conversely, apps written for a Native OS are developed to run directly on Android or iOS smartphones (they are designed for each native platform), and must be downloaded through the GooglePlay Store or Apple App Store. Both approaches are a great way to provide web content to smartphone and tablet users, and they each have their own strengths and weaknesses. Which of these approaches is right for your business? At Key Lime Interactive, we are exploring this question in depth, and have key information to help you make the right decision.
From a development standpoint, HTML5 is the clear winner in both cost and flexibility. If your business has a website, it’s a given that you already have programmers on hand who can write HTML5 code. In addition, your programmers will only have to program the basic code once. Of course, during QA testing some minor edits will need to be made in order to support different browsers and browser versions in the marketplace such as Chrome, Safari, Explorer and more. It’s also important to note that since your code lives on the web rather than on a user’s device, you can make changes on the fly without having to roll out a new application update via an App Store update every time you make a change.
If you decide to make a Native OS app, you will need to hire a team who know the specific language for each operating system, or a jack-of-all-trades programmer who knows all of the relevant languages. These programming skills are much less common, and therefore, can be more expensive, than HTML5-only developers. In order to provide a robust and compelling experience for each OS, you’ll need someone who understands the nuances of each platform. This requires a developer who can write for each operating system, and that’s no small task. If you decide to go the path of a a Native OS app then you’re developing for both Android and iOS and that means you’re now doubling every step of the cycle, including programming, testing/QA, and maintaining the code. When it comes time to update your apps, you’ll also need to release an update two versions via the GooglePlay Store or the Apple App Store.Publishing via either store requires approval before your app can be made available for download.
So why use the Native OS app approach at all you might ask? It sounds expensive AND time consuming. We would submit that developing for a Native OS platform is the right choice. This approach excels at something that we at KLI hold near and dear to our hearts: you guessed it, user experience! Currently, an HTML5 mobile site compete to a Native OS app in look, feel, functionality, and overall speed. Of course, Android and iOS platforms have quirks which make for a unique user experience on each device but the robust and rich UX is worth the price of admission. See our previous article for a detailed discussion about how Android users can be alienated by seemingly insignificant design choices. When building an HTML5 web app to be standardized across all devices, you lose the custom feel ofa Native OS app.
The functionality advantage for Native OS apps comes partially from a better support system – not only from Apple and Google – but from the online community of app programmers – and also from the apps being installed directly on the device. This allows easy access to smartphone features such as the camera, calendar, or contacts. HTML5 web apps are starting to add these functionalities as programmers begin to develop clever new approaches, but equivalency is a long way off at this point in time. Finally, it is well known throughout the industry that the HTML5 web apps react significantly slower than Native OS apps in both UI and load speed. These factors combine to create a smoother, faster, and more intuitive user experience for a Native OS app. The other main areas differences between these two approaches relate to security, monetization, and accessibility, which will vary in importance can be depending on what you want from your app. Native OS apps have better security since the code and URL strings are not accessible like they are in an HTML5 web app. If you happen to want your app to be accessible online, you’ll need to stick with Native OS. To rely on an existing app store for monetization, you’ll need to either build a Native OS app, or use a program like PhoneGap to “wrap” your HTML5 web app to make it appear as an app in the app store that users can download, although it only behaves as a link to the web app itself. Of course, selling your app through an app store means giving away a cut of the profit to the owner of that store/ HTML5 web apps allows you to create your own monetization strategy and avoid the App Store fees.
In conclusion, it takes careful consideration of your business, and knowledge of each approach to make the right decision for you. Do you need a less expensive, low-frills, dynamic experience? If so, an HTML5 web app would be the best approach for you. However, if your major concerns are usability, performance, and security, and you have a little room in your development budget, then a Native OS approach is the way to go. In our opinion, until HTML5 can catch up to the user experience provided by Native OS apps, enterprise companies will almost always want to represent themselves with Native OS apps for the enhanced usability and unparaelleled user experience. In the coming months, Key Lime Interactive will be conducting a study to measure the current user experience of HTML5 web apps, so stay tuned for more detailed information in a future newsletter.
Once upon a time…
In the first century of the 3rd millennium (aka the 21st century) the world was full of websites designed and developed with high-speed internet access in mind. Then one day, mobile feature phones were introduced: Palm, Inc. (remember them?), Kyocera 6035 and the HP iPaq h6315 look. Today they look like something from the dark ages! It wasn’t until 2009 that a few companies started noting mobile phone usage rising and started to develop their own mobile initiatives. At that time, data networks had far slower speeds. Designers were faced with a problem: they needed to allow the small screen carrying “on-the-go” user access to their content without frustration.
The solution: Native apps and m.sites were born. Brilliant. Limited function to be viewed in this mobile context. It made complete sense. Traditional websites and mobile solutions lived independently and happily One of our clients said then “all we want is a mobile site that looks like our contemporary [then mid-90s!] website.”.
But, then one day the K48 (the iPad) and other tablets joined the list of available offerings for both home and on-the-go users. Android and more recently Win8 tablets followed suit and here we are on the edge of a holiday season where the tablet is the number one gift. The tablets that were introduced had screen sizes that weren’t quite as large as a super-sized widescreen monitor and weren’t quite as tiny as a smartphone. Designers stopped in their tracks and considered a new challenge: Do we continue to design a solution for every form factor that emerges or is it possible to try to find a way to make our websites accessible AND user friendly across all form factors?
Ethan Marcotte, a thought-leader for the design industry published a concept and coined the phrase “responsive web design” (RWD) as a viable solution. His solution was not simply a response to varying display sizes, browsers, speeds (also known as “adaptive web layout”), it was a response by using a particular approach involving three critical components: fluid grids, flexible images and media queries.
For companies ready to start from the very beginning and make their content available across all devices, Marcotte’s RWD approach made perfect sense. They could follow his steps to build a somewhat one-size-fits-most solution.
However the companies who had already spent a great deal of time and energy creating those separate independent solutions scratched their heads – do we start from the very beginning and develop a truly responsive web design OR do we work to use what we’ve developed to date and create an adaptive web layout? The debate began and designers began to grapple with the advantages and disadvantages, they presented them to business stakeholders and business goals and budgets became part of the decision making process.
Eventually, the conversation got louder and more complex. We started to be brought in as consumer insight and usability experts to advise on the best way to make the end users happy. Key Lime Interactive’s considerations.
So what advice do we give? In short, we agree with some of the others that there is no one-sized fits all solution. Every project has to be evaluated individually and the most effective techniques need to be applied accordingly. We can see the strengths of adaptive design for established groups and responsive design for folks starting fresh, who have the resources and budget.
Most importantly, from a user perspective: It doesn’t always matter! Jeffrey Zeldman proposed in mid-2011 that the design community should broaden the term “responsive design” “to cover any approach that delivers elegant visual experiences regardless of the size of the user’s display and the limitations or capabilities of the device.” The key phrase: “elegant visual experience” resonates with us as we advise our clients. A quick quiz:
If you’re in a position to determine which direction your company should go, start by taking this short quiz as you begin the conversation. Keep your score!
1) My Current Properties:
a) I already have both a traditional and mobile site and satisfaction metrics are high for each
b) I’m starting fresh/early stages because I have no properties in place at present and/or I’m looking for something new or my satisfaction metrics are low.
2) My Support:
a) I have the capacity to hire out or to self-maintain a few different website versions.
b) I have the expertise in house (or the funds to hire out) to utilize the necessary toolkits (fluid grids, flexible images, media queries) and I prefer to maintain one site once it’s been built.
3) KEY QUESTION – The Context:
a) My user’s experience through mobile or tablets should be different than the experience they encounter via the traditional web because the context of mobile use demands different features and/or I need for my users to have a really amazing desktop experience that cannot be reduced by the least common denominators.
b) Reformatting our traditional site to fit the mobile web or tablets will work quite nicely for my offering. I understand when I resize to fit all, compromises are occasionally made, and this is ok! Scoring:
If you answered mostly “a’s” you’re leaning toward Adaptive Layout Design
If you answered mostly “b’s” you’re leaning toward Responsive Web Design
As a consumer and user research consultancy, we weigh question 3 far more heavily than the others – so ultimately, the direction that you choose for question 3 should be the direction that you investigate most.