Some quick UX suggestions for Jolla

Everybody is tweeting about #JollaSpec, and a lot of UX suggestions were already posted. It is time to post my own suggestions :

Be intuitive

Being intuitive is a bit vague, so I will just deal with two or three points that I really want to emphasize.

Intuitive gesture

While I was a kid, I had a toy telephone, and I used to pick-it and put it near my ear in order to answer. And when I grew up, that is what I have done with all the telephones I have got, when suddenly, mobiles phones came out, and I lost this intuitive, and naive gesture that is just “pick my phone, put it near my ear, and talk”.

I understand that, in order to save battery, and because these devices are small, they cannot embed some fancy sensors that can detect the ear. That was until the iPhone came. But the iPhone did not profit from it’s proximity sensor to reenable this gesture.

I had to wait until 2012 that Digia release an app for my N950, easy answer, in order to get this gesture back. The only drawback of that app is that the phone is still ringing for about 1s while put near the ear, making me temporary deaf. With all the battery of sensors that a modern smartphone have, it should be easy to have this gesture instead of some big buttons on a touch screen that do not work with gloves, or that can be accidentally triggered while searching for the phone in a bag.

Unified swipe

More related to UI now (and not UX), there was always something I feel wrong with Nokia’s swipe UI, it is it’s inconsistency about going back and closing apps.

Today, all smartphones interfaces are based on a page stack. A first page with a list of options bring the user to a second page, and to a third etc. When the user want to go back, there is always a back button, either a key, as on android or windows phone, or a software key, like on the iPhone, and  Meego swipe. That’s good for navigating in an application, but when you have to close or minimize it, confusion starts.

On Android and WP, while you are on the main page of an application, pressing the back button bring you to the home screen, closing the application. That’s good ! Intuitively, an application can be seen as a page that is stacked over the home screen. Pressing back is just removing this page, so going back to the home screen. But when you stacked a lot of pages, it become quite tedious to quit the application, and you have to press again and again in order to remove everything from this stack.

And sometimes, you just don’t want to remove a page from a stack.WP browser is quite clever most of the time. When you launch it, it restores the last page that you were visiting. But how to close it ? You have to press back, and then going through the browsing history (that can also be seen as different pages stacked). Basically you just loose the page you were on. It is nearly impossible to close the browser on a page you want to read later ! Fortunately, there is a “home” button that can be used. But then, the app is simply minimized, not closed. So, you have a choice : either close the app, but loosing the page you are currently on, or minimizing it, loosing battery life. The second option seems to be better, but I want to have all the options …

Meego swipe, and the iPhone give this choice, but bring a split between going back and exiting an app. It is quite unintuitive that you have to exit an app by swiping, or clicking on the close button on iPhone, but that you are going back by pressing a software button.

My idea is just to keep the idea of a stack of pages, a bit like what Blackberry is doing with BB10 :

Blackberry 10 “cards”

I did not used any Blackberry dev alpha device yet, but it seems to be possible to navigate through the page stack by swiping from the left to the right.

My idea is to unify Nokia swipe and Blackberry cards. Here is an awfully drawn picture to illustrate that :

Swipe ++ : an unified swipe gesture to minimize applications and go back

The application is not displayed fullscreen. Instead of that, there is always a small thumbnail of the homescreen, and the other pages in the stack. When a swipe gesture is initiated from a page, all pages that are covering this one are pused out. You can minimize an application by pushing the pages that are covering the home screen, or go back by pushing out the latest page.

The close gesture from Nokia Meego can be added to (swipe from top to bottom), so all the operations, that are going back, minimizing, and closing, can be done with the same gesture.

Be intelligent

Strangely, we are calling smartphones devices that are quite dumb. There is no intelligence in most of them, except, maybe, from the iPhone’s Siri, or Android Jelly Bean. But even Siri, and Android failed to do something that is quite trivial to accomplish, yet very convenient : guessing habits.

When I go to university, I always turn the mobile to silent mode, and I restore it while leaving. But, sometimes I forget, and it ring during a course, or I miss an important call in the metro. And then, I really want to shout at my N950 : “I do this nearly all the time, but you are still passive, why you don’t understand ?!”. But it is just a small aluminium brick, it won’t understand.

What if it was able to do that ? If my phone collects some statistics, (and do not send them to Google or Facebook and co), and learn from that. What if, suddenly, it was able to displaying a popup like : “I have found that you are in EPFL, based on GPS and Wifi, I know that at EPFL, you always want me to be in silent mode, I’m doing this right now !”. This would be wonderful.

And no, this is not science fiction. Most of the tools are here to do that : statistical tools for guessing correlations between events, a huge battery of sensors, enough processing power and storage. Only a good app, that is able to have a good use of all of these features is missing. If Jolla brings it, it is definitely a gamebreaker.

UI wise, this intelligent daemon may take form of some notifications, or better, something that can be integrated in a notification drawer as on Android, or the Event view in Nokia Meego, listing all the rules that were learned, and asking the user to confirm them if the phone is not unsure. Of cause, the user may still revoke them, if suddenly, these rules are not valid anymore.

There is plenty room of improvement in the mobile world. As I said, the so called smartphones are still quite dumb, and I guess that they are going to be smarter and smarter.

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14 thoughts on “Some quick UX suggestions for Jolla

  1. Was your point with phone intelligence to fully automate the features (e.g. profile changes) or perhaps to only give suggestions to the user based on usage statistics?

    Because while fully automated “intelligence” would suit nicely to some situations, they wouldn’t necessarily be perfect for everyone. To me at least the best scenario would be a kind of semi automation, where the phone based on statistical analysis would suggest these changes to the e.g. profiles and alarms and user could then very easily agree with these changes when the time is right.

    Nokia tried something like this with nokia bots, but I don’t think they quite nailed it with that. If e.g. profile switching would be only semi-automated, the guessing could be much more sensitive to different situations and would be able to suggest different scenarios simultaneously.

    Some features e.g. bluetooth, could also be fully automated with statistically generated or user adjustable rules, or preferably with both. The user adjustable rules have been done quite well in ProfileMatic for N9, but as I mentioned before, this could be taken further if the rules didn’t completely automate things, but rather just prompted user to approve of the changes when appropriate.

    The “smart” phone could for example suggest me to switch to timed silent profile and set alarm (up to which the silent profile would only last) based on day and time. This way the phone suggest the change, but the user effectively decides the starting time of the change. And even smarter phone could also then give me the possibility to easily change one or more parameters of the suggestion and then learn from the changes for future suggestions.

  2. That “smart” function would be nice in theory, but really it would be a huge battery drain for something not really that important.

  3. Oh I’m exactly in the same state of mind than you dare n how a smartphone should be smarter nowadays.

    On the location-based automatic actions, I have an App for that on my N9 using both time, cell id location (not GPS so no drained battery) and WLAN (and idle) to change my profile (ringing, beep, silent), IM account availability, flight mode, power saving mode, bluetooth, network mode, stand-by screen mode, etc.
    For the cell ID location, it’s pretty clever as you can ask the app to collect the cell ids on a specific location (all your office for example as it can be covered my several cells) and apply on it rules on the previously quoted modes.

    If you want to look into this app, go there : http://n9-apps.com/profilematic/

    But I agree with you that it should be directly intigrated in the OS, to be more user-friendly and seamless, by adding more info of your everyday usage as your calendar, etc.

    I think Google is going in that direction with Google Now that give you current information on what you are currently doing, meaning that they have already mix together all the info they can have on you. And that’s great! I would be more than keen to give more info if it ease my everyday actions. No real step from Apple on that direction for the moment as they are not improving Siri that much on iOS6

    Let’s then hope that the future Jolla Smartphone will be disruptive enought on that point as among others of course 🙂

  4. Profilmatic is great but I think that you have to have better integration in the system.
    Let me give another example. I always open the note app in the supermarket. Maybe the phone can guess this and suggest me to open the note containing the shopping list.
    And I think that the phone must still stay under the control of it’s master, even if it might suggest some stuff.

  5. You can look at webos on Pre 3 and see how stacks, multitasking and gesture are perfectly made and implemented. I used webos for 3 years and it is perfect in every way, except number of apps ;(

    I would love to try a N9 as it look very interesting too. Jolla must go this way.

        • You will be glad to know that I’m writing an article about “swipe” in many OS, where I will talk about palm as well 🙂 BTW you should definitely get an N9, or at least, go to swipe.nokia.com to see a demo.

      • I’ve seen many demo of the swipe, I discovered the N9 when it was launch, but living in France it was hard to find and expansive. But I would love to try one or get one (I might someday). But the lack of app make me think it will end like my pixi+ and pre3 (in the garage !). I bought a Lumia 800 which I think is very intuitive and has everything I need but I can’t take my eyes of this N9.

        Good to see you’are writing about Palm Webos (and not HP webos) and can’t wait to read it. I like your writings. Good job.

        • I discovered how webOS multitask work yesterday. It was interesting, but I don’t know much about palm for sure. Currently, it is more to discuss about swipe than talking about the companies.
          Well, how many apps do you use on the L800 ? For me, I only have ~20 apps on the N950, and it is largely enough. I don’t need the fart app, or the macdo, I prefer robust apps that can do everything.

      • I aree with you on everything you said. don’t talk about the company, just the OS of course. I said Pal because the innovation became from Palm and not HP.

        I don’t use carp apps either and 20 or 30 is enough for sure. Here is what I “need”.

        – Spotify with playback and overlay button to change songs without enterring the app
        – Instapaper
        – Linkedin
        – Viadeo (a french Linkedin)
        – Wikipedia
        – CIC (my bank account)
        – Dropbox
        – Flickr
        – Google reader
        – Ebook reader
        – App french news magazines (Le Monde, Le Figaro, Libération)
        – Viméo
        – and some others very specific

        I know what you will answer as I am writing it down “everthing of this is on the N9 or use the browser for specific use”. And you might be right !

  6. Things are looking up a last! Really looking forward to MeeGo, tho’ I doubt it’ll be ready by September. Adn it would also be interesting if there was a formal input procedure for the UX/ UI side of things, because tio be honest I don’t think anyone has got it even close to right yet (Symbian Ann was pretty good but Belle was a slight backwards step). For example, I assume that “swipe to answer” is to prevent accidental answering- but swiping is actually more difficult that pressing a button. I tend to pick up my phone by it’s back and sides, so I actually don’t like swiping to answer.

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