Sunday, March 09, 2014

Visual design is nothing without UX design

This is a break from my usual, more technical posts, indulge me for a moment.

So, I was looking at Etsy on one of my Android tablets as I'd remembered it being highlighted as an example of an extremely well designed app. What follows is my experience as a first time user.

  • I opened the app fine and was immediately shown trending content. Good, no barrier to use, no awkward tutorials and no unnecessary sign up/registration before it was needed.
  • I eventually came across something that I thought would make a good present and was quite cheap (at just £12.43). I decided to mark it as a favourite so I could come back to it later if I did decide I wanted to buy it. The empty heart shaped in the top corner looked just the thing I needed.
  • Tapping on the heart prompted me to sign in or register. As I was only just starting to engage with the app and its content it would have been nice to save my favourites locally on that device without the need to first register. Oh well.
  • During registration one of the required fields was for "Email or Username". As I started to enter my email address I thought it odd that the @ symbol wasn't promoted on the keyboard. Never mind I thought and entered my email address only to be told that I'd entered illegal characters for that field. :( I therefore couldn't enter my email address here (I'd already included it in the "email" field anyway so just chose a username. Why make me choose a username? All the ones I'd usually use had already been taken so I'll probably forget it anyway.
  • After registering and marking the item as a favourite I returned to the trending list and continued to browse. As I did so I noticed that the items I was now scrolling to had prices listed in USD, while previously they'd been in GBP. I scrolled back up and there was a definite change slightly after the item I had been looking at while registering. Having a suspicion what had happened I went looking for the app settings. There I found a setting for currency that was set to USD and not the "Device default" of GBP. It seems that after registering on a device configured for "English (UK)", being used in England (if they done a geo-IP lookup) and after registering with an email address that has a "" domain they thought to change my currency setting to USD. How thoughtful?
  • So, after a bit more browsing I decided I would purchase the item I had looked at earlier. The item could be personalised so I looked how this was specified and was told it was done as part of the checkout process. So off I went to pay.
  • At the checkout everything had switched again to USD, presumably because I was buying from a US retailer but it would be good to have this made clear to me.
  • I chose PayPal as an option (nice to see on a mobile device as it meant I didn't have to enter as many details-card, address, etc.) And completed my purchase.
  • At this point I realised I hadn't been given personalisation options. Never mind, I'll just contact the seller and send them the details. I found how to do this easily but I couldn't send the message. It seems that you can't contact the person an order has been placed with until my email address had been confirmed. Yes, they'll take my money and place my order without verifying my email address, but ask a question about the purchase I've made. That's obviously a no no. They'd made access to email an artificial barrier to a secondary task. in this instance this was particularly frustrating as I didn't have access to the email account I'd registered with on the device I was using. (Admittedly I use a wide array of devices way in excess of what normal people do and I don't keep all my email accounts configured on all devices. - As it becomes more common for people to use a wider array of devices in their lives expect this to be a bigger issue.)
  • Eventually I got everything sorted and even had email acknowledgement that my order had shipped later the same day.
So what about the app overall?

Technically it's a good app: interesting content, no bugs or performance issues that I could see. Just the need for a bit of refinement.

Sadly, we're still in a position where the best apps aren't truly amazing.

Visually, yes it's a good looking app with lots of rich engraving visual content. My experience with using it through was not as good as it could (should?) have been.

Remember, "design" is too broad a word with too many meanings to be helpful on its own. What something does and how it is to use is almost always more important than how it looks.


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