Of Personal Projects, Present and Planned

Public Announcement: I have a logo! The wonderful designer behind the TTP logo is Elaine Tai, a dear friend and an awesome web-everything. She's currently an apprentice at Galvanize's g-school, but you can find her on Twitter. I've been getting back to my mobile roots and experimenting with two very different platforms: Android and Windows Phone. My work is centered around iOS, so I want to familiarize myself with the interactions and design paradigms of these two platforms to supplement that.

Please note, all assets belong to their respective owners but the designs are mine. I don't know the Legalese needed, but all references to Windows Phone and its UI belong to Microsoft; references to Holo UI and Android belong to Google; and finally, Southwest Airlines and Rapid Rewards to Southwest.

Southwest on Windows Phone: One thing that I love about the design language of Windows Phone is how flexible it is in accommodating other brands. I used Southwest's existing mobile as a blueprint and built wireframes for a bare bones port to Windows Phone. In addition to that, I tweaked some of the information architecture around to follow the 20/80 rule (show the 20% of the functions users use 80% of the time).


Android Music Wrapper: Remember this rant? This one too? I wanted to take a pass at designing what the software to wrap around all my services would look like on Android, so this is the first draft of the application. It doesn't have a catchy name, but it's a work in progress


Please please please share any feedback you have with me! I want to let these sit and rest for a while before I iterate on them, but anything you have would be great. I'm definitely still learning as a designer, and I hope that in time these wireframes won't even be recognizeable with how different they'll be from the final products.

Those are things that I've been doing on my personal time, and in addition to working on these I have some thoughts that have been brewing in my head thanks to IxD13 and its inspiring talks. In addition to those ideas, I'd love to experiment with designing for B2G and go back to trying my hand at webOS. But here's what I've been thinking about:

  • The Flying Experience: Why is it that traveling is just AWFUL? Part of it is the experience of the airport. Yes, we will always need to go through Security, but what about the check-in process? Can mobile tech help make this better? Some airlines have QR codes for tickets, but what if we could eliminate the ticket altogether? What would that look like?
  • Museum Exhibit 2.0 - This is inspired by the talk from the incredible minds behind the Royal Ontario Museum's Incredible Dinosaurs exhibit as well as the Doctor Who Experience. I'm a bit of a museum nerd, and I'd love to use mobile to take an already inspiring experience and enhance it. I don't quite know what kind of exhibit just yet, but I want to try!

That's all I've got for now, but once again, please take a look and let me know what you think! These are just version 1.0, there's quite a long way to go on both.

Two Months with a One X

I was an early adopter of Windows Phone 7 with the Samsung Focus (I would have gotten an HTC device if I could have, but I wasn't impressed with the HTC Surround, AT&T's only HTC device running WP7), and by the time I was done with it the poor device had been dropped and thrown around and put through the paces of a power user adjusting to the growing pains of a fresh product. I like Metro quite a lot; as annoyed as I was with it as time went on, it is a beautiful visual style and I think that once Microsoft has taken the next two or three product cycles to refine it that it will definitely attract enough users away from the aged feel of iOS and developers to build a robust enough app store to seal the deal. Needless to say, I was very happy to go back to Android - ICS is much more appealing  visually than Froyo, and it was time to try something new. I say new only because the last time I was on Android was on the developer G1 waaaay back in 2009 when Android was first released. Being a big fan of HTC, I was so glad that AT&T finally announced the One X and got it when my upgrade was available. I call my beauty Trinity.
My overall verdict? I'm pretty happy, but not as happy as I wish I was.
Here's what I really use my phone for:
  • Music: I use Spotify, Last.FM, and Google Play daily. Whether I'm at the gym or driving to work, I'm relying on Trinity to blast my tunes.
  • Email: Work and personal get pushed to Trinity so I can keep up with the latest bug fixes and keep an eye on my personal account for any messages from my dad and other important people.
  • Browsing: I was surprised to find that this is the thing I do most on the phone. During the work day, I find articles that I want to read, so I push it to Trinity using the Chrome to Phone extension to read it later. Makes waiting go much slower. 
  • Gaming: Temple Run and Fruit Ninja are my games of choice when I'm bored, but this is more like a secondary task.
I can do everything I want, but I'm not happy with my phone. In terms of the hardware, my only complaint is the lack of a dedicated hardware camera button - it takes several steps to actually take a picture on Trinity (unlock phone, tap on camera app, take the picture), and if there's a better way, I have yet to discover it. Admittedly, I do like the fact that my camera doesn't sometimes get activated in my pocket the way my Samsung Focus used to do.
But the software...
WebOS has forever ruined all notification systems for me. Jellybean's notifications might come close to it (I'll have to confirm this since Trinity is still on ICS), but the simplicity of webOS notifications in the lock screen and while the phone is in use is just beautiful. Windows Phone's lock screen notifications weren't as useful since they were icons, but displaying my next meeting and the music player are above and beyond Sense's implementation.
I like Android overall. Any apps I have found on the Apple App Store have mostly been available on Google Play. But I am still left feeling dissatisfied with my phone, something I chalk up to HTC's skinning of Android. Were I a braver person I'd root the device and push stock Android on there, but I seem to be very good at screwing up things like that. So for now, I'll keep using Trinity while secretly lusting after the Galaxy Nexus and its pure Jellybean experience. 

Teletechnophiliac 2.0

It's been a long time since I've written in here, and I realized that the way I was approaching this blog wasn't quite working for me - it ended being less of the spontaneous user experience talk and more of a research-a-topic-and-analyze.

So I'm starting again, and this time I hope I'll be more successful in keeping up with this.

A lot of my devices have changed since I last posted - I'm currently rocking a beautiful HTC One X (I call her Trinity) and have taken quite a liking to the iPad 3 I'm using for my job. The majority of the time I'm actually on one of these devices - the only reason I turn to my Mac is for instant messaging in the evening.

My phone is usually at my side all the time no matter what I'm doing or what device I'm working with, but I've got it on silent all the time since most of the day I'm at work in meetings. This has led to quite a few missed calls from concerned parents, hurried searches around the apartment, and desperate requests to friends to call me so I can locate it.

I wish my phone were smart enough to know when to pipe up and when not to.

Setting sounds is a manual operation on the major mobile OSes, whether it's dedicated hardware buttons or diving into the Settings app and turning the phone on silent. How often do people remember to turn it back on though? People are currently forced to remember that their phone is on silent and to undo it when they're okay with getting audio alerts.

Well then why not make the smartphone 'smarter' and have the user experience seem like the phone can learn when to turn sound on or off? If I'm in a meeting with my boss for example, I probably don't want to know about the text message about my plans for the weekend. It's one of the most common use cases I can think of off the top of my head, but the only way I could see it working is having audio settings as an option in my Calendar events on the phone. In this way, I could tie my phone's silence to a time period.

But that's not the whole picture there: when I take a step back and think about, the first question to ask is "why do people turn their phones on silent?". There are a ton of answers to that boil down to "I'm busy and I can't be interrupted". But there are different things that people are willing to be interrupted for, and what happens when they stop being busy?

Oh the research possibilities.

For the time being, getting my phone to turn the ringer on automatically not baked into my phone, so I'll just have to keep hunting for Trinity and keep trying to remember to turn the ringer on in the evening.