A UX Designer posted a usability question on a Stackoverflow forum:
“I’m working on a iPad project with a linear process. At the moment I have a ‘linked’ style navigation sat at the top [right of the screen] in the ‘navigation bar’. I’ve been doing some early test and the verdict is inconclusive. Any Ideas for an alliterative navigation?”
When I first saw the mockup (see at right) a Windows Installaton Wizard came to my mind. A Wizard is a user interface type that presents a user with a sequence of dialog boxes that lead the user through a series of well-defined steps (Wikipedia).
The Play Around
As the project was about the iPad, I thought it would be interesting to do some research on Wizards in Apple’s iOS Human Interface Guidelines, a must-read manual that every user interface designer should download and read carefully before starting a UX project for iPad or iPhone.
To be honest I couldn’t find any Wizards or any similar user interface in the manual. But I did found some very interesting usability guidelines that I would like to share with you:
- Start Instantly. It’s often said that people spend no more than a minute or two evaluating a new app. To make the most of this short time you have, you need to provide them with useful content immediately. It will not only grab the interest of new users, but it will also give all users a better user experience.
- Minimize the Effort Required for User Input. “Inputting information takes time and attention, whether people tap controls or use the keyboard. If your application requires a lot of user input before anything useful happens, that input slows people down and can discourage them from using your app.”
- Delay a login requirement for as long as possible. It’s best when users can navigate through much of your app and use some of its functionality without logging in. For example, App Store doesn’t ask users to log in until they decide to buy something. Users often abandon apps that force them to log in before they can do anything useful.
- De-emphasize Settings. “Avoid including settings in your application if you can. Users cannot open the settings application without first closing your application, and you don’t want to encourage this action. When you design your application to function the way most of your users expect, you decrease the need for settings.”
- Defer to Content. Although crisp, beautiful user interface and fluid motion are highlights of the iOS experience, the user’s content is at its heart.
“To sum up: Apple wants the user to play with the app but not with the settings.”
However this doesn’t mean that settings shouldn’t be used at all. In fact, at Apple they state that you can “decrease the need for settings when you design your app the way most of your users expect”. Find below how a Wizard would look like in a “Real State” iOS app mockup that I did as a sample.
As you can tell, a Wizard will add a new hassle to the list of hassles that we already have:
- New Hassle: User will need to go through a Wizard before he can use the app.
- Typing is harder in touchscreen devices with no physical keyboard.
- Small screens make the interaction more difficult (fat-finger problems).
- Mobile/tablets are used in everyday life for short periods of time: traffic jam, underground, waiting time, etc…
If there is no need for so many settings, how can we defocus settings when building an app ? Again, Apple’s HCI Guidelines to the rescue:
- Focus on the needs of 80 percent of your users. When you do this, most people won’t have to supply any settings, because the app is already set up to behave the way they expect. If there is functionality that only a few users might want—or that most users might want only once—leave it out.
- Get as much information as possible from other sources. If you can use any of the information people supply in built-in app or device settings, query the system for these values; don’t ask people to enter them again.
- If you must ask for setup information, prompt people to enter it within your app. Then, store this information as soon as possible (potentially, in your app’s settings). This way, people aren’t forced to switch to settings before they get the chance to enjoy your app. If people need to make changes to this information later, they can go to the app’s settings at any time.
Extra guideline of my own:
- Balance pre-default settings with your business goals. Most of the time usability doesn´t comes hand in hand with business goals. Although all the people would expect no settings at all, you need to be aware as a UX designer which business requirements should go before your users’ likes.
“The mockup I pasted below shows an iOS app user journey that follows the Human Computer Interface Guidelines from Apple.”
- App Store: User taps install button and app starts installing.
- Real State App: User launches the app and immediatly they can take a look at some apartments.
- Settings: User can always go back to settings and change the app setup if needed.