I’m working on an iPhone app, called Urban Survivor, that alerts the user when they enter an area with a high crime rating. A prominent feature of this app is a panic button, that when pressed calls 911. Going through the process of designing the UI, I couldn’t help but notice that I was making the panic feature really stand out. As you can see from the wireframe below, the panic button is a big, centered, offset button.
The logic behind this is simple, if it’s an emergency you should be able to get to the panic button really quickly. Tapping the panic button, brings the user to a dedicated screen with nothing but a big red button.
So here is a relatively major feature UI wise, it has it’s own dedicated screen, and overpowers the nav. However, this feature will rarely be used (hopefully never). Thinking about it like this, makes its dominance seem really illogical. When would it ever be ok to make a feature that will be used sparingly so visually dominant?
The answer is, when the presence of the feature is in of itself a benefit to the user. I would argue that the true benefit of a panic button is the illusion of comfort that its presence provides. Knowing that it is there when you need adds the real value. For example, a machine operator gains some comfort in knowing that there is a big, red stop button right next to him. Even though the operator may never end up using it, its mere presence has an impact. The opposite holds true as well. I would be a little hesitant to use a piece of machinery where the emergency stop button was a small, black button tucked away with all the other controls.
So in conclusion, it makes sense to make a feature visually dominant, even when it is not going to be used very often, because its presence alone adds value to the user.
Had this idea for an app a little while back, thought I would share it. I want to be able to share where I’m going to be with my friends. Foursquare is great for telling friends where i am now, but by the time my friends actually see it I’m most of the time already gone. I’m constantly texting friends on a Friday night asking them what their plans are and if they want to hang out. It would be nice if I could open up an app and see where all my friends are gonna be, when they are gonna be there, and how long they are gonna be there for. Then I could just tap a button that would notify them that I’m joining them. Once I arrive at the destination my friend is automatically notified that I am here. The logic behind sharing where you are gonna be is that in doing so you are saying, “I’ll be here, you are welcome to join me”. Obviously you could set who could see the post since sometimes you only want to hangout with certain people. I think this would eliminate the countless txts sent back and forth trying to figure out what my friend’s plans are. Arrived sort of does this but I think it falls a bit short. Perhaps soon I will write a post about these shortcomings and some possible solutions.
Anyway, just an idea I had.
Oink is a great app for the iPhone and has a beautiful UI, however I’ve noticed a few issues.
A useless screen
When you look at the highlighted icon below, where do you think it will take you?
If you said a profile page you’re wrong. It takes you here:
This seems counter-intuitive, because this button clearly says,”Hey tap me to go to your profile, where your picture and all your stats/activity are” However to get to that screen you have to tap the “Profile” button and then tap, “Your Activity”. Why have that extra step? Well, because there are two other options that need a place, “Your To-Dos” and “Settings”. However I think there are better places to put these buttons. Let’s start with, “Settings”.
Since in the settings you can edit your profile information, it would make sense to put a settings button on the profile screen. Like this:
A gear is a common symbol for settings, and if the user wants to edit their profile they should be able to get to those settings right from the profile screen.
Since To-Does are things that the user has already discovered, but have yet to try, it makes sense to have the “To-Does” button in the Discover section. This way the user can easily discover new things, and see things they have already discovered but still need to try out. Here is a example of a way to implement that:
Doing this simplifies the UI and makes the experience more intuitive. It also eliminates a screen that is otherwise pretty worthless.
The “Back” button on the profile screen is also no longer needed
A side note: Having the word, “Back” on a back button is pretty redundant. The text should provide a context to what the user is going back to.
Removing that screen and reducing the necessary steps to get to features will streamline the user’s experience.