Thursday, October 17, 2013

UI: Remember Accessibility

So, this morning I started going over the latest guidelines for designing for iOS7. Hoo boy. I ran into issues within the first few screenshots. The new look and feel is designed to be flat, non-diagetic, non-skeumorphic, AND is too low-contrast to be really friendly to many many folks with eye issues. I myself am cursed with a pair of eyes I sometimes wish I could re-roll the stats on, and I could tell that the new font choices were a recipe for eye strain. They made them taller and spindlier and removed the subtle drop shadows that had helped them contrast against backgrounds.

Not only did the new font choice look problematic, but the samples they gave touting best practices often went for low-contrast looks. The Weather app displayed the weather on top of a lovely picture of a sky, complete with clouds. White text on partially white background? You are not making this easy for us, Apple. It didn't improve as I got down a little further to a section labelled Let color simplify the UI. Now, I'm a big fan of appropriate uses of color to signpost information BUT one has to consider that not everyone can perceive differences in colour. Obviously there are folks with colour blindness and I often like to use colour as a secondary marker for that reason alone. But then they actually suggest that the yellow highlight colour in Notes is a good example of this. I took a look at the screenshot and squinted. And squinted some more. I'm NOT colour blind. I can see them, but MAN, that's a recipe for eye strain right there, making those icons yellow on light grey.

That's just my mediocre eyes. There are folks with worse issues. An online acquaintance has a father with contrast loss, and she detailed his issues in this post where she explains that even navigating the unlock screen is now difficult for him. It's nigh impossible for him to get into his settings to change things around.

I think it might behoove Apple and other developers to preserve high-contrast skins of their OS and apps. Design isn't solely about making things look good, it's about retaining functionality and enhancing useability while doing so.

Sunday, September 8, 2013

UX-UI In Daily Life

Case Study: The Rental Car

John and I recently moved back to the Seattle area after living in SF. We had sold our car upon moving to San Francisco, and haven't yet replaced it. But our friends' children were having a birthday party in Olympia and we thought it would be a great chance to hang out and catch up. So I set about snagging a car for the weekend. I initially checked out Avis, because we'd booked with them for our Hawaii trip, but thought I would look into Hertz as well. Here's what I noticed:

(Click on images to see full-size.) Avis's site is less appealing with a static picture of a man by a car not clearly shown. (When I went back for screenshots, they'd replaced this man with a picture of their BMW contest winner.) Hertz alternates pictures of adventures (mountains, boat docks, family picnic) with a shot of a sample car clearly shown. Avis's boxy and constrained layout felt cramped, while Hertz's site promised a journey on the open road.

Hertz has a book-as-guest vs. a book-as-member option, clearly reminding users that they aren't necessarily logged in. Such a pet peeve to lose all my info entered upon log-in. Hertz tackles that here by reminding the user that they can login now. Avis just has a continue button, leading to the common mistake of entering all the info first and then getting the option to log-in, which may or may not clear things and reset forms.

Hertz smartly infers when an overnight drop-off is wanted, gives user option and info, Avis does not, halts process.

Breadcrumbs at top: Hertz wins again, for large clearly signposted breadcrumbs in the registration process, each with it's identifying marker. Avis: Small breadcrumbs, less obvious, and only a single label to tell which page you are on. If you need to go back in the process, you can tell exactly where with the Hertz breadcrumbs, but with Avis, you might need to guess.

Car lists: Hertz wins for me personally here because they show the cars and car types, in large open boxes that have all the detail I need plus clearly marked boxes that show me the difference in paying later vs. now. The Avis site is slightly more slickly designed here, but you have to manually select a car to see what it looks like and what seems like it was intended to be sleek and streamlined actually just turns into a wall of stat choices with no context. I preferred the more open layout of the Hertz list as I can see the cars easily by scrolling and don't have to open and close drop-downs.

Avis did just note that I'd stepped away from my session. I had a choice of whether or not to keep the session. Dunno what happens if it times out, but at least it signposts that the server may need to refresh information.

Things I'd like to see, but haven't interacted enough with the site to know: cookied information, so you can edit at any point in the registration process without losing ALL the entered info.

Anyway, this is just off the top of my head so far, not super in-depth. But I was trying to figure out why the Avis site wasn't appealing to me as much even though I have and had previous positive knowledge of Avis. (Avis rescued us in SF, and they are our rental car for Hawaii.) In the end, Hertz ended up winning me over for this car rental. Some of that was the cost, but some of it was also the design, and how easy they made it for me to compare prices.