Good UX

Details Matter, Even the Subtle Ones [Good UX]

Product Background

While Apple has had their fair share of design missteps, Apple has remarkable product design consistency not only across products, but across platforms as well. 

User Experience

Most smartphone users are familiar with the “blue bubbles” that indicate whether a given message is an iMessage versus a light green which indicates a normal text message. This style is consistent across all iDevices (iPhone, Mac, iPad, etc.). More info at Apple, but image below.

This color scheme is also on display in Apple’s support conducted via web chat as seen in the image below, even down to my response “messages” being the exact same color grey as those in an actual iMessage conversation. 

This is a remarkable detail to get right, even at a company like Apple that prides itself on a consistent user experience. This design choice likely creates a higher degree of trust as well as the opportunity for the user to stay within Apple’s carefully curated user experience garden. 

Compare this to Intercom’s chat (which now looks eerily similar to iMessage) or to Zendesk’s chat platform, and imagine if Apple used Zendesk’s messaging platform for support. It would take the user out of the Apple “experience”, which even for just a moment, hurts the world Apple has created and attempts to maintain. 

Garbage In, Good Design Out [Good UX]

Product Background

I had the chance to travel to Utrecht in the Netherlands this past summer and one of my favorite examples of good design that I found there was actually a trash can and recycling wall!

User Experience

Normally, after enjoying a meal at a fast food restaurant where the patrons clean their own tables, the moment comes for each diner to awkwardly attempt to empty their tray into the trash can without touching the lid that separates the trash can from the interior of the restaurant.

This problem has been solved with the receptacle relocated to the top of the trash can to a certain extent, but many restaurants still use the old standby with the opening on the side with a vertically swinging door.

This restaurant cleverly put a handle that, when pulled, automatically opens the trash can door. This is a superior design in that it allows users to avoid touching the garbage receptacle door and instead use a lever to open the door further. This design could be improved even further if the handle had anti-microbial coating on it.

The recycling wall behind the trash can also provides a much more interesting and artistic way of recycling glass bottles than throwing them in a bin.

Optimizing Driver Ability to Find Parking Spots [Good UX]

Product Background

  • While E-Commerce has generally solved the problem of leaving your house for most material goods, sometimes you still need to head to a restaurant or mall, and in most of the United States, that means hopping in your car, driving to your destination and attempting to find a parking spot.

  • This last step can take a substantial amount of time, not because there are no spaces available, but because it is difficult to spot the spaces that are open.

  • On a recent visit to the UTC Mall in La Jolla, they have come with a fairly simple and helpful solution to this problem.

  • While I did not measure the time it took to find a spot, I would wager that the time saved for each driver in finding a spot is inversely proportional to the current level of parking garage availability.

    • For example, if the garage is 90% full, it will take significantly longer to find a spot than if it is 50% full, which makes the information displayed all the more valuable in shortening the search.

User Experience

Let’s walk through the experience image by image. It is much easier to see the details if you open the images in a new tab.

  1. In this parking garage, there are multiple sections and within those sections are rows of parking spots. In the first image, we can see the first “section” sign with a “13” illuminated, indicating that there are 13 spots in this “section”, eliminating the guesswork.

    1. In an ideal world, this would also take into account the cars currently in the section, but not yet parked, as this edge case could potentially fill all of the spots moments later while still showing spots available at the time that the driver turns into the section. There could also be a unknown fudge factor already employed to correct for this.

  2. Stepping into the “section”, we can see spot availability by row, which also accounts for the left and right sub-rows. In the first row, on the left you can see 0 spots available, which is nicely designed with a red X to utilize preconceived notions around color and X lacking availability. On the right, you can see that there is 1 spot available. Zooming in, you can see this pattern of availability all the way down the rows in this section.

  3. Within each row are sensors that determine which spots are filled as well as display parking spot availability after the driver has turned down the row. This is better seen in Image 4.

  4. Here you can see that the first two sensor blocks are Red, while the 3rd is green, and that there is a space in that block on the left side.

  5. Finally, in Image 5, we can see that the row now has 0 spots available on both sides, which allows the driver to continue without looking down either side to the next section with available spots.

Dynamic spot availability will also likely be a necessity if parking lots are to be helpful in a world of autonomous cars.

Anticipating & Preemptively Addressing User Needs at Costco & Inside Safari [Good UX]

Product Background

  • Good products are similar to good teachers - they know the subject material so well that they anticipate where students/users will face challenges and provide guidance at exactly the right time.

  • Acting on this principle is often difficult for product teams because they understand the product so well, it is challenging to determine where a basic user might stumble or take an action that is sub-optimal.

  • If we as product managers can find those moments, they are often moments that surprise and delight users.

User Experience

Two great examples of this, one from Costco, and one from Safari on MacOS:

  • Costco Gasoline Pump Open / Busy Indicator

    • Forgive the blurry picture, but at a Costco in San Diego, an Open/Busy LED illustrates to cars waiting in line which pumps are open or busy.

    • This is often difficult for a car not in the next position to determine for their line or the lines adjacent to theirs.

    • In theory, this proactively answers the question of whether the car two pumps ahead of mine has just pulled out, speeding up the process of gas buyers filling the next available pump station.

    • This is the first and only Costco, let alone gas station, where I have seen this indicator.

  • Safari User Prompt When Bookmarking Google

    • If as a user I try to create a bookmark for Google, Safari prompts the user that they can already search Google via the address bar without adding a bookmark.

    • This is interesting in a couple respects:

      • It is contextually aware of the goal that the user is trying to accomplish with the bookmark (searching), not just the content of the bookmark (Google).

      • It recommends the faster way of achieving the goal (searching) via the address bar.

      • And still allows the user to create the bookmark if they so choose.

    • Google appears to be the only search engine where this occurs (Yahoo, Bing, Yelp all did not trigger the prompt). This could actually be due to Safari obtaining a referral fee for searches from the address bar to Google whereas they do not receive any fee if it is from a Google address.