The Kingston University mobile app
Learnability, visibility, efficiency of use, error recovery and user satisfaction are fundamental principles for the design and implementation of an effective user interface. Based on user and task observations, overall comments and usability specifications review, we created a proposal for the redesign of the “Kingston University Mobile App” application. For the purposes of this brief, part of the presentation of the High-Fi prototypes is available on Screencast.
For the creation of the iOS GUI mockups we have used “Evolus Pencil” prototyping application. To provide the interactivity needed, the Hi-Fi prototypes were then imported in “Balsamiq”.
As duplicated information exists in the original app (“Print credit” is one example), the redesign of the home screen focused largely in a more appropriate categorization of information for efficient and consistent use. In the original application the "LRC" Home Screen section features access to iCat, the Print credit, Contact Information and Opening Times. In the new design, the Print Credit is accessed by "My account" and LRC information can be found in the "Places" section. “Student Services” has replaced the “Contact” original section and provides additional functionality. The original “Find” section, that provided information about open access room availability and contacts directory information, has been replaced by two new sections for error-tolerance: “Open access rooms” and “Contacts directory”. This eliminates any confusion that the label “Find” might cause to users.
As developers in a competitive market of mobile applications, we are faced with limitations and overlaps such as rigid UI design patterns for a plethora of mobile devices. Proper planning and research is needed to target potential users and adopt the design and functionality to their chosen device framework.
The final evaluation report showed significant problems in specific areas of the application home screen, such as “Contact” and “Find”. We addressed aesthetic problems, like the monotonous use of blue color and white space in the layout. The misleading use of icon labels also contributed to the user’s dissatisfaction. We also pointed out that critical messages should be provided for every user action and context-sensitive help should be implemented, by providing f.e. a description or displaying guiding explanation for completing some of the steps required for the completion of a task.
More specifically, during our evaluation session we went through the main areas and inspected several aspects regarding the following list of usability heuristics (Nielsen et al 2006, p. 25-62):
- Visibility of system status
- Match between system and the real world
- User control and freedom
- Consistency and standards
- Error prevention
- Recognition rather than recall
- Flexibility and efficiency of use
- Aesthetic and minimalist design
- Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors
- Help and documentation
In our redesign we proposed a user interface that enhanced factors such as efficiency of use and error prevention. As the market grows, there will always be need for further enhancements.