Sunday, July 8, 2007

EQO Mobile (part 1)

EQO Mobile is a J2ME application that allows you to use your data and local calling plan to make international calls. See EQO's How it Works page for details.

Version: 1.0.5
Phone: Nokia 6260

EQO's website recognized my phone as I visited their download page with my phone's mobile browser. That's a very nice thing, and expected in this day and age. I accessed the same mobile download page, get.eqo.com with my other phone and was prompted with a cumbersome selection flow. (I had to first select my manufacturer from a drop-down list, and then the model number from a loooong list of radio buttons, with no apparent way to skip to my specific model number.)

Heuristic: Visibility of System Status

Representation of System Status is extremely important in HCI. Users quickly become very frustrated and distrustful of a system that doesn't constantly show what it is doing. This is especially true for time-consuming interactions, or interactions that result in a critical outcome (such as deleting files, or making a data connection).

EQO seems to do some of this well, but some of it not as well.

Good
: The "Offline" text under the "EQO Mobile" header clearly lets me know I'm not online. The accompanying black & white 'offline' EQO logo to the right does the same thing.

Bad: I have no indication other than the fact that the Right Selection Key (RSK) says "Cancel" that anything is actually happening. The "Offline" text should change to "Connecting..." and there should be some kind of visual/graphical animated feedback. If there are any important distinctive stages in the EQO connection process, each stage should be represented by the text and animation.
Update July 10th, 2007
EQO Customer Evangelist, Chris, commented in reference to the "Bad" entry above. An excerpt from his comment follows.
"...you should see a "Connecting..." at the top of the screen when connecting"
I am happy to report I tested this with a Nokia 6233 to find Chris was correct. In fact, not only did the text update, but the EQO logo slowly blinked from gray to colored (to indicate the process of connecting). That turns the "Bad" into "Good" for the UI Thread.

There may be software bugs that prevented the text/icon being updated on the Nokia 6260, but the UI design seems to have been on par.

Thank you Chris and EQO for letting us know!
Good: Of the three top icons: the phone, the envelope, and the chat cloud, the phone is visually distinctive. This indicates I'm in the phone function, and maps to the sub-header, "Phonebook."

Bad: It's not really clear what I can do with the phone...especially if I'm offline and seem to be in the middle of an unknown operation.

Heuristic: Consistency and Standards

Consistency is a very solid design principle, enabling a UI to become intuitive and easy to navigate. Textual consistency--the mapping of labels to actions--is essential when building user's expectations about how the system will work.

Bad: Mobile UIs often use small icons corresponding to characters on the handset's keypad. In EQOs case, "#" is used as a supporting icon for "Dial Number." This doesn't actually correspond to the "#" on the keypad, and therefore goes against consistent standards.

This icon should have been incorporated into the object zone somehow, or not used at all. Perhaps even stylizing the icon so it didn't look like the standard keypad mapping icon would also improve on the problem.

Bad: The "Dial Number" object appears to be highlighted. However, there isn't a Selection Key (SK) that consistently maps to the action of dialing a number. The closest thing is the Right Selection Key (RSK) "Call."

It's quite unclear what this key would do, given the fact that no number has been entered.

Although not a consistency issue per se, it's also important to mention that "Options" should not be the most prominent default action in most cases. Let's see which options are available...

Heuristic: Efficiency of Use

A self-explanatory heuristic, Efficiency of Use is admittedly difficult to achieve on mobile devices. This is due, mostly in part, to limited screen space and potential many functions. EQO seems to have taken the easy way out of this challenging design problem, and put everything under an "Options" list.

Bad: "My Contacts" and "EQO Status" aren't truly options in the UI sense of the word. Options are usually settings related, or sometimes groups of actions. "My Account," "Settings" and "Exit" fit a bit better in this context.

"My Contacts" would seemingly be built in to the UI in the appropriate places, at the appropriate times. For example, during a call initiation interaction or message composing.

If EQO Status is what it sounds like it is, it should be obvious in the UI itself. (Once again, Visibility of System Status.)


A far worse example of breaking the Efficiency of Use heuristic is preventing simple navigation.

Users should never have to drill down into options menus for something as simple as backing up.

This touches on the Consistency and Standards heuristic again as well. Selecting "Back" actually brings the user back to the 'home page' of the Phonebook, which would show available contacts.
More to come...

Labels: , ,

14 Comments:

At July 9, 2007 at 10:37 PM , Blogger Chris said...

Hello sir, very interesting read. We at EQO are really looking forward to your next post and are definitely taking some of your comments to heart.

In reference to your first "Bad", you should see a "Connecting..." at the top of the screen when connecting. This must be a bug on your particular phone model and we'll look into it.

Cheers,

Chris
EQO Customer Evangelist

 
At July 10, 2007 at 10:56 PM , Blogger jdmoore said...

Hi Chris.

Thank you for your comment.

Cody and I just opened up the UI Thread, and are pleased you found it of use.

I updated my post to include your information.

Please look forward to further posts on your application.

Best regards,

JD Moore
The UI Thread

 
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