Moo Flickr Mini Cards + Getting Real

moo cards
Moo Flickr Mini Cards launched recently, as you may have read elsewhere. I’m stoked to see so many people checking them out and enjoying them because I had the pleasure of working with the Moo Team on the design of the service.
It was interesting that Signals vs Noise wrote them up, because the design process that Moo undertook is really quite similar to the Getting Real methodology that the 37 Signals guys espouse.
Moo took a really inclusive and user centric approach to the development of this interface – doing user research and testing in a range of different environments throughout the design and development lifecycle. It’s really great to see that some of the things that we at Flow found when we were working with them are now part of the design – and it’s been great to see the design evolve over time as more and more people got involved in the Moo project.
So, designing, and developing and feedback were locked into a really fast and iterative process – and the end result is a process of selecting, designing and ordering cards that is – I think, and others seem to agree – really easy and enjoyable.
Based on what I know of their ethos and approach, I feel confident that Moo will continue to evolve and improve the interface and user experience of Moo Flickr Mini Cards over time.
It’s been really great working with the guys at Moo because of the responsiveness and user centric approach that they’ve taken to this project. I look forward to seeing how this product evolves and where else Moo shows up – they’re a really smart crew, doing really smart work! Yay Moo! :)
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FlickrMaps a failure?

FlickrMaps
It’s been interesting to see the mixed reaction that FlickrMaps has received since it’s recent launch. After all, it’s such a cool idea, to be able to show on a map where you took your photo, and see what the rest of the world looks like through other people’s eyes. It’s like Google Earth with a few hundred thousand personalities. Beautiful.
Oh and, of course, it’s a mashup, so it must be cool!
This is what Flickr told us to expect from FlickrMaps:
FlickrMaps
See, there’s your local park, and that’s about where the statue is that’s in your photo. Drag your photo there. Very cool.
Here’s what it’s like in London.
London on FlickrMaps
Yes, you know London, in the UK. That city with a population of population 7.3 million, inhabiting an area of 174 sq km. Here’s the map that Flickr/Yahoo give me to position my photos on. Forget about the park, I can’t even find my suburb.
And, as you can imagine, it’s not much more fun in Sydney.
Sydney Map on Flickr
Yes, at a stretch, there are satellite maps that you can use in these locations that give you more granularity… but nowhere near the precision of streetmaps. And not what Flickr promised.How have the people of London responded?
London FlickrMaps photos

Pretty underwhelming really, isn’t it.

There is more to this than just the US-Centric product focus. There are also some pretty significant (in my opinion) flaws with the way that the Map service has been designed.

Let me start by saying that once you *find* the map section, then adding your photos to the map (assuming there is a decent map of the where you took your photo) is a real pleasure.

But here’s the problem – when are you *most* likely to add locations to your image?

I’d hazard a guess (and it is only a guess, perhaps Flickr have user research to show differently), but I’d guess that it would be at the point that you’re uploading your photos. I don’t know about you, but that’s pretty much the only time that I add things like tags to my photos. And it’s when I’m uploading a bunch of photos that I might think about putting them into a set.

(Again, this is dangerous business, looking at your own behaviour and theorising that everyone else’s behaviour is the same… so I’d be interested to hear how/when you add tags or make sets… and at what points you think you’d add geotagging to your photos).

Alas, while you’re uploading your photos, and even once you’ve uploaded them, there’s no hint of the map.

When I went to explore FlickrMaps this morning, I literally felt as though I was hunting for them. Where was the first place that I went? Well, to the detail page of one of my photos, of course. I was sure I’d find a call to action asking me to put my un-mapped photo on the map. Nope.

Eventually I got to – ‘oooh, the organiser’. Perhaps it’s there.
And there it was.

So, I find the Maps either because I’m hunting for it, or because I happen upon it. This means that I’m unlikely to geo-tag very many photos.

And, as demonstrated by the map of London and number of uploads, it seems that not so many people *are* geo-tagging their photos.

BUT – things may not be as they seem. Did you notice that strange paging device on the map? This one:

Map Pages

Do you get it? I sure don’t. Maps and pages… what is this? An atlas? (See it in context in the image at the top of this post)

After playing with it a while I learned that if I clicked on the arrows to the left or right I got to see the map refresh and show me different numbers of photos uploaded in different locations. Apparently this is a page.

Now, am I just being thick, or does the concept of ‘pages’ just make no sense at all on a map like this? I don’t know about you, I’m basing my expectations on the other Yahoo and Google Map mashups with all the masses of pins poking out all over the place. And no pages.

I can’t even begin to get my head around what a page might mean in this context… what goes on one page and not another? And playing with the pages didn’t clear things up for me either.

I can’t think that these pages are helping the situation any though, because according to this widget there are 3.5 million images that have been geo-tagged. That’s a pretty impressive number.

Go play with the map though, and tell me where all these images are… I sure can’t find anywhere near that many. I’ve played around with England, NSW (Australia) and East Coast USA and I don’t reckon I’ve seen more than three thousand photos on the map (and that’s erring on the generous side).

So, has FlickrMaps been a failure so far? Well, if you define success by uptake, then I’d say the jury is out.
If there have been 3.5 million photos geo-tagged in the last couple of weeks, then you’d be a hard judge to call that a failure.
But, if that is the case… then I’ve never seen something successful look so much like a failure.
Come on Flickr. Don’t be hiding your light under a bushel.
Let’s see those 3.5 million geo-tagged photos and where they’re at. Let’s see the FlickrMap phenomenon come to life. And let’s get more people geo-tagging by thinking about how we can seduce them into geo-tagging at the moments when they’re most likely to participate.
Oh, and to everyone in ‘the Valley’. Please don’t forget about us, your loyal customers, from *all over the world*!
Update: Dave (Heller) Malouf has an interesting post with his evaluation of  FlickrMaps here. Check it out.

Firefox is driving me bonkers (my accident prone tab closing experiences)

Firefox
I keep accidentally closing my tabs in Firefox, and it’s driving me mad!
Dan Saffer and Fred Sampson have been talking about Firefox’s recent experimentation with close buttons. It seems that Firefox have been playing around the close button, including moving it from the right to the left and back to the right side of the tab.
All I can say is that I never accidentally closed a tab before those x’s turned up on the right of the tab, and I do it *all* the time now, and it *really* annoys me!
At least in the older version when I hit the ‘x’ and I was closing a set of tabs, Firefox would check to make sure I wasn’t doing something crazy.
Now I’m sure I miss out on lots of interesting reading because I’ve opened up a tab for something I plan to get to later, and then I accidentally close it – and I don’t even know what it was!
Does anyone else do this or am I being a bit of a moron?
For me it’s such an unconscious thing – it’s like the X is calling me and saying ‘click me! click me!’ – and so I do! I’m not even sure what I’m trying to do when I click it… I think a lot of the time I’m going to navigate to another tab.
It seems wrong that I can do something so irretrievable so easily. There’s no way (that I know of) that I can find out what that tab was holding for me once it’s gone… yet, I can understand how frustrating it would become to have to confirm that, Yes, I really do want to close that tab everytime I consciously tried to close one.
I know that the left hand side isn’t perhaps the most logical/conventional place to put the red X, but I think that extra bit of thought ‘what is that X doing there? oh, it’s delete’, would definitely save me from making this mistake all the time.
Either that, or some how let me do a Control+Z and undo my delete… or something that can let me find that damn page that I obviously wanted to read and now is lost for ever (or, until I stumble upon it again).
And, while I’m whining about this version of Firefox … I can’t *tell* you how many time’s it’s crashed while I’ve been using WordPress. They’re not playing nicely at all. I think I do more saving than writing these days! It seems to particularly hate when I’d doing anything with an image.
Mercifully, there is the ‘resume session’ option offered when you re-launch the browser. Now, there’s an utter godsend. All I need now is something like that for when I accidentally close a tab!
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when to use drag & drop (some informal research results)

One of the great challenges of Interaction Design these days is that we now have a plethora of new ways to design interaction on the web than we did just a few short years ago. Drag and drop is probably one of the best – creating a sense of empowerment over the interface that can sometimes result in an almost joyful user experience.

Despite the fact that we’ve been designing with drag and drop for a while now, it’s taken this long for me to have the opportunity to do some good solid user testing with users comparing drag and drop with more traditional interaction styles. That is … clicking :)

In the test that were we performing we were (amongst other things) examining the use of drag and drop and clicking to perform two types of tasks: to select objects and place them onto a stage, and to manipulate objects on a stage.

One interface used drag and drop for both tasks. One interface used click to select and drag and drop to manipulate.

When users were interacting with the prototype that used drag and drop for both functions it was common for them to make unsolicited comments about the interface – generally expressions of delight at the responsiveness of the interface and the novelty of the interaction method. Of course, drag and drop is not really so novel – many users are accustomed to this method, and we found that no users (of the 15 we tested) were unfamiliar with the drag and drop method or had any difficulties understanding how they were expected to achieve their task using drag and drop. (The interface did include a small instruction to drag and drop onto the stage).

Some of the tasks, such as removing objects from the stage and understanding how many objects could be dragged onto the stage were not immediately obvious, but through brief experimentation the users were rapidly able to achieve these tasks and exhibited no difficulty. In fact, in many cases they were saying ‘I wonder if I drag this back here will it delete the object’, as they performed the task and were pleased to discover that it worked exactly as they had expected it might.

When users were interacting with the ‘click to select’ interface, there were no such expressions of delight with the interaction, however they also had no difficulty achieving all of the tasks involved in the test.

Later, we asked the users to compare the two interaction experiences and talk about which they preferred and why. Without exception, we found that our test participants preferred the click to select interface over the drag and drop interface – despite the feedback they had given at the time of testing.

They agreed that drag and drop felt ‘fun’, and ‘creative’, but overwhelmingly stated that it was unnecessarily complicated, and that it was just as easy, or easier, to click. ‘Dragging was a drag’ was one of my favourite quotes. :)

On the other hand, users unanimously agreed that drag and drop was an ideal way to manipulate objects in relation to each other (particularly, to change the position of objects in relation to one another).

Based on the results of this testing, the logical findings seem to be that drag and drop is ideal for manipulating the position of objects on a stage, but that when ‘selecting’ objects, simply using click to select is preferable. Even considering that we may be wishing to create an interface that is fun and creative (which was why the full drag and drop approach was originally considered), the inefficiency of this method detracts from the user performing their task. Selecting the objects was considered a preliminary task, and the ‘fun’ part started when users got to manipulating the content.

When thinking of the best examples of drag and drop interfaces (and I think that moving around maps is a great example of this), it is once again the manipulation of objects on a stage and not object selection, that seems to be common.

Of course, it is also important to note that choosing a drag and drop interface also significantly compromises your ability to deliver an accessible interface. This should always be an important consideration when selecting an interaction method.

Designing a drag and drop interface? You could do much worse than refer to the Yahoo! Design Pattern Library where they’ve spent a lot of time thinking about all of the components of the interaction and what you’ll need to consider.

Have you done any testing with drag and drop interfaces? I’d be really interested to hear what you’ve found.