September 15th, 2012
Hipmunk is a flight/hotel search engine. I found it through a design blog by Sacha Greif. Hipmunk differentiates itself from other competitors by providing a visual interface for searching flight/hotel. I liked its visual interface because it reduces cognitive overload and helps users analyzing what fits the most for their needs. For example, departure time of a flight, duration of the flight, hotel location or hotel’s proximity to a bar. List based interfaces provide this information too but it takes extra step for human brain to analyze it to see if it fits into their selection criteria.
Recently, I was looking at its iOS app and found a lot of similarities between its Web UI and Mobile UI. Though both are similar, it is difficult to read information on Mobile UI. Sometime what works on the web might not work on mobile. After looking at the app, I realize there are few areas of improvement. May be, team Hipmunk is already working on these. Here are a few thoughts:
- Most of the apps these days do have a little branding by showing a big size logo as part of the transition/loading screen. When I saw Hipmunk’s app I was expecting a welcome message with the mighty mascot.
- The app provides a way switch from flight to hotel search but switching between the flight and hotel was not smooth. It simply takes user to the initial screen. Either the menu should show right there or taking user back to initial screen is also not a bad idea.
- The current UI gives a lot of importance to the about us.
- The app does not ask whether I need one way ticket or both ways. It does it smartly when a user selects travel dates. But it was not clear whether I need to select two dates. What if I want to just travel one way and I selected the initial date by mistake. The app will simply take my correction date as return date.
- The app allows users to select the class but there is a minute difference between the color of selected class and not selected class.
- The up/down arrow icon for departure/arrival metaphor is kind of nice to indicate take-off and landing but it would be nice to use a real flight icon taking off and landing.
- The calendar displays the month in every date box. Repeating it in each box simply increasing visual clutter
- Show my calendar is really innovative feature but meeting conflicts can be effortlessly in proposed UI.
- The recent search or the flight search history is nice; I think it matches with the mental model of web UI recent search. However it can be improved visually.
- Kayak’s UI for this screen is much better than this UI serving the same purpose. Probably, Hipmunk can use some of the design patterns.
Search Results: The search result page looks simply clueless. It was really hard for me to read the information. The web UI and mobile UI look much similar but making them consistent might not be a right strategy. iOS calendar also has a vertical timeline. I tried a different approach for this design. The wireframes clearly indicate that the flight starts at 8:30 am and lands at 10:30 am and it will cost $194. Whereas on the actual UI, I can read the flight cost but it’s really difficult to read the duration of flight until I click on it. There will always be cases where flight duration is very short and it will hide most of the information but it’s safe to assume the rarity of such cases. In fact the new design can also give better comparison with your meeting schedules. Flight Detail Page: Current visual interface does not provide enough room to flight details leaving no option for users to go to next page to see more details about the schedule. Unfortunately, one has to go back and forth in order to select a desired flight. Wouldn’t it would be nice to provide a slide menu (bottom to top) when user clicks on a flight? This will allow user to be better informed about the search result. It will also help users to quickly check out other flights. To conclude, these are some of my suggestion for Hipmunk team, may be the app can be improved by using it. If you want your app to get reviewed please leave a comment and I will try my best to write a blog post next time. PS: These are my personal views and I do not have any association with Hipmunk
December 22nd, 2008
As most ads have copy, this one caught my eye. On the header of instructable, it was just a series of images. And the first think which came into my mind when I saw the ad was what is it. And when I was about to click it I realized it was an ad. I guess more people are deliberately shying away from clicking on ads. Which is making ad designers create ads which do not look like ads.
December 18th, 2008
Google shows search results from India even when the radio button for “the web” is selected. Either it should show the real results or when it tries to be “helpful” it should change the selected radio button to “pages from India”.
update: I just realized that even if it wants to “help” me real bad it should show me the links from the place I am browsing. Namely pubs in Delhi.
December 1st, 2008
One can find trendy people in small town or villages too. These people keep abreast themselves with latest fashion trends /gadgets / mobiles. These user segment watch television, read local newspapers and socialize. Keeping a costly, stylish mobile phone with them becomes a style statement among other people of the village. They might not know the handset model no but they have their own methods to tell which model they are referring to. TV ad reference is one method.
These users also have the buying power of such gadgets. When the crop season comes and they receive the money they will buy the new motor cycle, May be a Car, New TV, A direct to home television service etc. Local resellers keep this in mind and make collection of such product at that time.
I found an interesting example of how computer illiteracy leads to new small businesses. These trendy people use mobile phones but they are not competent enough to connect mobile phone from a PC and transfer music, video, ringtones, addressbooks etc. They also don’t know how to use Bluetooth but they use the handset which has Bluetooth.
To fill this gap some knowledgeable people who owns an electronic shop starts doing business of loading content in mobile phone. They would call / sell this as “Mobile downloading”. They will feed pirated music, video, Bollywood movies in their mobile phones. They would charge a small amount for this. One can find this small shop on road side.
The small shop owner will write this ad in front of his shop in the local language (मोबाइल डाऊंनलोडिंग ). The downloading term itself. Mobile owner has learned to associate this downloading term with mobile content feeding.
I have seen this user segment playing music / video in public place with a loud volume. When they were sitting on a tea joint or socializing with other people
August 24th, 2008
Came across this job site - called workosaur.com. It’s USP being, it has the most 7 figure salary jobs. Good but no great shakes. Another job site I thought.
But then I saw a link on the top corner which said, “Boss is Around? Look Busy”. When clicked lead to a page full of graphs and charts.
This minor thing made me look again at the site. It tells me that this is a startup where people love their work. That they understand their niche audience. So it tells me to take them seriously. Kudos for the sense of humor.
Earlier posts on sense of humor:here
August 6th, 2008
Vizu provides customized poll widgets for Blogs and web. A publisher can set up a public question with desired no of options. The publisher can access the results from his Vizu account. These poll widgets are best useful to get public opinion either to enhance your product / service or to conduct a survey. It shows current stats after voting. You get to know your opinion is public opinion or not.
Vizu is best suited for casual opinion / survey. Recently I saw Vizu is being used to gauge public voting for a design competition. There was a prize for publicly voted entry. There were 8 participants and everybody was using their social networks to get ahead of others. Vizu was showing instant result and this was motivating them
The product is technically very sound. It does not allow you to make multiple votes from the same IP. This also has cross browser linking. If one has done voting from Firefox, one can not make vote from IE. But in case of dialup connection there are programs through one can acquire dynamic IP. This can significantly change the results.
But a small feature would have made this product more useful. Providing an option to publisher whether he want to publish the results immediately after the poll or want to set a time line for the result. So it’s up to the publisher when he wants to publish the results. No body will get to know the stats till a deadline. Showing results after a poll can motivate people to make fraudulent votes. If the publisher is using this for casual survey he can show the stats immediately after the casting the vote. If its being used for some serious purpose than publisher can set up a deadline. This can significantly bring transparency in the result
July 25th, 2008
Showing network updates (what buddies are up to?) is becoming a common feature in almost all social networks. Be it Facebook, Orkut, Linkedin. Everybody get to know what others are doing in my network. New contact, new pictures in my album, which social application I have added etc. This is completely contextual to type of social network.
In case of Orkut and Facebook , this feature can add value to social networks aiming towards dating, friendships. It gives an opportunity to explore similar tastes with a buddy. From the business angle it keeps user engaged on the network. More engagement means more money.
Showing network updates to all buddies can have different implications. I interpret this feature in different way In Business networking applications. If my office colleague is adding a recruitment consultant, this forces me to think something. I think all the activities one does on a network should not be visible to others. There should be a some level of privacy preference whether one wants to display the updates to his/her network.
Before social network launch a feature be it a network update or photo album feature they must do an implication analysis. Orkut initially had a photo album feature in profile but now they have put a privacy element in it. Girls used to receive large number of unknown friend requests. Orkut added this privacy element to prevent engendered behavior.
July 17th, 2008
There was a time when away, busy, available, idle type of default status message was popular. The possible goal behind this was to inform buddies about one’s state e.g. “Please don’t ping me I am busy“, I am away leave off liners
Instant Messaging and status message has evolved over a period of time. The phenomena of media type and relevant ecosystem have taken IM status messages to a next level. Now it has become a media type like audio, video, news snippet. It has become a channel to communicate different type of information
Status message has become a new means of get to know about famous sayings/quotes. One gets to know interesting web links from buddies. It has become a personal marketing channel. Whether you want your buddies to read your new blog post or do electronic voting for you. Sometime it lets other know the emotional state of the one’s buddy. IM users are becoming creative with their status messages. A new status message becomes a reason for starting a conversation.
Twitter, Kwippy types of application are revolving around IM status Messages. These applications are taking this media type to a next level where a social network revolve around it. A new means to broadcast information. I use kwippy to store one liners which brings a smile to me. This could be a part of conversation. An ad tag line. A movie dialogue and so on. I will read all these one liners when I will become old
Maintaining a Microblog would have never been so easy. One just has to IM the blog post to his twitter/ Kwippy buddy. One can easily find one liners instead of a big blog post.
July 8th, 2008
What is a media type in context to the internet? I would say images, video, text, would be the basic ones. Now say someone wants to create a web application which supports uploading and display of images. On top of that also wants to create a social network which helps the uploader share and comment on images.
Now this is not a new idea and many people have done this. The formost 3 which come to mind are Flickr, Picasa and jpgMag. All three support uploading of images. All three have support for comments on images. And in all three users have the ability to share with friends and other users. Then what makes them different? The basic mediatype is same and the basic features are also same.
Mediatype and basic features are the skeleton, what differentiates these applications are the outer details. And especially here the GOD is in the details.
If you compare the upload restrictions in flickr and in picasa(for the free version):flickr - 100MB per month , picasa - a nerdy 1024MB (which makes it exactly one GB). Now people with digital cameras and who shoot even on and off if they upload regularly will cross the 1024 Mb limit in picasa soon. Then they would either have to delete some images or stop using it. While in flickr theres a continues flow of fresh images even for a free user. That keeps a users page continously fresh. What I have personally seen is people use picasa to upload 200 pics from one trip, all the images to it. While in Flickr they might only upload the better ones, so that they don’t cross the 100 MB per month mark. This difference in itself changes the quality of the pictures in both the sites.
jpgMAg caters to an even niche audience. They have a voting feature which they use to select some pictures and then print them to make a magazine. So here the submissions are mostly based the the current running theme which they declare. And needless to say such serious business brings in the experts. The satisfaction (and the money) which the selection of your picture for print brings increases the quality of pictures manyfold. And their upload restriction is “only 10 a day” which makes the pages even fresher. So these and plenty more features determine what kind of social network these sites have.
The whole point of this post was that only a mediatype doesn’t make a web application. I have seen people saying kwippy, plurk, twitter in the same breath. As for kwippy just give it some time to work on those outer details which would set it apart.
June 14th, 2008
I use two different computers. Both have Mozilla Firefox. I spend significant time over internet. When I am in office I make some bookmarks as I do at home. My search engine settings also differ based on requirements. Both might have different add on, preferences, settings. I always try to make settings same for both. This helps increasing my efficiency. Do I always need to customize browser to get seamless user experience
I was just thinking of sync mechanism of multiple browser settings. Can Mozilla assign me a log in / password. Once I log in to browser it stores all my setting including bookmarks, add on, search engine settings, and search history, browsing history, browser version at one central location. Once I log in to another PC and enter my user name password. It makes the browser exactly I have. I can do this sync once in a while based on need.
I will feel as always I am working on same browser. If I update something it should automatic update in all other browser once I log in, if I log in to that browser. Once I sign out the browser, it brings back to its normal settings.
The idea can be extended to thick client applications with a server in between. This server keeps track of settings, versions, additions, customization to a thick client application on particular machine. Consider IM Client.
Can this idea make both the browser function seamless?