The Big Flaw in Modern Mobile Design

What’s the point of product design if everyone is just going to put the device in a case? A case rarely improves the user experience and instead simply provides the user with the reassurance that if they accidentally drop their device it will be alright. Not to mention the larger pocket fingerprint. Cases usually don’t seem to bother people once they’re on too, this is only a good measure of how important software, operating system, and software ecosystem are over hardware design.

A non-durable device, no matter how sleek, provides a sub-par user experience due to its fragility, or rather the feeling of fragility. There are devices out there that are the epitome of this, devices that make me 100x more careful when handling. So much so that I am constantly focusing on making sure the device is secure in my hand, rather than the experience the product has to offer.

The best device should feel not only feel durable but it must live up to that feeling at the same time. It should feel herculean, it should instill the same level of confidence we have in the software on the phone, essentially, it shouldn’t fail if we make a mistake. The phone case industry today is a testament that we are not confident in the structural (let alone aesthetic) integrity of our phones. There is certainly glass that can take the impact of a drop, there are also materials and practices that can make a device withstand said drop. Why aren’t they both in a product in my hand?

Returning to Facebook

About a year ago I decided to leave Facebook for three primary reasons.

  • Privacy issues.
  • I was getting less out of the network than I was putting in.
  • Trivializing human interaction.

Through the month of October and November I’m going to re-explore those points. Perhaps the way I feel about them will have changed. While I don’t think I’ll ever fully come to terms with their privacy settings and policies, it’s hard to remain critical of a product I haven’t tried in a year.

Around last year, I felt like I was posting into a black hole; content and statuses in, nothing out; nothing about it felt social. I was also in immediate contact with many of my friends on a day to day basis. Today those friends are scattered across the country and globe. I return to Facebook to give their mission statement a second chance.

…give people the power to share and make the world more open and connected.

Sharing is not what concerns me, and my Twitter feed is pretty open. It’s that I’ve been feeling disconnected, let’s see if/how/why or why not Facebook alleviates that.

Making of FiveTimer for Android

I had just come back from Iceland and a summer of otherwise developing an Android app for the trip. With all the design and programming paradigms still in my head I decided I should try to make another one. I’ve always wanted to port FiveTimer from iOS to Android, but the time or opportunity never presented themselves. I decided to undertake it as soon as I got back.

That was about 15 days ago. The whole process took just over two weeks! Rather than taking everything over at once or at random, it was broken down by most to least essential. Wunderlist was a huge help in doing this breakdown, in the end FiveTimer was 44 discrete tasks.

By the first week I had a basic timer that had some scramblers. At the middle of second week I had more scramblers, a statistics viewer, a timer with 15 second countdown, and hold to start. In the last few days I was scrambling to make sure that the app looked decent in all screen sizes and the 3×3 and Square-1 scrambles didn’t make the UI hang too much (threads are cool).

Through this whole process I was uploading a .APK to my site for a few beta testers to give me feedback on. Without whom the initial release of FiveTimer would be pretty sub-mediocre. A small localization error for example would crash the app whenever the timer was stopped, this was due to the time strings being formatted with a comma instead of a period, never would have caught that one on my own. A huge hand goes to the beta testers.

In the final weekend I noticed how much my table was flexing when I would slam the cube down as if I was on a stackmat. It struck me then that why should we be touching the screen to stop the timer at all? Drop to stop was implemented, and then with a sensitivity slider a day later. It was a “why haven’t we been doing this the whole time” kind of moments.

Even when the app went into production there were still changes to be made and bugs to squash. An “add time” button was a welcomed addition for example. FiveTimer for Android is actually well ahead of its iOS counterpart right now and I intend to carry over the add time and drop to stop, let me just do a few solves first.