The “God” button
We have received a string of interesting requests, some of which also appeared in reviews, about a feature our users feel Showboat is missing. The culprits are the ability to delete pictures once they’ve been inserted, and the undo/redo functionalities. Now, the customer is always right, and it has led to an interesting discussion between JR and myself.
Let’s start with the delete (or clear) button. From our designer/programmer points of view, there was, is or will never be any need for it. Once a page is created, one populates it with pictures, and then edits these pictures for ‘icing on the cake’ adjustment. Now, if you don’t like the picture, the easiest way to get rid of it is to replace it with another picture. The logic behind this is: there is a space for that picture on the page, it will need to be filled by a picture eventually, otherwise change the template of that page. For instance, if you had a 3 pictures template, go down to a 2 pictures template, boom the free space is gone. Talking about changing the template, that’s the easiest way to clear half a page… So, basically, we took a shortcut to remove a few steps for the user to replace a picture, and it is disturbing for at least some of our users.
The same goes along undo/redo. Honestly, this was not a design choice, but rather a need to ship 1.0 that made me leave this one out. I’m currently working on a clean implementation of the undo-redo feature, which will - I hope - satisfy our users. Needless to say, you can always delete a page by removing it from the album, but that’s clearly not an option that our users want to see. What they want is instant control of what they’re touching on screen. I think the important differentiator with desktop UI/UX is the touch, and the speed of rendering, navigation etc… The whole package that makes the iOS experience gratifying and intuitive even for a 2 year old. I used to think that the system was transparent to the user, and that was completely wrong: for the user, there is no system. I’m not talking about geeks who know about sandboxing, the underlying core and such things. User lambda opens the app, makes a collection and puts some albums in them, populates them with pictures, and then shows off its creations to friends and family. Couldn’t care less about the multiple operations that led to it, but Lambda needs to feel a consistent control and empowerment along the whole ride!
I am increasingly convinced that Lambda does not realize he is using a computer. For Lambda, this is just an iPad. He is in control all the way, from when the app launches and the default screen brings up the familiar interface the time core data is brought up in the background, to when he is showing his vacation pictures to friends. And when he doesn’t find his delete button, his undo/redo buttons, he is not happy as he thinks he has lost full control of the device. In that sense, the undo-redo buttons are the “God” buttons, they give power to Lambda to erase part or all of the app’s history, and even though they may not be needed, they definitely should be present (if you want your app to be successful): you app should not frustrate your user. This leads to an interesting divide between the designer/programmer and the user: the designer/programmer must keep control over the user’s possible actions, while the user must be given the illusion that he is in control at all times.