UX Fail: Bad Mobile Experiences Part 1

June 27, 2013 — Leave a comment

I’m working on the second edition of the Mobile Design Pattern Gallery and spending a couple of weeks with each OS. These last 2 weeks have been dedicated to Windows 8, which thankfully is way better than the last version. One of the best parts (for me) is that Windows finally included the ability to take screenshots. Yippee!

I’ve used about 300 apps so far. There are some really great ones, but also some major UX fails. I’m defining a UX fail as a flow problem, not just a bad UI or visual design. You could consider them UX anti-patterns.

Dead End

Designing a UX is designing for flow, and flow is, in most cases about moving forward to accomplish a goal. 6 Week Training does not want people to move forward.





Um, what’s next? There is absolutely nothing to tap or swipe or long press after building the Super Set. All I can do is use the hard back button to return to the home page, or read “What is a Super Set”. This is a really easy fix in Windows, offer the Save button at the bottom of the screen (although the old floppy disk icon is a bit incongruous at this point), or just use the keyboard that offers the check/save button at the bottom, like LinkedIn.


No Entry Beyond This Point

On a similar note, Film Closet (left) just shuts me down any time I tap on an icon. Okay, I get it, you want me to sign up to use these features. How about a quick link to Sign Up or just let me login here like eTrade (right) does?


Forget Me Not

Audible invested time and resources to build badges and user stats into their mobile apps. I can only assume this attempt at gamification was to motivate more listening, more purchases, and increase customer loyalty. But, they neglected to tie the badges and stats into the users account.

But instead of inspiring my loyalty, they’re starting to alienate me. I’ve been a Audible member for 6 years and have bought and listened to hundreds of books. On my old iPod, I had earned almost all of the badges. But none of this is tied to my account, just to the device. So even although I am logged to this Windows app, and Audible knows who I am, I’ve got no badges!!


It is important when designing cross channel experiences to meet users expectations of interconnectivity and synchronization across devices. Kobo does a nice job of this with their Reading Life program.


Might I Suggest?

In general, most of the Windows apps I’ve tried seem 2-3 years behind iOS and Android apps. A perfect example of this is the pervasive lack of auto suggest and dynamic search functionality.

Cocktails, which otherwise is one of the best Windows apps I’ve used, could offer a much nicer search experience by including auto suggest, especially since this app is likely be used while consuming alcohol (how do you spell mo-he-toe again? ). Economic Times is also missing auto suggest although every financial portfolio tool on Android and iOS provides auto suggest for stock look up.


Amazon and eTrade have both integrated auto-suggest, but they are definitely in the minority.


The Windows Store might be the worst offer. They have auto suggest but it must be connected to a database of something other than their apps. Check out some of the weird things I’ve encounter while conducting fairly normal searches.


But never fear, if you just ignore the odd suggestions and run a search anyway, you’ll get a seemingly unsorted list of (possible?) matches, with no way to sort by relevance, rating, etc.. Major UX fail.


Tip: Always provide sort and filter options when returning a large list of results.

sort options_craigslist

filter options_ebay

Geo What?

One of my favorite aspects of mobile design is pondering the possibilities of using geolocation to open up new opportunities to make an application more relevant and useful. Yelp’s mobile app is better than their site because it knows where you are, and more importantly, what’s near you.

Domino’s has a pretty nice app for ordering pizza. But why do I have to type in my address? The app could at least guess my city, state and zip, and I’ll fill in the rest. Or just let me type the zip and infer the city and state (less typing on mobile, the better).


The Domino’s experience isn’t awful, just a little extra work, but the Craigs List app blew my mind. Look at all the steps I have to go through to set a location.




Time Saver or Time Waster

I think every every recipe app on every OS has a time saving list feature. The concept is simple, you see a recipe you like, add it to your list. Take that list to the store, check off the items, and come home with everything you need to make the recipe. Epicurious has a nice list feature for reference.


But I have never seen any quite as cumbersome and unhelpful as Bett Crocker’s list. This is why you should always do a competitive analysis before starting UX design, the whole list thing has already been figured out, and this is not the solution.


Am I Done Yet?

Short sign up forms have better conversion that long ones, and the shorter the better for mobile. Betty Crocker hasn’t optimized their mobile forms yet, it is the same four step process from the web site, just adjusted for a smaller form factor (well, the first three pages are, looks like they forgot about the confirmation screen?).



However, I found Fancy’s Sign Up to be equally inefficient. I had to enter my name: Theresa Neil, my user name: theresaneil, and my email theresaneil  @ gmail com.  At least I didn’t have to enter my password twice.


They’re Taking Me Away

Funny, FitBit feels the need to inform me that they are going to take me to Sign Up. This makes me wonder if they are going to interrupt my flow every time I tap a button, popping up a message stating the obvious.



This redirect to the browser is disruptive and kludgey. At least Betty Crocker wrapped their form so we can remain in the app to register.

Tip: Rerouting prospective customers out of the app they just downloaded is a crappy first time experience. Take the time to create an in-app registration experience.

Stay posted for the rest of the series where we’ll look at UX Fails from BlackBerry, Android, and iOS.

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