Archives For User Interface Design

I was noodling this idea early last year, and shared it with a local Austin company that deals in ratings for retailers. They nodded and said, yeah, yeah, we are already going to do that, it is nothing new. But I guess I am not shopping at the right places, because I have yet to experience this type of personalization while shopping for clothes online.

The problem in shopping for clothes online- I don’t want to see all the merchandise in a stores, just the clothes/lingerie/swimwear that will look great on me. If the store knew my measurements (they can collect it at account creation time or when I leave a review), and the measurements of other reviewers, they could just show me clothes that were highly rated by other women with my shape. This concept isn’t new, Netflix built an empire on it, but why hasn’t it extended to other e-tailers?

For example, when I land on, it should show me 5 shirts and 5 pants that are perfect for me with a big “Add All to Cart” button. Throw in some matching shoes and accessories and I just dropped $1k in 5 minutes. Done! Happy retailer, happy shopper.

Oh, and make sure to follow up with an email when new items are rated highly by my same shaped peeps- odds are good you’ll hook me for another purchase or two.

Who’s going to do this first? Gap, Nordstrom’s Victoria’s Secret, David’s Bridal, anyone game to beta test this and watch the revenue spike? I’d be happy to help with the UX design.

I get this question all the time from clients and fellow designers. The answer is yes and no and sometimes.

What should match

The Core UX: The overarching user experience, meaning the flow of the application, should be the same in across all OSs for a specific form factor. The personas, scenarios, design principles and conceptual model should all be established and validated before screen level design begins.

Aesthetic: The overall aesthetic should be similar for both; it should support your brand strategy.

What will probably match

Information Architecture: The IA for both OSs will likely be the same, although the navigation controls may be different. I have seen apps deviate when one OS offers features (not UI controls, but actual functionality like in-app launching of another app) the other does not.

Content: The base copy will probably be the same. You may have more or less transactional copy for one OS vs the other depending on the specific UI, but the majority of the copy will be identical.

What won’t match

User Interface: Each OS has their own set of controls that should be leveraged.

Interaction Design: The OSs also have their own gestures and interaction design conventions that should be learned and respected (if not always adhered to).

Please note, the answers above may not apply to games since games typically use a OS neutral custom UI.


Let’s take a look at an interesting example I found yesterday of a company who nailed their Android App design, but blew their iOS7 redesign, allthecooks. I don’t want to sound too harsh, they were likely under some tight timelines. But tight timelines are even more of a reason to stick with the established UX and IA in the Android app.

The Android App

This is a slick app for social recipe sharing. Of more than 300 Android apps I looked at, they definitely rise to the top 10% for usability and UX design.

We recently had problems at RetailMeNot when testing a the navigation drawer design that complied with the Android design guidelines:

Upon first launch of your app, introduce the user to the navigation drawer by automatically opening it. This ensures that users know about the navigation drawer and prompts them to learn about the structure of your app by exploring its content. Continue showing the drawer upon subsequent launches until the user actively expands the navigation drawer manually. Once you know that the user understands how to open the drawer, launch the app with the navigation drawer closed.

We followed the Android design guidelines exactly, but this did NOT test well with RetailMeNot Android users. They were confused, “Why can’t I just see the home page?”.

Allthecooks menu invitation strikes just the right balance between obtrusive and instructive:

Search & Results

Next comes probably the most important element of a recipe app- the search. It is well designed using:

  • Auto suggest
  • The Android spinner control for changing sort order
  • A clear option for adding dietary preferences to refine the search
  • Tags (albeit at the bottom) to make it easy to hone in on specific types of recipes. Even though the tags are all the bottom, if you select a certain tag it is redisplayed at the top so you can see what tags are currently applied to the results.







Couple of minor quirks:

  • The gear/settings in the top right of the results page is a duplicate of the filter functionality. Wrong icon, and why do you need the same features twice? Just ditch it.
  • The checkboxes under the search box don’t really make sense. I would have never given these a second though except for the implementation in iOS7 filter made me wonder: Who thinks like this?

    “I want to search for ‘pear’ but not in the title, only in the description, but not in the ingredients.” Seems like an edge case which means those checkboxes could be de-prioritized in favor of the more common ways people think of finding recipes: by entree, dessert, salads, etc… (ie. raise the prominence of the tags that are pushed down to the bottom of the results list)


Details Page

Once the results are reviewed, the social cook can navigate to a recipe details page. It is well laid out, easy to scan, with the common actions clearly visible.

Note: allthecooks are not following the Android design guidelines of putting all the actions in the action bar and using the overflow action menu, but have instead decided to put the actions in proximity to the content where they make the most sense. Bet this tested better in the real world.




This page could have used the Android scrolling tabs control to show the Overview, Reviews, Photos, and Q&A, but a long page is even easier to scroll through and see all the important information at a glance.

The iOS7 App

Here is my audio and video walk through of the iPhone app:

Even ignoring the bugs, you can see the iOS7 experience is sub-par compared to Android. Let’s break this down:


There is no menu invitation, but presumably the icon is familiar to most mobile users by now. Looking closer at the expanded menu- I noticed there are some differences in the IA.



Now, since I don’t work at allthecooks, I don’t know if they are in the middle of a strategy overhaul and the iOS7 app reflects this. But the IA could use another review- this menu is too long and poorly organized. Here are some tips to try testing:

  1. Remove duplicates. There is no need for the Search in the menu and a persistent search in the title bar. Roll Browse (by category) into the persistent Search feature, like Sam’s and Etsy.
  2. sam's club-browse


  3. Group things that go together- together. For example: My Favorites and Shopping List are utilities for the user, might want to put them near My Profile and My Recipes and My Messages. In fact, bundle these last three together under My Profile. A single profile page that includes Recipes, Messages should work. The profile can also include who I follow and who follows me (like Twitter), and quick access to my shopping list and favorites.
  4. News Feeds, and What’s New and Forums are all ways to learn more and get involved, so consolidate them. Consider adding in some social elements like a leaderboard/top contributor page.

Search & Results
First and foremost the search should work. Once that bar is cleared, let’s look at the search results view. As I noted in the iOS7 video, there seems to be a completely different search experience design for iOS than for Android.







Here are some tips to for improving the search experience:

  1. Show the number of results
  2. Show an on-page sort
  3. Use a standard filter icon to launch a filter form
  4. Show the filters that are applied
  5. Remove the toggle for Recipes/Users- instead consider elevating the social element by defaulting the sort to “most popular” or by showing results from people I have followed first in the list (include their photo maybe?), then the rest of the results.
  6. De-prioritize the filter checkboxes for title, description, ingredients, or consider implementing a scoped search control for both Android and iOS, if the demand for this feature is really strong.

Here are some good examples of results pages with sort and filter features:

Expedia offers onscreen sort and filter options.




Target on Android uses and on screen sort and a filter drawer and shows that a filter has been applied.




Saks uses a full screen form for both sorting and filtering and shows the applied filters.






Details Page
The details page on iOS7 may look nice at first glance, but it is not as easy to use as the Android app.

Challenging elements:

  • The buttons (to the right of the title Ingredients) don’t look like buttons and are really small. The last button in the row is particularly hard to decipher, and doesn’t provide any accordance wen it is tapped. But once I scrolled down I noticed it changed the unit of measure from standard to metric.
  • The IA of the content isn’t as well structured as on Android. For example, there is an option to take a picture when done cooking, but not leave a review. Android offers both in the right spot, plus the option to Flag Recipe in case there are errors.
  • Each tab: Cover, Reviews, Photos, and QA repeats the ingredients and directions- more unnecessary duplication.

Other Examples

What are some examples of native apps that have done a good job of creating a consistent UX across the multiple OSs with the same form factor? Some of the best I’ve seen are the Android and iPhone apps from AirBNB, Expedia, New Egg, Zillow, Dropbox, Flipboard, and Evernote.

Last week I had the opportunity to speak at the Mobile UX Summit along with Josh Clark, Brad Frost and some other inspirational guys. My talk was a case study of Silvercar, a start-up we led the UX design for last year. The talk explores how and why we took a Mobile First approach to the design part of the project. It also illustrates the process and deliverables for each stage in a cross-channel UX design project. 

I’m going to re-record and post the audio as well in the next week.

In the name of research, I spent 6+ weeks away from my Android and used a Windows 8 phone. Last time I tried this in 2011, it was a huge failure. The hardware was faulty, the app selection tiny, and I couldn’t take any screenshots.

Things have improved, and this stint with the Windows 8 Phone wasn’t too bad. But the apps in general are about 2 years behind in design maturity compared to android and iOs apps.

That said, I did find some exceptional apps that I wanted to share with fellow mobile designers & developers:










Why is this a great Windows Phone App?

CocktailFlow follows the spirit of the UX guidelines for Windows while incorporating some unique design elements like the visual representation of My Liquor Cabinet.

Available here

Brit + Co








Why is this a great Windows Phone App?

Like many content sites, Brit + Co has a deep hierarchy, which can be a challenge to create a clear navigation strategy for. But they have perfectly implemented the structure and navigation recommend for Windows Phone Apps. Get familiar up on the design guidelines here.

Available here










Why is this a great Windows Phone App?

Maluuba is an example of a productivity tool (versus a content application like Brit +Co) that has done a fantastic job implementing the structure and navigation recommend for Windows Phone Apps.

Available here










Why is this a great Windows Phone App?

This is hands down the best Windows retail application. Everything from the shopping cart to the guided search and advanced search are well designed both from a IA and IX perspective. They also offer a nice “compare” feature. Amazon and other retailers who are struggling with the new Windows guidelines should consider redesigning their application with NewEgg as a model.

Available here












Why is this a great Windows Phone App?

Typically Kayak, Expedia and more recently Hipmunk have had the best mobile apps, but I was surprised to find this little gem for my Windows Phone. Love the simple booking process and the nice visualization of the pricing for selecting the legs of the flight. The only place it falls down is at the end, it redirects to the SkyScanner mobile site to book, but it doesn’t remember any of data that was just entered in the native app.

Available here

Hipstamatic Oggl





Why is this a great Windows Phone App?

I included Hipstamatic because it is a choice example of an app that deviated from the Windows Design Guide to structure their custom controls. The current guidelines do not accomodate nested or contextual tools, but Hipstamatic created an elegant, intuitive touch solution.

Available here










Why is this a great Windows Phone App?

Great onboarding experience for a productivity tool centered on a topic most people would rather not be dealing with (bookkeeping, bill pay, finances, ick…).

Available here








Why is this a great Windows Phone App?

I included Espn Hub because of the way they intermingled the suggested Windows navigation structure with a custom menu control that slides out on the left. It is similar to the off canvas control seen in other OSs in apps including Path and Facebook.

Available here







Why is this a great Windows Phone App?

Hungry Now is one of the very few apps that was originally designed for the iPhone that ports quite well to Windows (and could work fine on Android and BlackBerry too). Granted it is a single screen interface so they aren’t struggling with the hierarchal challenges most other apps face, but they have designed a simple touch interface that is OS neutral.

Available here

And of course, the usual suspects: Facebook Beta, LinkedIn, Evernote, Pandora, UrbanSpoon, Amazon Fresh… Check out the presentation on Slideshare and see the rest. Even if you’re not working on a Windows app now, you might be inspired.

If I’ve missed any great ones, please share it with me and you’ll be added to a drawing for a free copy of the Mobile Design Pattern Gallery 2nd Edition.

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.

Earlier this month, I presented an updated talk on Mobile Strategy for Servoy. This one hour talk looks at the 3 options for a mobile strategy: Responsive Web, Mobile Optimized, and/or Native. I also explained why HTML5 is not a strategy; it is merely a technology you can use to implement any and all of these options. And we briefly discussed the three faces of Mobile First and how this methodology helps companies break out of old habits to create better customer experiences.

It’s not every day a client entrusts us to redesign a $100 million dollar form. But the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society knew they had to do something to fix their donation forms. They were fielding phone calls from people angry because they couldn’t give LLS money.

One of the prospective donors was particularly upset, and I empathized with him. I lost my father 2 years ago this month the Leukemia. There wasn’t much I could do to help my father fight blood cancer, but one thing I can do is fix a broken user interface.

To guide this endeavor, I wrote a manifesto to address people’s frustration with the existing form:

Looking at page 3, On Your Terms, what were our options? Mobile Optimized Sites or Responsive. Learn more about these two strategies.

It was a hard decision. Ideally we should have probably created a mobile optimized form that had half as many fields, but the organization wasn’t ready to ruthlessly edit their form donation yet. And our first version was just a “fast-fix”, planned for 30 days from start to launch. No back end code changes, just UI changes. So we went with Responsive, meaning we designed the form to work well on any sized screen, from a desktop browser to a mobile phone.

The forms were developed with:

And chose these devices to test on:

  1. Desktops and Laptops
  2. Apple iPad
  3. Samsung Galaxy Tab
  4. Kindle Fire
  5. Apple iPhone
  6. Samsung Galaxy III
  7. Google Nexus
  8. HTC Window Phone
  9. BlackBerry Torch

(Thanks to Mudassir for pointing out that my earlier phrasing was incorrect- we didn’t target these devices, just tested on them. )

The final result is available at, and it can also be accessed by donating to individuals participating in Team and Training and Light The Night.

We’re still working on these goals: Fast, Respectful, On Par…, and Helpful, but we’re getting there, and this is a big first step.

Here are the slides and material from the 1 day class I gave for Door64 in Austin.

Class description:

  • User experience expert Theresa Neil will guide you through the latest mobile UI design strategies: Responsive web, Optimized sites, Native apps, and Hybrids.
  • Study the most successful mobile implementations in the market today (and some of the worst). Learn the merits and pitfalls of each strategy.
  • Get to your mobile solution faster by learning the best practices for layout and navigation.

In a nutshell, the first 45 slides look at the mobile strategy options and explains each, the next 150+ slides deep dive into the four options: responsive, mobile optimized sites, native apps and hybrids.

I pulled shamelessly from Luke W, Ethan Marcotte, and Rachel Hinman’s books and articles to create this class, and am in debt to these great designers for sharing their mobile  know-how.

I will soon be presenting this class for Udemy if you missed the Austin talk!



Android users can now pay with PayPal at Starbucks.

I’m really excited to see this product come to life. We worked with PayPal on the early concepts for mobile payments at Starbucks.

Early ideas required Starbucks customers to open the PayPal application on their iPhone to pay. This Android experience is more natural, allowing customers to simply refill their Starbucks card with PayPal, within the Starbucks mobile app.

Just wrapped up a conference in Stockholm yesterday, DevSum12. Imagine my surprise to be on the front page of Sweden’s biggest Technical Magazine this morning.

Either my talk was riveting, or Computer Sweden needed more pictures of women in technology (or maybe both). Take a look at the talk and let me know your thoughts.

As soon as I have the links to the other speakers presentations, I will share those as well, including a great beginners talk on Node.js. I’m going to use Steve Sanderson’s sample files to get started with a little project of my own.