An example of a UI/UX fail: Google Maps' shake-to-report-a-problem feature

I love Google Maps. I use it all the time. It can be a little annoying when you get a Google Maps link and can't get it in the app, but things are getting better in terms of bridging that gap. But, there is one huge problem with the app, and it's driving me crazy — Google's shake-to-report-a-problem feature. 

Here's typically what happens when I use Google Maps on my iPhone. I take a look at where I want to go. Then I walk, and as I walk my arm swings, and so the app thinks I am "shaking" it, and it vibrates and brings up its menu, which prompts me to look at my phone because I think I have a message. Then I think "damn, that feature again." And I repeat this process like ten times. 

Shake-to-report-a-problem feature, a UI/UX design fail

Shake-to-report-a-problem feature, a UI/UX design fail

I wish I could just train myself not to be bothered by it, but I can't. It's a huge design fail — a great idea that wasn't tested for real world use. And, what makes it worse is that Google is usually so good at this stuff. Their new Material Design concept is great, but this one little failed feature, which is a running thread in all their apps since this design update, annoys me to no end. I've actually used it to report my problem to them, which is it. 

To make things worse, the other day I was in the Gmail app, wrote a long email, and somehow I accidentally selected the text and typed something, so it all disappeared. "No problem", I thought, and shook my phone to undo, which is a thing on iOS. Unfortunately, the Gmail also uses this shake-to-report-a-problem feature, and thus it popped up, suppressing the normal iOS undo dialog. The result: I lost my email. 

So, Google, please, get rid of this feature, please. 

An accessibility feature request to Apple - Drag Lock highlight

I love the Macbook Pro trackpad. It is a thing of beauty. The gestures in the System Preferences are great, but there is one thing that I can't get used to and that is dragging objects. I always feel like I am going to drop a folder somewhere I'm not intending to.

For this reason, instead of the three-finger drag that is the new standard for OS X, I prefer to use the double-click-to-drag with Drag Lock.

The three-finger drag setting

The three-finger drag setting

Drag Lock settings

Drag Lock settings

With Drag Lock, you double tap, which turns the lock on, then drag and the object is locked to your mouse. When you are where you want to let go, you tap once more.

There is only one problem... sometimes that tap to let go doesn't take, and you move your mouse somewhere and the object or the window edge come with it, which is very annoying.

So, here's my simple suggestion...

When Drag Lock is active, slightly change the color of the cursor, like I've deomstrated below.

Dragging a file using Drag Lock highlighting

Dragging a file using Drag Lock highlighting

Resizing a window using Drag Lock highlighting

Resizing a window using Drag Lock highlighting

I use the Drag Lock feature because I find it hard to smoothly drag objects and prefer it, but I am sure that for someone who relies on Drag Lock because they cannot use thier Mac without it, this feature would greatly improve their experience.

I hope Apple considers implementing it.

Thank you.

My new letter-pressed business cards

I had some business cards made up the other day, and they are not just any ordinary business cards. They are letter-pressed on a one-hundred-year-old Heidelberg printing press by a family that has been doing it that way for a long time. 

The shop and everything about the process is beautiful, so I thought I would share some images and the final product for your viewing pleasure. It's hard to convey how nice they are with words, so hopefully the images can do it. 

The man at work

Putting it together, letter by letter

The fonts to choose from

The German Heidelberg printing press

The lovely finished product

If you are in Kyoto and interested in getting some made, the shop, 十分屋, is just east of Kawaramachi Nijo. Get some beautiful cards and help keep a beautiful art alive. 

 

 

Overcast

The other day, I heard that Marco Arment, the man who made Instapaper, just released a podcast app called Overcast, and it peaked my interest. I thought it was a bit strange that he, who is always on the cutting edge of app development, would make an app for an area that seems to be settled.

I ended up reading this interview with him, getting his app, reading his “skeptic’s FAQ” in the app, listening to his podcast about it, and another. It was quite interesting to hear about why he made the app — that there was no podcast app that he really liked, and how the podcast market has been neglected by Apple even though they rule it.

The app itself is beautiful for its simplicity, and this is no small feat since podcast apps tend to be overly complex. It also has some unique features. He uses his own server to push notifications of new episodes to the phone, so the phone isn’t always looking, which saves battery life. (I hope I got that right.)

You should definitely check the app out. It’s free (adding playlists costs a few bucks) and a pleasure to use. I’m excited to see what he’s going to do with it.

To be honest, I’ve always thought Instapaper was great, but I never really knew much about Mr. Arment. Having seen what he’s doing now, I realize he really is quite good at what he does, I mean, he’s doing this app all by himself, taking on a beast, and replying to people’s tweets. Inspiring.