Usability test of the iPhone yields interesting result

The swedish usability consulting firm inUse did a usability review of four mobile phones including Apple’s iPhone, the HTC TyTN, Sony Ericsson W910i, and Nokia N95. Users performed common tasks such as making a call by dialing a number manually and then by calling a person from the address book, change volume during a call add a new contact to the address book, create a new calendar event and more.

The result should be useful for those who are trying to convince their IT department:

Stunning. The iPhone has introduced a new interaction paradigm to the world, in an uncompromising way that proves that “less is more” when it comes to true user experience.

Some other interesting quotes from the report include:

Most of the subjects did not mention the HTC at all when speaking of which device they would prefer. […] Only one of the users was able to carry out all tasks [on the HTC] without the assistance of the test leader and all five users had severe difficulties with at least three of the tasks.

What is it then that makes the iPhone different? Most importantly, it has removed one level of abstraction by allowing the user to act on objects using the finger directly on the phone’s surface. The difference between this and having to press keys on a keyboard and watch the screen to see what happens is striking.

The full report is available in PDF from the inUseful blog.

iChat AV is broken

You disable firewalls, forward ports in the router and put your laptop in the DMZ but iChat AV still fails to make a simple video call. My son does video chat with grandma over Skype and it “just works”. What the hell were Apple thinking with iChat AV? Do they really expect people to follow instructions like these to get a simple video call going?

Seems like I’m not alone.

Keeping software up-to-date in OS X

I often install apps to try if they work the way I like. Some stay, some I delete almost immediately. Some of them have built in functionality that alerts you when there is an update available. I find that very annoying. If you have many apps these little reminders tend to pop up all the time.

So, I was looking for something to keep tiny apps up to date and found AppFresh. AppFresh will scan your programs folder when you want it to and alert you of any updates it can find. Downloading and installation is automated for most apps as well.

It will also tell you when you lasted used an application – nice if you want to clean you programs folder from unneccessary apps.

You can download AppFresh here.

Fixing OS X Leopard menu bar transparency

Leopard transparency fixUpdate: As many readers now noticed, as of 10.5.2 there is now a preferences setting for the menubar transparency.

For some reason Apple decided to make the menu bar in Leopard transparent. With my background image this means that the menu bar will be in a shade of blue. It doesn’t look good and makes my computing environment less comfortable (I’m picky, I know…).

Someone created a software hack to remove the transparency. There is also a system setting (thank you Johan) to trick the window manager into thinking it is in older hardware. I am not sure of the side effects so I’m not that keen on installing that. Here is the pragmatic fix: take your background image and paint a white stripe, 21 pixels high, at the top. Problem solved. My menu bar is now easy to read with black text on white background (see picture above).

Before painting the white stripe you may have to resize the picture to the exact size of your desktop, otherwise the OS will resize it and it won’t fit the size of the menu bar.

Leopard black menuUpdate: As Peter points out in the comments below, if you use black instead of white the menu will look similar to the default ash grey style of other Leopard apps.

The iPhone cult and self criticism among followers…

Apple iphoneSo the iPhone is out and the Apple cult followers are going crazy all over the place. Unpacking porn and disassemblies are being posted.

When the iPhone was announced I had my doubts about the touch screen keyboard. I had been using a HTC phone for a while and did not really see how they would be able to make a decent touch keyboard. Especially not for us in the norhern hemisphere that use gloves during winter. TUAW is reviewing the touch keyboard and concurs that there is “nothing wrong with the keyboard”. The error seems to be the “meat mittens” of the user. How is that for self criticism? The user is to blame instead of the phone…

Installing an e-ID in 47 Simple Steps (Not Counting the Eternal Loop)

(Please note that this post is from 2007 and things have become much better).

When you are on parental leave you have to register which days you are away fro work with the Swedish Social Insurance Agency. To access the online services of an agency you have to have an electronic ID. In Sweden this is a locally installed certificate issued by your bank or large telecom provider.

In my case my identity is checked by my bank and then I am forwarded to Telia, which handles the process of generating the ceritificate and installing the appropriate software on my computer. What could have been a simple well guided procedure is instead an exercise in ambiguity and a complete lack of usability:

  • The process involves 47 (!) steps,
  • an eternal loop (yes, really),
  • require you to install a new browser,
  • configuring the same browser to run in Rosetta mode and
  • a revoked server certificate (for the server that generates my certificate!).

I seriously doubt that non-programmers manage to install and use one of these certificates. Let’s go through the steps required to install an electronic ID in Sweden:

  1. We start at the the Social Insurance Agency and choose the login link.
  2. To login you need an electronic ID. Fair enough. I am redirected to the electronic ID information page.
  3. The electronic ID info page tells me to get an ID through my bank.
  4. I visit my bank and login.
  5. My bank seems to have done their homework. It is easy to find the e-ID link.
  6. To prove my identity I use the device provded by the bank.
  7. After proving my identity my bank informs me that they will redirect me to Telia, the once-was state-run monopoly telco.
  8. Telia greets me with a wizard-like interface that looks like a standard Windows 98 dialog window. It is, however, a regular HTML page that someone forgot to test in Safari.
  9. Clicking the “Next” button displays a text informing me that I have the wrong web browser. This service only works with Firefox. Okidokee.
  10. I visit the Mozilla website and download Firefox for my platform.
  11. We start again by visiting the bank with Firefox this time.
  12. History repeats itself.
  13. I once again prove my identity to the bank and…
  14. …get forwarded to Telia.
  15. The welcome page looks familiar. However, someone forgot to test this in Firefox. The text is now in Times Roman and barely readable.
  16. Telia asks me to accept their tems and conditions. Ok.
  17. I am now informed that I am using an Intel Mac. For my e-ID to work I have to “activate Rosetta”. A step by step instruction tells me to set Firefox to run in Rosetta mode and then restart Firefox. Am I supposed to do this now? The instructions continue and tell me that “software for Linux has to be installed manually”. And then there is a “Next” button. Thank you for narrowing ot down to three choices in this step. I decide to go with the first instruction.
  18. I set Firefox to run in Rosetta mode.
  19. And then I restart Firefox as per the instructions.
  20. Firefox is restarted (rather sluggish due to running it in Rosetta mode) and page is displayed. The page says that an “unexpected error has occurred. Try again in 10 minutes”. I wait 10 minutes and reload the page, same result. No further instructions. Maybe I have to start the proccess again?
  21. So, I go back to the bank for the third time.
  22. I prove my identity o them again and get redirected to telia again.
  23. Hello! You look familiar.
  24. I accept the terms and conditions again and click the “Next” button.
  25. A new page appears and a warning message from Firefox asking me if I want to install a security module named Net ID. The text in the wizard talks about downloading stuff for Linux to my desktop. Do I have to do both? I accept the Net ID install question even if “libiidp11.dylib” sounds scary.
  26. After clicking OK Firefox displays an alert informing me that a “new security module has been installed”. I click OK. There is still a text that tells me to download something to my desktop and run it there. Should I, or was it just installed for me? I decide to skip that and click the “Next” button instead.
  27. Ok, now I have to choose a password for my e-ID. Looks like everything was alright in the previous step then. I enter a password and click the “Next” button.
  28. A progress bar appears. My e-ID is being created it seems. When the progressbar completes I click the “Next” button.
  29. A message appears saying that my ID and the required software was successfully installed. Sounds nice. It also tells me that since I am using Firefox I have to restart the browser. There is also a button which says “Complete process”. Should I restart the browser now or click the button? I choose to click the “Complete process” button.
  30. The layout tells me that this isn’t part of the previous wizard. The text starts with an introduction to what e-IDs are and then goes on to tell me that I have to “upgrade” my e-ID. There is also a button that says “upgrade”. I click the “upgrade” button.
  31. Bang! Firefox displays a certificate warning. Has the site been hijacked? Hard to say. What are the odds that a certificate issuer is using untrusted certificates on their own site? Low I guess. I decide to go with Firefox’ recommendation and trust the site for this session.
  32. I am back in the fake Windows dialog interface again. This time it says that it will guide me through an “upgrade” of my e-ID and software. Sounds ok. I click the “Next” button.
  33. The next dialog looks familiar. The text tells me to download software to my desktop for installation if I am using Linux but the Firefox confirmation dialog asks if it is OK to install a security module. Must be the software upgrade so I click OK even if “libiidp11.dylib” sounds scary.
  34. Firefox displays an alert: “the security module already exists”. Does this mean the upgrade wasn’t needed? What do I have to do? I click OK and then I click the “Next” button.
  35.  Getting tired of describing each step…
  36. Win!