There was a fair amount of snark over 3D Touch:
“Really? bringing the right click menu to iOS? Isn’t that a failure Apple?”
I remember all of the huff and bother when Apple brought the two button mouse to their computer platform. People lined up to watch them eat crow over that one:
“See! See! You said that one mouse button was all you need!”
Sound familiar to the Apple Pencil?
I came from the Sun UNIX work stations where I got to use a three button optical mouse, and using one button felt like I had one hand tied behind my back!
I understand that simplicity has beauty, and that it is fantastic to see people develop truly usable input devices. I am excited about the new Apple TV remote because it finally catches up to the Xfinity X1 remote in that it supports voice (I can’t believe Apple is catching up to Comcast??? ;)
My five year old can pick up the remote, hit a button, and ask for Paw Patrol. Having to go through TV menus? A world of frustration for him. Apple is touting how apps are “ the future of television” but many of us just want to get to our content. I don’t want to remember which “app” houses a particular show, just like how I don’t want to remember which station it is on. I am curious to see what type of app-y experiences and great games come to the platform, but if I just want to sit down and consume some content I just want a quick way to get to it.
I definitely don’t want:
“Oh, for Big Bang Theory I can download an app, but for Paw Patrol I need to get the Nickelodeon app”.
Voice can be a very elegant way to cut through all of the menus and apps on your devices. It is the quickest path to get to what you really want to do. I can’t wait for a future where I can say:
- “Hey Siri, I want to add a photo to Facebook”
- “Hey Siri, I want to take a selfie”
- “Hey Siri, I want to message Ben on Facebook”
- “Hey Siri, I want to watch the most recent Modern Family”
- “Hey Siri, I want to watch the Joe Biden interview with Colbert”
- “Hey Siri, I want to study with Recall”
To accomplish this we need to make sure that our apps and services are able to tell the platform what they could make available.
Spring right in from the SpringBoard
There are other times where you want to jump right to a particular action. The home screen on the iPhone has been kept very simple. God forbid you would want to have some empty space in the middle of a screen, or easily find where something is. There has been so much talk of how mobile apps need to be single use case and simple, that some designers poo poo the notion of launching the app to a particular area. In that case, have another app! Er, another app to deep link and take up more screen real estate?
That is an anti-pattern. I have worked on some applications that have various use cases, and there are appropriate times to split out the functionality into its own app. For some of the time you may want to do a Facebook Messenger, and have a separate app, but have another app have knowledge of it and cross launch nicely. It all depends on your situation and how your users use your service. Whenever I have thought “man I want a separate app, just because there are competing use cases for using the app, and I want to go directly into one of them often enough that it warrants its own launcher” I knew I was doing the wrong thing. But haven’t we all been there? It is frustrating to launch an application when you want to do the secondary action. Ideally this action is a second tap away, but it may be further.
Add vs. Consume. Read vs. Write
This is why I am excited about the 3D touch feature on the homescreen that lets me go exactly where I want to from that icon. It only allows me to get to somewhat simple sections (vs. get directly to the end of a search such as the Joe Biden example above) but this is still gold. There will be some common patterns that will form. One that I clearly see is the notion of adding something vs. consuming it.
I add something to Asana at least as often as I want to see my list. Let me add directly and be on my way. Let me go directly to different workspaces so I don’t have to load up the last one I was on before heading off in another direction.
The Long Press
I hope that Apple adds this for all of the folk who don’t upgrade to devices that support 3D Touch. Why can’t we change the long press on a home screen icon to not just put the entire screen in the wiggly rearrange mode? We can instead use the same drop down right click menu effect but also have rearrange as an option.
I understand that we don’t have to put long press actions all over the shop, but it drives me nuts when I get into a situation where I would buy a beer for an engineer to sneak it in.
Here’s an example:
Whoops. I have two entries for Orange Theory. I would really love to be able to long tap on the first one, and have an action to delete it. But no, instead I have to go into the entry, find the edit circle icon, and then hit delete at the bottom.
God forbid I have to do a bunch of deletions, as then I get into the slow UI hell of jumping from master to detail again and again. Let me swipe the item off the stack, or just let me long tap.
Power User Features FTW
Much of the functionality that will be added thanks to 3D Touch will be power user features. This doesn’t mean that the designers did a poor job, and the UI should have been so intuitive that these features were needed. We use our phones all day long, and if we can shave off some time so we can get right to what we wanted to accomplish, that is fantastic.
We have all watched someone go through a million menus on a laptop when we knew a shortcut key that would get us right there. The easy path for the newbie may not be the same as the path that the advanced user has put to memory.
I try to hide as many power user features as possible. These are often the magical features for the advanced user. I have had many a time when I open up a Settings dialog and get giddy at that one cool option the developer put in there for me. I may be the 0.1% of users that even goes into that Settings dialog, but man it made me happy and more productive. Giving the user the gift of time is worth so much, and it shows you care.
So, I can’t wait for more power user features, and to be able to do some advanced tapping action along with the ability to use my voice to get to the task at hand.
Have you ever wished to be able to long tap for an action that you use all the time?