iPhone: Still the Best Mobile Keyboard

an iPhone keyboardIn yesterday’s TechCrunch post, “Hey Apple, What The Next iPhone Really, Really Needs Is A Much Better Keyboard“, Natasha Lomas argues that the iPhone keyboard is lagging behind its competition. I disagree.

I’ve spent the last six weeks using a combination of Android’s built-in keyboard and SwiftKey, and it’s been an interesting opportunity to think about the nuances of keyboard design. Of course there’s room for Apple to improve; but I believe they still have the best keyboard in the business. Continue reading

What’s Wrong With iTunes 11: Visual Design Isn’t Information Architecture

I complain about Apple a lot. They’re fun to pick on: their products are generally well-designed, allowing me to critique individual details.

But that’s changing. Each version of iPhoto is buggier, slower, and more confusing than the last. iOS interactions like Launchpad get shoehorned into the Mac without real integration. Arcane checkboxes and popups proliferate. More and more details slip through the cracks.

iTunes 11 may be the most prominent evidence of this yet. MG Siegler and Walt Mossberg have written about superbly-executed details; but the fundamental information architecture of the product is flawed.

Continue reading

Stky Update: Lower Price, Bumping, Badging

Stky 1.1 DrawerSince I released Stky in June I’ve been thrilled by the response. Its novel approach to task management and simplicity have been a hit! Here are a few of the comments I’ve received:

“Fits just the way I get organized in the morning.”

“The concept behind Stky is ingenious and the execution is beautiful.”

“Really like it, and I like the little sounds too. They make me happy.”

Stky’s been covered in TechCrunch and named one of E-Junkie’s best apps of 2012.

It’s been especially gratifying to see how well such a simple concept works for so many people. But of course, there’s always room for improvement. With that in mind I’m pleased to announce Stky version 1.1! Continue reading

The Trouble with Lean Startup: User Research is Hard

When I first heard about Lean Startup I was tempted to dismiss it. The tech industry gets excited about movements and philosophies; when they do I tend to run screaming.

Parts of Lean Startup made sense to me, and indeed echoed what UX practitioners have been saying for years. Gather data. Make sure you’re building something your target customers will actually use. Test early and often. So I did something I rarely do: I read the book, Eric Ries’ The Lean Startup.

By and large I like Lean Startup, especially once you recognize how it’s been misunderstood by the industry at large: Continue reading

It’s OK to Work at a Big Evil Tech Company

It’s been nearly eight months since I quit my job at AOL to become an entrepreneur. It’s hard. They tell you it’s going to be hard; you say, “Yeah, I know, it’s totally going to be hard;” and then it’s hard.

Not a week goes by in which I don’t fantasize about going back to work at a big company. That’s OK: in unfamiliar, uncomfortable terrain it’s inevitable I’ll want to retreat to the familiar. It would be just that: a retreat. I’ve chosen this path because I want to start something myself, because I want to build a company. And as I said, I knew it was going to be hard.

But I’m equipped to do it, in no small part because I’ve spent the last five years at big tech companies – first Yahoo!, then AOL. I was thrilled to be there, surrounded by talented, passionate people who knew more than I did. There were fascinating design reviews, brown bag talks, hallway conversations. There was so much to learn, and I loved it. Continue reading

Introducing Stky: the To-Do List That Saves You From Yourself

You’ve tried a lot of to-do lists. It starts out well: a blank slate, a new system, a sense of purpose. But one day you open that shiny to-do app, see a “today” list a mile long, and can’t take it.

A sticky note on my monitorAnd what do you do? Grab a sticky note. Write down the five things you’ll do today, slap it on your monitor, done. Your life is under control again.

There’s a fundamental flaw in today’s productivity apps: the assumption that with a well-organized tool we can keep our lives under control. For most of us that’s just not true. (One glance at my desk should convince anyone of that.) You put ten things on your list and do five. You probably won’t do the others tomorrow, but you can’t bring yourself to delete them…so the list grows. And grows. Until it’s more than you can bear to look at.

Stky is a simple to-do list inspired by that sticky note on your monitor. By anyone who’s ever put a credit card in the freezer. Or taken change out of the vacation jar to pay the babysitter. Sure, it’s about getting things done. But it’s also about the satisfaction you get from crossing off everything on your list; and the freedom of waking up to a blank slate in the morning.

Stky is available now for iPhone and iPod Touch. I hope you enjoy it.

 Stky: First RunStky: Enter TaskStky: Home

Smart UX: The Power of Nuanced Behavior

As product designers we tend to seek holistic solutions to user problems. We ask, “Yeah, but what about when the user does this?” and then we seek a Grand Unified Design that takes this into account elegantly. But sometimes an elegant solution doesn’t exist. Sometimes the best UX is one where each edge case, each behavioral nuance is effectively hard-coded. It may seem cumbersome, but it can also result in a great user experience. Continue reading

You Should Absolutely Learn to Code

Jeff Atwood over at Coding Horror is frustrated by the tech industry’s current everyone should-learn-to-code theme, and struck back this week with Please Don’t Learn to Code. He makes some good points. But as someone who’s been promoting programming as part of a well-rounded education for years I fundamentally disagree.

Atwood writes, “Can you explain to me how Michael Bloomberg would be better at his day to day job of leading the largest city in the USA if he woke up one morning as a crack Java coder?” And of course Mr. Bloomberg wouldn’t. But there’s an implicit assumption that learning to code is the same as becoming an engineer. It isn’t. Continue reading

I’m Joining CrunchFund as Entrepreneur-in-Residence

I’m incredibly excited that I’ll be joining CrunchFund — the early-stage venture capital firm run by Mike Arrington, Patrick Gallagher, and MG Siegler – as its first entrepreneur-in-residence. Get the details over at Uncrunched.

I got to know Mike and MG while product-managing the redesign of TechCrunch.com as part of my role on Matte Scheinker’s Consumer Experience team at AOL. Mike and I kept in touch after I left AOL to enter the chaotic startup world, and he’s been extremely helpful in helping me find my way. Even as I continue that process I’m thrilled to be able to lend a hand at CrunchFund via my perspectives as product manager, designer, and developer.

For more detail check out Mike’s post over at Uncrunched.