Hatching Emu: Making Technology That’s Actually Helpful

hatching-emuA year ago, I teamed up with my co-founder, Gummi Hafsteinsson, to found Emu. Our mission: make technology into the labor-saving device we always meant it to be, by building a smart, contextual assistant into everyday tasks. We started with texting, and launched Emu for Android last month. An iPhone version is just around the corner. Though our story is still being written, we’re pysched to start telling it.

When we first created Emu, we didn’t set out to build a messaging app. Our passion is both simpler and broader: creating products that simplify people’s lives. And for the past decade or so we’ve been convinced the answer lies in a marriage between great user experience and really smart technology. That’s why we’re so excited about Emu: both of us are product people, but Gummi’s background is steeped in machine learning and natural language processing, while Dave’s is in UX and design.

How do you simplify through technology? Take daily tasks; analyze and understand them; and reduce the effort required to complete them. (Maybe add some beauty and delight along the way.) We succeed, not when you’re mesmerized by our app, but when you can put your phone away two minutes sooner and get back to your life. Or when you feel more organized and in control because our product helped you get there.

Continue reading on the Emu blog →

The Problem with Android is Choice

The Problem is ChoiceAndroid is flexible. Most reviews tout that as a key advantage of the operating system, particularly when it’s being compared with iOS. To quote recent switcher Andy Ihknato:

Android has a consistent core philosophy that I find instinctively compelling: why wouldn’t a phone give its sole user a vote on how their device works?

Here’s why that’s a bad idea: Choice reduces user satisfaction. Choice reduces usability. Choice reduces product quality.

Continue reading at Six Revisions →

Oversize Novelty Phone: Why Are Android Phones so Big? – Android vs. iPhone, Part Two


The Droid RAZR HDIn March 2013 I switched from iPhone to Android; not because I wanted to, but because we’d decided to build Emu for Android first – and as QA tools go, it’s hard to beat daily personal use. I wanted the best Android phone I could get: fast, up-to-date, compact, with a high-quality, high-resolution screen. Something to replace the iPhone I was leaving.


After some research, I went with the Motorola Droid RAZR HD. I returned it a week later. Read the rest over at Medium →

Android’s Advantages Over iPhone – Android vs. iPhone, Part One


CoverLast November we moved Emu from iPhone to Android. It meant throwing out a prototype and learning a new platform; but Android removes Emu’s biggest barrier to adoption, and that was worth the trade-off. I’ve always had an iPhone. So the past six months have been a crash course in Android – as a user, a developer, and a product designer.


Lately I’ve seen a number of iPhone / Android comparisons suggesting that for the typical user, you can’t go wrong either way. These baffle me; I’ll get to why in future installments. But a loss is not a shut-out, and there are critical areas where Android nails it while iPhone misses the mark.

Read the rest over at Medium →

Drag & Drop: Think Twice

Nothing embodies the graphical user interface like drag & drop. You use a mouse pointer (or, more recently, a finger) to select an object and move it to a new location. Often the object, its original location, and the destination are abstract concepts, mapped onto physical ones via familiar metaphors. It’s relatively easy to learn and, once learned, easy to extend to unfamiliar situations. (Some would say intuitive but that’s not really accurate; some training is required.) It adapts the strange world of the digital to the peculiarities of the human brain.

Drag & drop also epitomizes all the disadvantages of a GUI. Read the rest over at Medium →

Writing Notifications That Don’t Suck

XP's Desktop Cleanup WizardRemember the Desktop Cleanup Wizard from Windows XP? It popped up regularly saying, “You have unused icons on your desktop.” To this day I have no idea what an unused icon is…and it probably gets my vote for worst notification ever.

Good notifications and error messages require care. They’re not necessarily hard, but they are often overlooked – to the detriment of your overall product experience. Because notifications often occur at times of anxiety and annoyance, a bad notification can ruin your UX; while a good notification can take a moment of frustration and turn it around.

Read the rest on Medium →

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