Your Biggest Competition as an App Designer

You’re a designer. You’re designing an app, so who’s your biggest competitor? Who should you be inspired by in your design?

How about the Domino’s Pizza app?

Screen Shot 2015-06-18 at 23.09.44

Of course it’s tempting to look to the cutting edge of visual and UI design, you could spend your time sifting through dribble for slices of beautiful visuals. But your audience are thinking about other slices. Deep pan double pepperoni slices.

If you haven’t spoken to your customers how will you know which other apps they’re spending most time with? Über is an amazing service with a great app, but are your users using it? Maybe they are, or maybe they use their phone in a different way.

I single Domino’s out not because I want free pizza – in fact, to be clear I don’t remotely endorse their product. But that’s the whole point, it doesn’t matter what I like – I’m just the designer.

Empathy, not really

It’s also worth saying that this isn’t so much about empathy – although putting yourself in the shoes of your customers is vital – this is more about understanding your customers expectations.

The best examples of interface design aren’t found in your industry.

If you’re designing for a bank, a shop or a car company you should be looking at Domino’s to understand what users expectations will be. It doesn’t matter if you are the best banking app in the world, you sit on users phones alongside Domino’s. And domino’s have a great app.

Apps like CityMapper, Candy Crush and Snapchat are setting the bar. The good news: they can all give you great inspiration for your work.

The next time you meet with your users ask them which apps are making them smile. Then get using them yourself. Learn what’s setting your users expectations, more importantly understand where they’re spending their time because ultimately this is what you’re competing for – their time.

Tracking My Links

I hate when you see a link that reveals how my behaviour is being tracked.

I clicked a link from Twillio and saw this:—Early-Bird-Pricing-Now-Available-20150108&utm_content=custom&elq=~~eloqua..type–emailfield..syntax–recipientid~~&elqCampaignId=~~eloqua..type–campaign..campaignid–0..fieldname–id~~.

I hate that. I feel like all my activities is laid bare.

The link could have been this short:

Now you see how much has been tagged on. Did you think I wouldn’t notice? People notice this stuff. Even if they don’t know what it’s doing, they notice it.

It creeps me out.

Cars of the Future

A simple post, some light research. Getting inspired about designing the information landscape inside a car by comparing various Sci-Fi views of the future.

I copied this idea from some smart person, if you know please let me know because i’d like to reference them.

Total Recall

Johnny Cab


The Fifth Element

Fifth Element Car



Screen Shot 2014-07-10 at 16.09.53


Blade Runner

Blade Runner Car



Moon Interface


2001: A Space Odyssey2001 Interface




Alien Interface


Matrix Reloaded

Matrix Car


Captain America: Winter Soldier

Captain America


Need For Speed

Need For Speed

Single Function Buttons

Washing Machines

As ever, a thoughtful piece of design from BERG has kicked off some interesting analysis and writing by the design community.

Sitting in a more useful corner of ‘the smart home’, their Cloudwash washing machine concept/prototype is an interesting instantiation of a ‘mod cons’ becoming connected.

Single Function Button

While most of the chatter has focused on the choice of device and what it says about men (and don’t get me wrong I think this is a tremendously interesting area of discussion, go and read Rachel Coldicutt’s post) the thing that really caught my attention was the roll of a single function button.

Single Function Buttons

In an era of touch screens the presence of buttons becomes more noticeable. The iPhone’s mute button; the turn page button on a nook ebook reader; the Nest’s dial control.

Nest Thermostat
iphone 4 volume controls and silent switch
iPhone silent switch
Nook, next page button


What do they have in common? They all represent such a fundamentally important control for the device that they get their own button. (Incidentally, I don’t include on/off buttons in this group – I’m focussing on the functionality once the device is on.)

These buttons also allow for more tactile interaction, a learnable physical behaviour. In the case of the iPhone it’s easy to switch mute on and off without even taking your phone from your pocket. On the nook my gaze never leaves the page. Click.

On BERG’s washing machine the button that is given its own sole function is the notification override. It makes a lot if sense: notifications are both very useful, yet have the potential to become a big annoyance.


Buttons for Interaction Designers

The consideration of physical buttons by interaction designers is more important now than ever before, as touch screens have become the most pervasive format (perhaps even the default format) in such a short period it’s easy to forget the point of difference that a physical button brings.

What functionality deserves a button? What type of button is best? What is the button’s default state? What does it sound like? How does it feel?

From an accessibility perspective physical buttons are also tremendously important. The reason that you don’t get touchscreen ATMs? They’d be tough to use by those with limited vision. Equally those with restricted dexterity may also benefit from something more tactile and forgiving than a capacitive iPhone screen.

But physical buttons also bring different challenges, they fail, they stick, they break. In fact, all the more reason to keep them for the most important functions. You can read more on how hard atoms are compared to pixels here.

More buttons, less buttons, no buttons

A final thought on the roll of buttons from the new product developer at BERG (and recently Luckybite), Durrell Bishop.

Marble Answer Machine

The marble phone is an investigation into an entirely physical interface to an answer phone. Each new message is stored on a marble which rolls out onto the top of the machine when a message is left. You then listen to the message by placing the marble on the playback cup.

It’s easy to see at a glance if you have messages without a little flashing light (or notification). In fact it allows the technology to manifest as a piece of sculpture.

No buttons, no screen.

Worth thinking about when you next start designing the interactions or interface, on screen or with buttons.

Odd buttons

When you spend all day trying to optimise information and interfaces everything you gets analysed.


You end up taking pictures of daft button layouts an wondering what series of decisions led this sequence being picked over all others.

Idiots guide to QR codes

I hope there is a minor silver lining to be found in all this QR code nonsense: with every qrcode that is shoved out into the world we move slightly closer to something replacing them.


This bizarre bus add is basically seems to be trying to explain what a QR code is. Odd eh?

Paid for by Clear Channel, the owner of the advertising space. When you scan the bloody thing you just get one line of text:

‘Password is: smartphones’

No idea what the bloody hell is going on to be honest. Pretty much sums up the weirdness of these ugly little blighters.

Who is this QR Code for?


One of the many, many problems with qrcodes is that the customer facing ones are not that different to the ones that are just part of the back end systems that get the products to you.

Above is an example of that back end breaking out into the real world.

An how the hell are are we supposed to know what’s meant for us and what’s meant for the guy sticking best before dates on the wrapper for me?