As you may now, the society for neuroscience meeting – SfN (2012) is about to start.
The app is simple, neat and brilliant: you can upvote #sfn12 presentations , view the abstracts and attach a comment/note to every presentations.
The app itself can be found at hacksfn.org. You will be redirected to a desktop or a mobile site depending on the device you are using (desktop, phone or tablet) .
We put a lot of hours of hard work in this app, we are doing our best to deliver the best app possible to let you (and ourselves) enjoy this huge huge neuro-conference. The whole concept of the app is based on the collaborative filtering concept (multiple users vote and discover useful content, the user can sort his own queries on the basis of the number of votes, views or comments)
But still a lot has to be done (polishing interfaces, catching bugs and adding new shiny features)
I personally had a lot of fun working on the UI/UX of the mobile version.
The mobile screen poses a number of challenges. the screen size is the first one (how can we fit a minimum amount of useful information in there? what is a minimal amount of information)
While asking yourself these questions you realize how important it is to establish a visual pathway in designing for such small screens:
what is the main function of the app, what are the relative wieghts of the elements on the screen?
Are we hiding the function behind too many clicks?
What is the minimum number of clicks acceptable for that particular function?
Not easy at all. I’ve been working on the interface, changing it every day (actually, every night… I have a day job in the lab …) and I am not quite satisfied.
Every single new element we add (every new feature) is likely to mess up the visual pathway, change the priority and the way elements are arranged on the screen. We are rushing to complete the mobile app in time for Sfn12 .
A new exciting feature we recently ported from the desktop version to the mobile version is the “comment” feature.
Users can leave a comment/note to any presentation. This will become a networking area: every presentation will be a microcosms where users can interact, comment the abstract, contact the author, leave a note or simply request a pdf to the poster presenter…
Comments came to the mobile version relatively late. The interface was pretty set-up…. how could we provide an easy access to this new cool feature?
One idea is to place a circular red tag on the top right side of the abstract title (see picture above) showing the number of comments/notes associated with the abstract. One click/touch on the red tag provides a direct access to the comments.
Yes … it really looks like an Apple’ email-message-notification … but this is the whole point about usability and UX (in my opinion): you cannot build from scratch a new way to interact with an app. Many gestures, many symbols and click pathways have to be repeated over and over across many apps in order to feel familiar, in order to let the user know what is their function.
You can access comments in this mobile version using this circle-red tag or from the abstract view there is a button to open the comments section.
People are already using the comments and some of the conversations are rather … unusual? (see picture below)
The desktop version is up and running, it is doing great, few glitches to fix, new exciting (beta) features to add, but we already had an overwhelming flow of positive feedbacks.
Keep up with the tweets #hacksfn !!!!
I will post in the future more thoughts and screenshots about the development of this mobile app … there are so many challenges in this development phase… it is really exciting to develop a tool and its UX/interface (how people can easily get the most out of this tool).
and more UX is definitely what we need for scientific software (read this paper)!