Redesigning A Revolutionary School App

We’ve had the great pleasure in working with LiveSchool. LiveSchool is an app for schools and teachers that truly revolutionizes the way that classes are managed.

Imagine being in grade school, and having your school performance monitored and tracked? Everything from how many times a student raised their hand, how long they’ve been on a washroom break, how well their homework was completed, and how much respect they show. Students then can receive a type of paycheck, based on their performance, where they can then use the ‘funds’ to buy rewards. It’s amazing, and it certainly shows the new model for education in the 21st Century.

Rossul Design worked to provide highly optimized workflows and a minimal learning curve. Another aspect which was very enjoyable to work on was vision anomaly testing. Here, we ensured the app would be accessible for those with visual impairments.

Take a look at the screenshots below. You’ll see the before & after progress. Hope you enjoy!

LiveSchool App Design Before Working With Rossul Design LiveSchool App GUI Design Process
LiveSchool GUI Design After Working With Rossul Design

5 User Interface Design Features That Need To Stop

When designing a user interface, it is important to create a good end user experience. In fact, some features that are popular can be a real annoyance to your visitors. In this article, we will cover 5 user interface design features that are commonly seen online that provide a horrible user experience.

1. CAPTCHA

As the internet has increased in popularity, so has spam. However, spam is more of a technical problem rather than a human problem. All of this can be stopped on a technical level. Making the user pay by having to fill in forms with ambiguous letters makes interaction with your website a chore. Spam is easy to catch in many cases because spambots share a similar design and have predictable behavior. For example, when fighting spam and deciding on your user interface design, the following questions will help you identify the real users on your site:

1. How long did it take to fill in the form? If it was a matter of seconds, it’s probably a spambot.
2. Was Javascript used to submit the form? If so, it’s probably a spambot.
3. Were all fields filled with URLs? If so, it’s probably a spambot.
4. Was data entered into a non visible text field to the user? Then it’s probably a spambot.
5. Is the same IP address making repeated visits for just a few seconds on your website?

The answers to these questions can help fight spam on your site and take the load off of your end user. Alternatively, consider utilizing a human oriented question that is specific to your audience. For example, if you’re within the the design space, a question such as “mixing yellow and blue together produces what colour?”. This gives users a positive emotion by utilizing their smartness. They are treated better than being asked to input gibberish.

Either way. Lets stop CAPTCHA now. Your users will thank you for it!

2. Reset Buttons

This applies to forms and anywhere that text can be entered on a page. Having this “feature” coded too close to the submit button is a recipe for disaster for many websites. This is especially true if you are using your website to build a following. How many scenarios can you think of where your user just took time to fill out a form, and they then realized “I have no need for EVERYTHING I just entered. Please remove it all.” If you have a user that accidentally clicks this nasty button, you may have just permanently implanted a negative experience in their mind. To save the world from more trouble, lets just stop doing it. There is literally no need for it to exist. It does nothing that can’t be achieved by other means UNLESS there is a specific case (we’ve yet to see one).

3. Pop-Up and Surveys

Many of your visitors will just want to browse and peruse through your site. Websites that incorporate popups within the first few seconds will annoy more visitors than they will make happy. Popups to chat before your user is really sold on your website will also add an extra annoyance. Simply placing a Chat button in clear view is more than adequate. The same applies for surveys.

4. Redundant Forgot Password Workflow

This is a very common feature of many websites and simultaneously an annoyance to many users. Much of the standard workflow for retrieving a forgotten password is as follows:

User enters their username/email address and wrong/no password ——> User Clicks “Forgot Password” ——> User is prompted to enter username or their email address again.

Having your website store their username so it populates after they click “Forgot Password” is better than your website “forgetting” who they are and asking them to re-enter their information. The former is impersonal and requires too much repetition for end users. Remember, the purpose of your interface is to create a good user experience, even when they have forgotten their password.

5. Auto-Playing Slideshows

Having slideshows set at any speed are much harder to click or browse through than content that can be scrolled through. This common mistake made by websites interrupts the flow of your user experience and can even frustrate your visitors, especially when the slide show is the main content on the website. It simply makes the user feel out of control.

While many of the features are extremely common online, it doesn’t mean it’s good practice. Focusing on your users helps to keep them coming back. Taking these 5 design flaws into heavy consideration when you are making your final decisions on your user interface design will help create both clarity and an overall good web experience for your visitors. Incorporating them may put you at risk for losing and frustrating your website visitors.

The PC is still alive, and Windows 8 hasn’t killed anything

This week seems to be a hatefest towards Windows 8 and the PC. GigaOM has a post titled “The PC market is a horror show right now”, CBC reported that “PC sales plunge as Windows 8 flops”, and finally there is a post on The Motley Fool that chimes in “Microsoft’s Windows 8 has failed, now what?” The basis for much of the commentary comes from research firm IDC which suggests that Windows 8 is pushing customers away from buying PCs. While PC purchases may indeed be slowing, the PC is still alive, and Windows 8 hasn’t killed anything.

The PC isn’t dead

Tablets & smartphones compliment a desktop environment. It doesn’t replace it. Along with enterprise customers who continue to use PCs mostly on a Windows environment, power users continue to also use PCs. Upgrading your PC, to these users, generally does not mean purchasing a new system, it means upgrading obsolete components. Furthermore, individuals who use a computer to do anything more than watching videos, browsing websites, or sending quick emails, continue to utilize a PC for more advanced tasks. When designers, programmers, architects, musicians, videographers, and other creatives start turning to a tablet for their work, then we can say for certain that the PC market is in its deathbed.

Windows 8 adoption rate

The slower adoption rate for Windows 8 seems seems to invoke comments that Windows 8 has failed. It’s important to realize that comparing the adoption rate of Windows 7 and Windows 8 makes for a poor comparison. Upgrading from Microsoft Vista (or XP) to Windows 7 is one thing. Upgrading from Windows 7 to Windows 8 is another. Lets also keep in mind that enterprise customers are still generally in the process of upgrading from XP to Windows 7. They won’t be moving to Windows 8 any time soon.

Windows 8 does not provide much increased value when compared to Windows 7. To the casual user, the Metro interface seems confusing and lacks in value. It also provides little value when the number of touchscreens available for a PC are relatively small. Furthermore, Windows 8 to the casual user creates change. We hate change.

The future of tablets & smartphones

Windows 8 seems to be the recognition by Microsoft that the future is in tablets & smartphones. Windows 8 provides a platform that can be used on tablets, smartphones, and PCs. Since the PC is still required by enterprise users, and power users, the traditional Windows environment still needs to exists. Since using any type of ‘advanced’ software requires the use of a PC, the Windows environment is still required. Windows 8 is the bridge between this new reality. Windows 8 also opens up a future of cross-platform beauty. An app that is developed on Windows 8 could be utilized on your PC, your tablet, and your smartphone.

The observation that PC sales is in decline is an obvious one. There simply isn’t a need to upgrade your PC every 2 years. In 1994, tablets and smartphones weren’t a competing factor for PC sales. These new devices are going to continue to increase in sales. The decline in PC sales though has nothing to do with Windows 8. Windows 8 hasn’t failed, and the PC isn’t dead.

Mar 12th, 2013
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The Demise of Firefox?

Is Firefox really on the verge of death? Is its life span dwindling? Is it hanging on the balance and ready to topple over? These are the absolute questions in my mind as I do this write up. With some years of operation in the market as a browsing platform, I am definitely convinced that Mozilla Firefox is at the verge of death. Let’s see why I am adamant about that fact. Read more »

5 Considerations Surrounding Mobile App Development: iOS vs. Android

We understand the challenges that many have when it comes to deciding which platform you should be developing your app on, iOS or Android? There is never a simple answer. Additionally, considerations surrounding user interface design and user experience should also be made. Here are 5 (of many) considerations that you can look at when making this decision. Alternatively, simply give us as a call. Read more »

Sep 27th, 2010
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RIM unveils 7″ PlayBook with 1GB Ram and 2 HD cameras

Research in Motion has announced the “PlayBook,” a 7-inch multi-touch tablet. We are yet to see how it performs in the wild but some technical aspects of it are impressive:

  • 7-inch LCD, 1024 x 600, WSVGA, capacitive touch screen with full multi-touch and gesture support
  • BlackBerry Tablet OS with support for symmetric multiprocessing
  • 1 GHz dual-core processor
  • 1 GB RAM
  • Dual HD cameras (3 MP front facing, 5 MP rear facing), supports 1080p HD video recording
  • Video playback: 1080p HD Video, H.264, MPEG, DivX, WMV
  • Audio playback: MP3, AAC, WMA
  • HDMI video output
  • Wi-Fi – 802.11 a/b/g/n
  • Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR
  • Connectors: microHDMI, microUSB, charging contacts
  • Open, flexible application platform with support for WebKit/HTML-5, Adobe Flash Player 10.1, Adobe Mobile AIR, Adobe Reader, POSIX, OpenGL, Java
  • Ultra thin and portable:
  • Measures 5.1”x7.6”x0.4” (130mm x 193mm x 10mm)
  • Weighs less than a pound (approximately 0.9 lb or 400g)

More specs to be shared on or before the date this product is launched in retail outlets. RIM intends to also offer 3G and 4G models in the future.

Feb 15th, 2010
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Apple App Store vs Wholesale Apps Community

The world’s leading telecommunications operators and device manufacturers are launching an open global alliance, that will establish a simple route to market for developers and provide access to the latest and widest range of innovative applications and services to as many customers as possible worldwide.

Current members:

  • América Móvil
  • AT&T
  • Bharti Airtel
  • China Mobile
  • China Unicom
  • Deutsche Telekom
  • KT
  • Mobilkom Austria Group
  • MTN Group
  • NTT DoCoMo
  • Orange
  • Orascom Telecom
  • Softbank Mobile
  • Telecom Italia
  • Telefónica, Telenor Group
  • Telia Sonera
  • SingTel
  • SK Telecom
  • Sprint
  • Verizon Wireless
  • VimpelCom
  • Vodafone and Wind
  • Samsung
  • LG
  • Sony Ericsson

Purpose of the alliance is “to create a ’wholesale applications community’ that will establish a simple route to market for developers, in turn, providing access to the latest and widest range of innovative applications and services to as many customers as possible worldwide. This alliance will deliver scale unparalleled by any application distribution ecosystem in existence today”.

The terms of the new service is still unclear.

Jan 29th, 2010
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Apple’s iPad Pros & Cons

This is what we make of Apples iPad presentation — a beautifully and smartly designed new device, which is clearly oriented towards the education market and execs on the go. Read more »

LG Turns to Android UI

LG has announced it will  run Android in more than half of its smartphones in 2010. It is a significant change from the company’s current strategy. In 2009, only one LG smartphone ran Android and the rest were running Windows Mobile. It is a big hit for Microsoft as other companies such as Motorola, Samsung and HTC move away from Windows Mobile as well.

About a year ago Balmer dismissed Google as a player on the mobile market. And in 2007 he dismissed iPhone as a threat to Windows Mobile. Now MS obviously is losing its once-dominating market position and doing it very quickly. Both iPhone and Android will likely dominate mobile markets for the next decade.

Besides the Google business model, which is definitely more appealing to the mobile service providers than Microsoft’s, user satisfaction is another very important factor. Both iPhone and Android have very well designed, user-centered  user interfaces.

Jan 5th, 2010
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Apple’s Rumoured Tablet to Have 3D Interface?

Apple has filed a patent that describes an interface for manipulating “three-dimensional virtual objects” on a touch screen. The technology  may be used in future releases of iPhone or in the rumoured Apple tablet (iSlate?).

I doubt that simply porting existed OS to a 10” touch screen may take “you-know-who’s considerable undivided attention”. Having an entire event dedicated to the mobile market Apple will most probably try to set a new standard. 3D User Interface may become just the thing to mark a new step in evolution of UX.  Apple has been working on various 3D systems for quite some time now: 3D Projection System, 3D Desktop, 3D Displays, etc.

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