I am now interviewing Beth A. Martin
Beth A. Martin
Usability Specialist, Federal Government
Experience also in Section 508, eLearning, and web content management.
I conducted interview via e-mail. Her responsive were very insightful. I hope to post interview transcript very soon as well as a summary. I may or may not get others, I am still waiting. I withdrew the original interviewees. Prof. Hemstad has already generously offered their time to my topic and I was a bit delayed in contacting Prof. O’Bryan due to me getting my statement constructed as it should be.
The interview was fun though. I enjoyed reading her input.
Here is final summary:
Are mobile applications here to stay? According to Beth, a usability specialist with the federal government, they will be here in the long term. Of course, there will always be “The Next Big Thing”. However, as long as developers and designers supply a product that fulfills a user’s need, mobile applications will have a home. Beth sees the distinctive mobile operating systems such as iOS and Android as she does the Mac and PC. Each user has his preferences and developers will create applications that allow the users to experience apps across platforms.
When designing mobile app design, Beth is no expert. She primarily tests the interfaces of the Web, but she does use her talents to mock up templates that are user-friendly. She aims for usability and content that is easy to search.
She thinks that the aesthetics of mobile app design is important, but places functionally first. “No one will use a pretty interface if it doesn’t work or if it doesn’t help the user complete the task,” says Beth. She further illustrates how aesthetics are the basis for buying apps through Web sites such as Apple. User’s first impressions of an app are the screenshots presented by the developer. There are reviews as well, but this doesn’t help the user if they download an app and the usability and functionally is worthless.
“Ease of use,” continues to be Beth’s primary focus when creating experiences via mobile devices or the Web.
But when asked if the device should transform from a material into something that replicates a human, she shies away. “I don’t ‘live’ with it [phone] in that regard. I value my human relationships much more than the phone,” says Beth. She believes that attachments and the relations built with the devices are unhealthy and possibly annoying if the device was capable of speaking to her as another person. But her comments suggest that this may be the future.
She sees graphic design having a place in UX and UI. She believes that we all need to begin wearing many hats. “Get to know the other side of the fence and upstairs and downstairs and the side entrance (to continue a tortured metaphor). You’ll appreciate the work the other people do and vice versa.”
Overall this interview went very well. It allowed me to gain further insight from someone in the field of UX and UI. I particularly like the comments regarding the app’s aesthetics and how the users primary option when selecting and downloading apps from stores are solely based on the design and looks. This process does not aloe the user to evaluate the app’s functionality and usability.
Transcribe of Interview:
Q1. I have read and been told that mobile application development is limited due to the different variables such as iOS vs Android; and that app development is just a phrase which will be short lived. Do you think that these variables pose issues for future app development or do you see people continuing to work around these problems?
BAM: Just like Mac users and PC users, there are preferences and habits, and reasons behind the rationale for those. I do agree that an app for certain tasks might be overtaken by The Next Big Thing, but gaming apps might have a life beyond TNBT. For example, if I want to call someone, I use the cell for that purpose, but I have a ton of options for drawing pictures. What if I want to send money to someone or accept funds from them through Square or some other payment method? It’s a free market economy, so we’re free to use Paypal or our bank’s payment system, or whatever. But what if what I use isn’t used by the other person? That’s where the problem arises. If app development serves a need, then it will have a place beyond TNBT. People use mobile readers, but libraries still exist for hard copy books, too.
Q2. What are the goals that you strive for in mobile application design as a developer? As a designer?
BAM: I am involved in the testing of interfaces (mostly web). I do develop mockups and templates. They are independent of how access is obtained, but we do develop mobile-friendly designs if the goal is for mobile-only access (like checking status). Goals I strive for are ease of use and findability.
Q3. We agree that usability and functionality are important with app design, but what is your opinion regarding its aesthetics?
BAM: Important, but less so than functionality initially. It should work, work for the user, and be appealing. No one will use a pretty interface if it doesn’t work or if it doesn’t help the user complete the task.
Q4. Do you think that the aesthetics play a major role in whether or not a mobile application is downloaded by a user?
BAM: Yes. In the app store, it’s their only impression since users only see screen shots. They’ll read the ratings and comments. If it’s well designed and works, then you have a shot at use, but many apps go unused even after download. If it doesn’t work, it gets abandoned or removed. You’re in competition with a lot of other apps that do the same thing.
Q5. What variables are important when creating an experience for the user, and what besides the normal processes do you practice?
BAM: Ease of use is primary for me. Does the app do what it’s supposed to… just enough but not more than that?
Q6. My thesis topic is based on identifying the impact that mobile computing has on graphic design. I want to see the design transforming the device into something human-like. I strongly believe that the design should identify with the user to the point that they are dependent on it. For example, the application should transcend into that user’s personal trainer, banker, personal assistant, etc. How do you feel about this transformation?
BAM: I don’t know about this. Gets into the realm of what could be an unhealthy relationship with a device. What if you lose the device? Do you get attached to something that you’ll replace with the latest version of the device? I use lists extensively, so I rely on my Droid for access to to-do lists. I also use the driving directions mode a lot. But, I put it away at night and don’t use it until the next morning. I don’t “live” with it in that regard. I value my human relationships much more than the phone. What I do see, and maybe that’s what you’re alluding to, is the idea that it’s more voice-oriented and completes tasks app-independently. So, if I say, “I want to send $100 to my friend Mark.” It’ll know to tap my bank account and send the money to my friend Mark, who’s in my contacts list. Sounds cool, but makes a lot of assumptions. I don’t know if we’re there yet.
Q7. When thinking about pushing the boundaries of design further, I would like to see mobile applications taking on a voice that the user can identify with such Siri, Apple’s voice identity. Image having voice notifications from your mobile app that says, “Lori, you have not logged your food this morning”? I know you have eaten something since 7:02 pm?” I am not sure if this sort of technology is already being developed, but this is an example of how I would like to see a mobile device transcending from a material into an experience. And with devices like wearables (such as Google glasses) being the next big thing, do you think that this type of technology is something that may be good or bad for the user?
BAM: For me, that’s too nagging. An alarm clock, yes. Unless I have a medical condition or some other situation requiring a voice prompt (people with certain problems, like dyslexia or similar, might find this useful), I don’t want my situation broadcast while I’m commuting to work on the train. It has to be selective and location aware.
Q8. I come from a print background. I am learning more about the Web and UI/UX. How do you see designers like myself slightly straying from their fields and applying their expertise to mobile application design? Do you think this is a good move or should they remain in their place? Why or why not?
BAM: My personal opinion is wear many hats. Get to know the other side of the fence and upstairs and downstairs and the side entrance (to continued a tortured metaphor). You’ll appreciate the work the other people do and vice versa.