Posted in Design principles, UX Examples

Bad UX – Google’s Inbox for Gmail

This week I signed up with the Interaction Design Foundation (IDF), and started my first lesson, Gestalt Psychology and Web Design.  For our introductory posts in this course, we were tasked with giving an example of bad UX.  So this was my example:

My bad UX experience is in my email app, Inbox for Gmail.

I have come to use and rely on the “Snooze” function (clock icon in the green circle). Snooze hides the email until the time you specify (similar to when you hit snooze on an alarm). I typically snooze emails until the weekend at 5am, my own time to do whatever I want before the rest of the family gets up.


So hitting Snooze brings up a window with standard options (red box), and if you want to choose your own time you have to click the option to pick your own date and time (blue box). I always click the blue box, and then have to go through the same 6 – 7 clicks to get the email to snooze for 5am the next Saturday.

Bottomline: I never want the standard options, and there is no way to customize those standard options.

Looking at the NNG heuristics, this would be a violation of User Control and Freedom. Leads to user frustration and eventually pushes the user to find something better. If I could find something better, I would drop this app in a moment.

Do you have examples of Bad UX?  Or know of a good alternative email app that I can switch to?  I’d love to hear your comments!

Posted in ISS Detector - redesign, UX Practice

Current State Analysis – Part 1- ISS Detector


First thing, I wanted to pull together information on the ISS Detector’s features and screenshots, similar to what I did for the competitive analysis. Seeing the app again after looking over all the competitive apps was quite different. I was seeing the UI in a different perspective, after I’ve already determined what I liked most and least from the other ISS tracking apps. The closer I get to this app and redesign project, the less objective I’m getting already. I absolutely see why I need user research and testing to get objective, unbiased opinion.

ISS Detector Satellite Tracker

  • Price: Free; $1.99 for upgrades
  • Android only


  • Notifications can be turned on or off
  • List of upcoming overhead passes include weather conditions – and a color indication of whether there will be ideal viewing conditions
  • Automatically detects location and timezone
  • Nightmode (red on black UI)
  • Data is compiled from multiple sources: NASA,,, and

Observations on map interfaces:

  • Multiple map interfaces
  • Sky map is 2D, looks like a radar screen with a compass
  • The sky map is defined by lines encompassed by a circle, rather than realistic photographs in the field of vision format
  • The sky map has capability to switch between a circle with constellations, to being integrated with a compass – whichever version of the sky map would make more sense to the user.
  • Map can also be a 2D, high-level world map


  • 4.6 stars – 75k reviews
  • Downloads are reported to be between 1m – 5m


  • The amount of reviews and downloads is astronomical, compared to the apps I was looking at in my competitive analysis. I wonder if I should have done this current state analysis first, so I could have been more subjective with the competitive ISS Tracker apps I picked out.  Source for app data:
  • BIAS ALERT: I saw the usability in having a field of vision format sky map, like Stellarium or the other sky watching applications. The user could more easily use a sky map that resembled the environment right in front of them. Though, the downside to that format is that is may not be as accurate as a line-based radar sky map.
  • While I can find public data on the ratings and reviews – which I am completely impressed with – I wish I could see data around how many of those reviewers actually purchased the add-on filters. That will probably be a survey / interview question in user research.

Next step is to do a usability evaluation / heuristic review on the ISS Detector app.  I’d even like to ask other usability experts / designers if they would like to take a crack at it, so I can compile and compare results.

I’d love to hear comments if there is any feedback you could provide!  Thanks again for reading!



Posted in ISS Detector - redesign, UX Practice

Evolving the Roadmap – ISS Detector

A colleague invited me to listen in on an informal class he was giving around what he studied for a UX certification. While listening in, I was inspired to adjust my process for this ISS Detector redesign I am doing as a personal project.

I’ve segmented each into how many parts, or blog posts, I think it will take me to cover each exercise properly.  Because of my full-time jobs as a mum and BA, I’ve estimated about 2 weeks per part.


What has been done so far:

Company Analysis

  • The goal of the redesign was identified.

Competitive Analysis

  • Got a firm understanding of what features are included in competitive or alternative apps in the market.

What needs to be done:

Current State Analysis – 3 parts

  • Features
  • Same information gathered as was gathered for the competitive analysis
  • Usability Review / Heuristic Expert Review
    • See if multiple UXDs would want to take a crack at it. Integrate everyone’s input.
  • UI flow diagram
  • Information architecture / site map

User Research – 5-8 parts

  • Determine Strategy first – This will determine exactly what techniques I use.
    • What do I want to know?
    • What would be the best way to do this within my constraints?
  • Indirect techniques
    • Look over reviews online
      • Blogs
      • Reddit
      • App store reviews
    • Surveys
      • Brainstorm questions
      • Create the survey
      • Test it out – does it make sense?
      • Where can I find the participants?
      • Send out – elicit feedback
      • Compile results
  • Direct techniques
    • Interviews / Task observations
    • Pick from participants of surveys
    • Ask friends who are users

User Testing – 1 – 2 parts

  • Using remote user testing sites
  • See what issues users have
  • Compile Data from research
  • What insights are gathered?

Deliverables – 1-3 parts

  • User journey
  • Personas
  • Task analysis
  • Scenarios
  • Primary nouns
  • Gap analysis – user expectations vs current state

Information Architecture – 1 – 2 parts

  • Card sorting tests – reach out to survey participants
  • Gap analysis
  • Card sorting results vs current state IA
  • Insights?

Lessons learned so far – 1 part

  • Retrospective!
    • What worked / what didn’t work
    • What to change
    • What to keep doing
  • I should do this earlier in the process as well.

Design – 4 – 6 parts

  • Strategy from insights
    • What needs to be worked on?
    • Improve conversion?
    • Delight users?
  • Ideate – concept sketches
  • Rate for feasibility
  • Compile redesign alternatives to determine best option

Prototypes / mock-ups – 1 – 3 parts

  • User testing on prototypes

Refine / Iterations – 2 – 4 parts

Compile Case Study – Final Step

  • Using Oz Chen’s portfolio case study instructions
  • Write it out first, then insert graphics / assets afterward
Added new boards to the project’s Milonote page

So this was what I came up with after I was inspired. Looking back, it seems a very task-heavy process. I may be adding tasks that are unnecessary, but perhaps I am unaware because of my inexperience. Or I am enthusiastic to try out different things, and this is a good opportunity to try everything out, even if it’s not necessary for the specific redesign goal of converting users of ISS Detector (free version) to purchase the add-ons.

I’d love to hear your feedback below!

Posted in ISS Detector - redesign

Competitive Analysis – ISS Detector

Purpose and Method

The reason I wanted to do a competitive analysis was to see what other ISS-tracking or sky-watching apps had to offer.  There was not a specific question I started out with, though thinking back, it should have been, how do these competitors get their users to convert to paying customers?

I started out with a general internet search and then got more specific as I saw what the landscape looked like.  The general search led me to an article about several ISS tracking and sky-watching applications, I did searches on Google Play and iTunes to see what apps popped up.  Between the article and the app store searches, I had quite a list of apps to go through.

To get the details on each application, I started looking at AppBrain, but they only look at Google Play, and I wanted to see data across Android and iOS app stores.  I found App Annie offers statistical data across app stores.  Of course, on a shoestring (aka non-existent) budget, I wasn’t going to sign up for the premium content that probably could have made compiling this data a little easier. And finally, only Google Play gave information on the number of downloads of apps, so for iOS, I could only use the number of reviews to get an idea of the app’s popularity.

Finding competitors

After looking through different sky watching apps, I noticed two different categories of apps: 1) apps that are specifically for ISS tracking and 2) apps that are for sky-watching and happen to include satellite tracking (ISS included).  Since ISS Detector starts as specifically for tracking the ISS, and Iridium Flares, as part of their free offering, and then offers add-ons for looking at more celestial events, there is value in looking at both sets of apps.


ISS Tracker Apps

ISS Spotter Sputnik! GoISSWatch ISS Locator ISS Tracker Satellite Safari
  • Price: Free
  • iOS only
  • Uses 2D map, not sky map
  • Set alarm for flyovers
  • No ads, in app donations
  • Has a compass, and elevation, magnitude indicator – helping user to find the ISS
  • Night mode(green and black)
  • Rating: 5.0 (444 reviews)
  • Price: free – .99 for no ads
  • iOS only
  • Simple sky map with compass, magnitude, elevation
  • Time of passover
  • Countdown clock
  • Social media sharing
  • Rating: 5.0 (379 ratings)
  • Price: Free
  • iOS only
  • Simplified overhead sky view – it is a perfect circle view, rather than a hemisphere view
  • Real time tracking
  • No ads, no in-app purchases
  • Alerts for passovers
  • Rating: 4.0 (38 ratings)
  • Price: Free; In app purchase for additional satellites
  • Text based
  • Globe map used, not sky map
  • Notification and alerts can be set
  • Rating: 1.5 (6 ratings)
  • Price: Free; Pro version – .99
  • iOS & Android
  • Live video feeds from ISS
  • 2D global map of current location
  • Rating: 4.0 (223 reviews)
  • Downloads: 10,000 – 50,000
  • Price: $2.99
  • iOS & Andriod
  • Multiple interfaces: Globe, 2D, and sky map
  • Tracks ISS and hundreds of satellites
  • Gives information on each satellite
  • Aesthetically pleasing – dark UI design
  • Ratings: GP: 4.4 (575 ratings); iT: 4.5 (191 ratings)
  • Downloads (GP only): 5,000 – 10,000
iss-spotter-compass-elevation sputnik_screenshots_sky goisswatch iss_locator_globe ISS_Tracker_map1.png satellite_safari_skymap

Sky Watcher Apps

Stellarium Mobile Sky Map SkySafari5 Night Sky 4
  • Price: $2.99
  • iOS & Andriod
  • Includes stars, constellations, galaxies (catalog), artificial satellites (ISS included)
  • Realistic graphics
  • Aesthetically pleasing
  • Nightmode (red lines)
  • Downloads (GP): 100k – 500k
  • Google Play rating: 4.5 (7,322 ratings); iTunes rating: 3.5 (64 ratings)
  • Price: $2.99
  • iOS & Android
  • Same makers as Satellite Safari
  • Extensive astronomy app, with satellites (like ISS) listed
  • Not sure if it will show ISS tracking real time – is not shown in screen shots
  • Has both text UI and sky map interface
  • Downloads (GP): 1k – 5k
  • Ratings: GP: 4.5 (96 reviews); iT: 4.5 (76 reviews)
  • Price: .99 / 1.99 monthly subscription for premium content
  • iOS & Andriod
  • Sky watching app that shows planets and satellites (including ISS)
  • Will identify what is in the sky, and show you what is showing up that night
  • Not sure if it will notify you
  • There are premium features that require subscriptions (maybe tracking / notification / alerts are in that?)
  • Downloads (GP): 100k – 500k
  • Rating: GP: 3.6 (1,472 ratings; iT: 4.0 (9,000 ratings)
stellarium_skyscreen1 Skysafari_Screen.jpg nightsky_screen

Key Take-Away Items

ISS Tracking Apps

ISS Detector is most like the ISS / Satellite tracking applications I examined.  

Common features:

  • Free with option to upgrade for a small fee
  • Simple in structure and functions
  • List of fly over times
  • Alerts or notifications of fly overs
  • Simple maps – either 2D, globe, or sky map
  • Not heavy on graphics or aesthetics – unpolished

Satellite Safari is the exception to what the other ISS tracking apps have to offer, as it looks complex, aesthetically pleasing, and does not come with a free option.  This was the most popular of all the ISS tracking apps I included.  

I noticed that Satellite Safari uses a sky map with high quality graphics that simulates the visual field of the horizon, meant to look as close to what the user is seeing in front of them as possible.  This fits in with the Neilsen Norman Groups Usability Heuristic of having the system match the real world.  Sky maps that are as close to what users will actually see when they look up from their phone will be the most useful in helping users find the ISS in the night sky.

Sky Watching Apps

The sky watching apps are more like alternative products, rather than substitute products for the ISS Detector.

 Common features:

  • No free options – users pay for these apps from the beginning
  • LOTS of information about celestial objects – large database
  • Multiple ways to view these objects, skymaps, globes, zooming into the object, etc.
  • ISS or satellite tracking is incidental
  • High quality and aesthetically pleasing graphics

I think there can be a take-away from looking at the sky watching apps: the high quality graphics give the apps a polish the ISS tracking apps don’t have.  From the high ratings and large number of users who left ratings, I would think that users feel they are getting quality for what they are paying for.

Final Thoughts

I’d like to know if users of the ISS Detector have used these other apps, and which of the features they felt were the most compelling.  I’d like to know if they successfully converted, and the reasons behind why or why not.  There are a lot of good questions that came out of this exercise that I can use in user research.

I would also like to learn more about doing a competitive analysis, and different techniques.  I feel I could have done this more efficiently rather than just going in it with a very broad goal of seeing what’s in the market.

Posted in Design principles, UX Examples

Good AND Bad examples of UX – App Annie

While I was researching for the competitor analysis for the ISS Detector app, I was signing up for App Annie, a site that provides reliable statistics for 4 major app stores (AppBrain does the same for only Andriod apps).  While signing up for App Annie, I came across a bad user experience and a good user experience – all at the same time, on the same field!  Seemed a little rare, so I thought I would share.

Bad experience:  User control and Freedom & Flexibility and efficiency of use

There’s a looooong list of states to select from in a drop down, and I cannot type in the field to filter to the one I want to select.  I don’t live in California anymore, so I’m a little annoyed when I have to manually scrooooolllll down to the I’s (you lot in Alabama have it so good!).  This is straight out of the F*ck Dropdowns playbook.

Sure, this isn’t life or death, it’s just a bad experience.



Good experience: Error prevention & Help users recognize, diagnose, and recover from errors

Don’t you hate it get annoyed when you’re signing up for a new account, you just start to type in your new password, and it’s already flashing red at you that you haven’t met the requirements?  Well, not App Annie.  This form provides a great experience because it won’t start yelling at you that something is required until you click off the screen.


And for an added bonus, because I like to leave on an up-note, another good experience with App Annie:


After I signed up, I got a button right there on the screen to open my mailbox, rather than the screen just telling me to do so. It gave me the opportunity to act, a ‘call to action’ as it were, right there. I would put that under the Visibility of System Status, by providing a CTA for the next step the user needs to take, and User Freedom and Control.

Its pretty easy to find bad examples of UX, that is what breaks our flow and draws attention to itself (otherwise, I wouldn’t have thought to write this post), but it’s not so easy to notice and document good examples of UX.  Have you run across good examples of user experience?  Have you ever seen good and bad examples on the same page?

Posted in ISS Detector - redesign, UX Practice

Let’s Get this Party Started!

I’m jumping into it.  I have been studying UXD – and surrounding domains – for about 6 months now, and I have yet to take on a personal project.  I’ve read and read and read, and I need to put in some practice to take it to the next level.  I have a system for my UX studying in the first half of 2017, and part of that is 1 personal UX project each quarter.  Without further ado . . .


ISS Detector mobile app

Why this app?

Anyone who knows me knows I am a space fanatic.  I watch the sky and I devour space news.  I am a fan-grrl of SpaceX, Elon Musk, Gwynne Shotwell, ULA, Tory Bruno, the James Webb telescope, NASA and the ESA.  Jupiter is my favorite planet, and Juno is my favorite probe right now.

A friend at work introduced me to the ISS Detector mobile app.  I was so excited!  I signed up for the emailed NASA ISS alerts, but it’s not the same thing as tracking the ISS across the sky with an app in my hand.  So much more interactive and exciting!

So when the app notifies me for the first time that there is an ISS sighting within the next 5 minutes, I am so excited!  I grab my daughter, and we run outside to the early Summer dusk.  It starts pinging at me that the ISS is overhead.  A graphic half-sphere map shows up on my screen with a blinking dot.  I look up to the sky, look down at my phone.  I’m lost.  I just don’t get it.  Am I headed in the right direction?  How do I read this graphic that looks like a sky-map?  There’s an arrow, is it pointing north like a compass, or what?  I don’t see anything.  Both me and my daughter are disappointed.

Of course, a moment later, the dusk fades into night and stars actually start poking out.  I think it wasn’t dark enough for it to show up yet.  We go back into the house disappointed.

I am determined to figure out this UI.  I start playing around with it, pushing buttons, tilting my phone which makes a mysterious dot move up and down.  What does that mean?  Its not for another few days that I think about going into the help articles.  I didn’t know I needed to study before I could jump in and use the thing.

So, I know, I am not my user. But that bad experience is why I wanted the ISS Detector app to be my first stab at a UX re-design.

Getting Started

I have been using Milanote, a visual notebook web-based application, currently in its beta testing phase.


I set up a board just for the ISS Detector app redesign, and included sub-boards for the different phases in the redesign project.

Company Analysis

There was not a whole lot available on the company behind ISS Detector.  According to Google Play, the developer is listed as RunaR.


According to AppBrain, Runar is a lone applications developer from The Netherlands.  There is wild success with the free ISS Detector app with over 1 million downloads, but there is only just over 10 thousand downloads of the add-on application that only costs $1.99.  From this, I was guessing that the goal would be to convert more users to paying customers.

Some preliminary questions I asked myself:

  • What interests these users?
  • What would delight them?
  • What would lead them to purchase the additional filters?


My company analysis board is looking sparse, but I have made an educated guess that the goal of the company would be to convert users to paying customers by purchasing the additional filters available for ISS Detector.

My next blog will be on the competitive analysis I completed.  I was surprised by those results.  I am currently working on user research.  I find I don’t know as much about user research as I thought!

Posted in Uncategorized

2016: An AMAZING Year!

There’s a meme that 2016 has been a horrible, vindictive year**.  For me, 2016 was an amazing year of accomplishment, rediscovery and reinvention.

Here’s a run-down:

  • First full year in my new career path as a Business Analyst in IT.
  • Finished my Bachelors of Arts in Business Information Systems.
  • Reconnected with my love of art, ideas, and sketching.
  • Discovered my strengths and found a new passion and confidence by focusing on those strengths.
  • Punched through obstacles to try new things by figuring out what was holding me back and worked through each one.
  • Talked to people I wouldn’t normally talk to, and learned new things with which I then went on to explore. This is how I found UX and Design.
  • Learned to be okay with experimentation and failure by learning from the experience.

There’s a lot in that list, from the concrete to the ethereal.  While I did a lot of learning and growing in 2016, the first feeling I had to get through was regret.  Why couldn’t I have found this out about myself long ago?  Did I waste the first “half” of my life before I discovered myself?

I am no spring chicken, as it were.  The big 4-0 is staring me down in 2017.  And I feel like I’ve always been struggling to find my place in the world.  Why do I feel like I finally found it?  Looking back, I can see that 20 years ago I was so close to this same path I am now on.  But I took another path.  Now that I’ve reconnected, it feels like I shouldn’t have left.

It comes down to the choices I made with the information I had at the time, much like the Retrospective Prime Directive.  It took some time, but I came to understand and accept the choices I made that led me down my path.  I was still exploring and growing, even when I was down the other road, and that allowed me to nudge myself in the right direction.  When it all finally clicked together, I was prepared and ready to go!  Bottomline: I didn’t waste my life, I just wasn’t ready until now!

Life is a journey, and I will always be searching, struggling to find my place.  My accomplishments, finding my strengths and reconnecting with my passions are tools that will help me more in the direction that is right for me.  My experience is my weapon of choice on the path I’m taking.

I hope to continue my journey of exploration and discovery into 2017.  One thing I’ve learned about myself: I love the process of exploration and discovery!  I never want to lose that.  I always want to be learning and doing new things.  And I want to help others do the same!

I wish you all the best in your explorations, and hope your discoveries will build on more discoveries in 2017!

FEEDBACK IS A GIFT – and I look forward to hearing from you all in the comments below.


~ Marie


** Tangent: Of course, I wrote this before Carrie Fisher passed away.  I grew up pretending to be Princess Leia as a kid, and when I grew up even more, I found out she was so much more.  **Tangent on a tangent: How weird is it to think of a year as vindictive?  How strange to give human characteristics to a period of time?  Its like its so important to blame someone or something that people have to attribute human characteristics to a period of time to invent that personification of 2016.  There’s 2016 – KILL IT!   I know, I’m tearing apart a meme – a pattern that comes into being by the collective will of internet users – which seems pointless.  It’s just weird!