It’s the time of year when we pause to consider all we’re thankful for (and to gorge ourselves on carbs and turkey, only to fall into a tryptophan-induced coma while we attempt to watch another football game). Gratitude is often so underemphasized, a mere afterthought as we rush through our fast-paced lives. Humankind has a tendency to focus on the negatives — the problems we face and the annoyances that plague us — while all around us we miss so many opportunities to simply be thankful.
This definitely holds true for designers. It’s easy to identify UI errors and design flaws, to look at everything with a critical eye. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing — after all, critical eyes make for great designers. However, it’s important that we notice design wins as well, and to find digital experiences worth celebrating.
In the spirit of Thanksgiving, our team at Nine Labs racked our brains to come up with a list of user experience designs we’re thankful for. We hope you enjoy them!
J CORNELIUS, PRESIDENT & CEO
My favorite new experience has to be TouchID on iOS. It’s the first thing that actually solves username/password nonsense for apps and services. The problem is not enough apps are taking advantage of it. Case in point, all my financial apps (American Express, USAA, Simple, Coin) use it, but Wells Fargo doesn’t. The Wells Fargo app is pretty bad in general, and the lack of TouchID is annoying enough that I’ve actually considered switching banks.
Tempo detection in Runkeeper and Spotify Running is pretty cool, too. It removes one of the little barriers to starting a run. Just start running and the app automatically selects music that fits your pace. Amazing.
Both of these technologies are very easy to use and understand because of the simplicity of their execution. They remove friction from the experience, which is always a good thing.
BRAD WEAVER, CHIEF EXPERIENCE OFFICER
I’m in love with (and insanely jealous of the work done by FiftyThree on) the Paper ecosystem. I tried the Paper app when it was more or less finger painting on the iPad, and it sat unused in a folder. When FiftyThree announced Pencil, I was intrigued. I hate using a stylus, but there was something magical about the Pencil. I was immediately sold the first time I used it. Where Penultimate and so many other apps failed in sensitivity and in understanding where the wrist was on the device, FiftyThree nailed it. It truly felt like I was using something from a science-fiction film. I used the app for sketches, wireframes, and lettering, and it fit perfectly into my workflow.
Then they came out with their iPhone app. The Paper app for iPhone has become the center of my day-to-day operations. Not only can I capture quick sketches and ideas on both of my devices, but I can be a Creative Director on the go and quickly make notes on images and sketches to get back to my team, no matter where I am. Some long-time users have complained about the recently-simplified UI, and the reduction of features, but I applaud FiftyThree for having the boldness to remove distractions from their interface, and for allowing the user a blank canvas for doing just about anything, including making bulleted lists, taking notes, drawing original art, marking up photos, sketching ideas, or simply writing by hand.
The best interface is one that melts into your daily life and works the way that you do. There’s nothing to learn, you just do your thing and the interface goes along with you. Paper is just that type of interface for me, and I’m thankful FiftyThree brought it to the marketplace.
KELLYE CALL, PROJECT MANAGER
I’m obsessed with Venmo. It’s especially useful in this day and age as people no longer carry around much cash. There are a few reasons the app is convenient for me. First, it’s ideal for people who live with roommates (like me). Instead of worrying about passing checks back and forth, I can pay my roommate for my portion of the bills in about two seconds through Venmo. I can connect my checking account and credit card, and pay with with either one. Before Venmo, I was typically restricted to using my checking account to pay bills. It’s nice to have the option to split bills between the accounts.
Venmo is also great for when I go out with friends. Instead of worrying about splitting restaurant checks, I can quickly Venmo someone for my part of the ticket. If I’m shopping at the grocery store with my roommate, I don’t have to wait for the cashier to split the total between two cards. I just Venmo my roomie half the cost. If a friend buys movie tickets in advance for a group of us, we can simply Venmo her for our tickets. There’s no longer an excuse for owing people money! Venmo is simple to use, and I love how you can title your payment so you always remember whether you paid your friend for those concert tickets or not. I’m thankful for the ways Venmo makes managing my money simple, and I honestly can’t imagine life without it.
PAIGE TEMPLETON, UX DESIGNER
Oh, how I adore the Robinhood app! As someone just starting in the stock world, it gave me the opportunity to trade on my own and to make mistakes without paying a broker high fees. What’s so great about the Robinhood experience? For starters, it’s delightful from the moment you open the app. You’re greeted with a TouchID entrance for security. The app syncs directly with your bank account, making it easy to send and receive money. You even receive a detailed financial statement every week in your inbox.
On the interface side, everything is easily accessible. The account icon takes you to everything you need for trading: stock balances, order history, dividends, and more. The home screen features all of the stocks you select to watch. It shows the current prices and metrics for each, automatically staying up to date so there’s no need to click multiple times to see how a stock is doing. It takes the hard work out of stock investing, and it truly is, in my humble opinion, the best option for millennials who want complete control over their portfolios. I’m thankful for the impact Robinhood has had on my life (and my wallet).
CHARLINE LEGER, VISUAL DESIGNER
I absolutely love Flipboard! Flipboard regroups all of my favorite newspapers and magazines in one single app, and it allows me to interact with it just like I would with a real news journal. It’s so intuitive and simple; it does all of the work for me! It’s also efficient. It integrates all of my favorite articles, and I don’t have to open my browser to see the complete write up, or the pictures. Flipboard makes me pick my favorite thematics, so I tend to discover tons of new sources that really fit my interests. It is the best, most easy way for me to keep up to date on all of my favorite newspapers, and I’m always thankful to know what’s happening around the world, and in my own country of France.
SIERRA PETROWSKI, UX DESIGNER
I heart FanDuel. Here’s why: I like sports, but I love to gamble. I first signed up with DraftKings, and I have to admit that it was a little confusing. The design was “meh,” and it just wasn’t organized very well. I searched for greener gambling pastures and, to my delight, I found FanDuel. Since switching to FanDuel, my experience has been so much better. Every sport is clearly shown, along with each type of contest, event time, entry fee, etc. FanDuel’s layout and design create a much better user experience than anything else I’ve found. I also love the app, because it incorporates a ton of content while it’s also well designed and easy to use. I’m thankful for FanDuel (especially when I win!).
MIRANDA HOCEVAR, MANAGING DIRECTOR
As a woman who appreciates fashion and stress-free shopping, I have to say that ASOS is the best online shopping experience I’ve ever had. When you browse current styles and select a garment that catches your eye, the detail page provides three different perspectives of each garment, along with a video of a model walking the runway in the piece so you can see how the clothes fall in real life. Additionally, Asos has a section devoted to styling advice, showing visitors how to pair their garments and accessories for a fashion-forward look. I am so thankful for Asos, and for the time and money I’ve saved while shopping from the comfort of my own living room.
JORDAN WATTS, CONTENT STRATEGIST
Okay, people, I’m just gonna be real. My favorite UX experience is found on Facebook. You can go ahead and get your noses out of the sky and admit it — you love it, too! We’ve all slammed social media and its pathetic, codependent users when we’re hanging with “those people (you know the kind I mean),” but in reality, my life wouldn’t be the same without FB. I love, more than anything, how well connected I’ve been able to stay with friends from all different seasons of life, and how I’ve been able to watch them grow, marry, raise children, and conquer their own little parts of the world. I love it that, although I might not see a friend face to face for months or years at a time, when we reconnect and get together it’s like no time has passed because we’ve been able to catch regular glimpses of one another’s lives. I also love the ability to stealthily investigate (read: stalk) people without anyone knowing. Except Big Brother. They know. They always do. In spite of government surveillance programs, I have to say, I’m really thankful for Facebook (and Facebook only; I don’t Tweet well).
JACKLYN BURGAN, UX RESEARCHER & STRATEGIST
Any of my close friends will tell you how much I hate grocery shopping, and I’m always on the hunt for whatever makes it less of a headache. I’m also trying to learn how to cook healthier meals and live a healthier lifestyle in general, so I take time every Sunday to choose a few meals to make that week that I can feel good about (i.e., meals that are healthy enough to cancel out the guilt I feel when I eat two cookies afterward), and then I make my shopping list.
When I discovered that Publix had a shopping list tool on their website, I jumped for joy. Is the interface awesome? No, but it’s good enough to the get job done with minimal headaches. The best part is that I can email the list to myself or someone else, and the email has checkboxes for each item so I can mark them off as I move through the store. Brilliant! It even tells me which aisles everything I need are on so I can finally curb the habit of going down every row and picking up things I don’t need, like Dunkaroos (OMG, yum!).
While it’s great to have this shopping list in an email, it’s even better to have it within the mobile app itself. That way, when I realize I forgot to add something to the list, I can quickly search and add it from my phone without having to get to a computer to use the website.
All of these are reasons why I will drive farther to pick up groceries. The time I save in the store doing something I despise makes driving a few extra miles to Publix worth it. I’m thankful Publix looks out for horrible (but healthy!) shoppers like me, and I’m thankful I spend as little time as possible within the confines of the grocery store each week!