Someone got tired of struttin his stuff and had to be carried part of the way home.

Someone got tired of struttin his stuff and had to be carried part of the way home.

Some light midday walking and reading with Sammy

Some light midday walking and reading with Sammy

The Keys to Siri

February 11, 2013

About a week ago, I was in a library and had several things I wanted to ask Siri and have her do for me. It would have been faster to go through Siri than to go in and out of several apps, but I didn’t want to be loud. I also didn’t want to pack all my stuff up, risk losing that comfy chair, and go outside to talk to her. So I thought I’d type to her instead. But when I held down the home button and Siri came up to greet me, I realized something. There is no way to type to Siri.


I looked in the “What can I help you with?” options (by tapping on the “i” icon), the settings, and searched the web.

I know, I know. Siri is meant to be a vocal interaction, not touch/text interaction. The rest of the iPhone’s UI is for that, right? But Siri is more than just a way to talk to the phone. She’s the closest thing to an assistant. And sometimes interacting with Siri is convenient not just because it’s through speech, but because I can accomplish many things in one place and in (mostly) one form of interaction. I don’t have to jump in and out of apps, go through their menus, figure out what app to use (can Google answer this or do I need to go to Wolfram Alpha?). I just have Siri do it.

Ok, maybe in many cases it wouldn’t be faster to type to Siri than to just use the apps. And yeah, I do prefer to talk to her. But what about the times when you have to be quiet (in a library, a meeting, or near someone sleeping) and Siri would be easier, faster, whatever-er? Not enough to justify it? Then I just have one thing to say to that:

Oh, for goodness sakes, we have the option to invert color!


I was wrong. There actually is a way to type to Siri… sort of.

A reader informed me that if you ask Siri something (in my case it was something she didn’t understand and responded with the option to search the web), you can scroll back up, tap on your question/command (you’ll see it in quotes) and a text field appears, allowing you to retype it.


The problem I have is it only allowed me to do this once. To do it again I would have to ask another question, scroll up, tap on it and type. Which not only conflicts with being quiet but requires several extra steps each time.

No hassles. Just Moves.

February 8, 2013

Moves for iPhone - FREE

Just download the app, drop the phone in your pocket and go. It automatically tracks all your walking, biking, etc. No log-ins, check-ins, or anything else to worry about.

I love being able to forget about the app until I’m back at home at the end of my day and ready to see what I did. It shows me the what, when, and where, all beautifully laid out in a quick and easy to read timeline. 

You can also share a summary of your activity through email, Twitter, or Facebook.


Guiding the User: Gestures and Walkthroughs

January 8, 2013


Clear, Rise and Solar are three examples of a trend of “gesture driven” apps with a flat UI. These are novelty apps for people lusting for the very latest in app design. Besides using a more flat UI style, which is a topic for a different discussion, all apps contain non-standard interactions.

All interactions start off as non-standard and/or unfamiliar and…

This means users don’t know how to use them beforehand,

Such as pinch-to-zoom, holding app icons to initiate the option to move or delete, or holding/double-tapping the home button to bring up Siri or the app switcher.

The problem is mainly the lack of visual cues […]

Arguably a less intrusive way compared to a walkthrough is to guide the user in the situation with UI hints. This can be done through slight visual cues and animations. A hint should not be a popup (it’s probably even more disruptive than a tutorial).

Some examples of clever explanation of UI gestures include Apple’s own camera lock screen sliders.

Some others are Clear’s own “Pull to Create Item”


And Loren Brichter’s “Pull down to refresh…” now in many iOS apps, including Facebook:


When it comes to teaching users to use your UIs, I would recommend to do so mainly by progressive disclosure with slight visual cues and subtle animations - only use a walkthrough as a final resort.

I agree with this and John Gruber:

A good rule of thumb is that the user should be able to figure out how to use an app just by looking at it.

Generally, the best case is where the user has to be walked through as little as possible while still getting it. But, while gestures may need more hand holding to begin with, if they are designed well that trade off can lead to greater benefits in ease of use and enjoyment.

Paper is another good example of this.