Shopping for Don Park

I searched myself on Web's Biggest (via Ross Mayfield) and got this ad-sponsored search result:

Shop For Don Park Large Selection
MonsterMarketplace features over 2000 merchants. Compare prices on Don Park and save

Hmm.  Apparently I am on sale.  So I followed the link and got:

Dog Park at Amazon.com
Amazon.com/dvd
Save up to 35% on top sellers. Qualified orders over $25 ship free

Ergo, I am a dog park available for 35% off at Amazon.  I wonder if being a dog park is better than being a fire hydrant.

Unease of Use

Designing user interfaces is hard but designing products or services is even harder.  Why?  Because, with user interface design, you are only concerned about making user interfaces easy to use.  With product or service design, you have to also consider when, where, and how to make things difficult to use.

Services should be made easy to start using (i.e. one-click registration and subscription) but difficult to stop using.  Idiot designers will think in terms of walls, slopes, and mazes.  Smart designers will think in terms of incentives, habits, and addictions.

Fortunately (?!?), market moves too quickly for anyone except a handful of companies to do either properly, creating an atmosphere of tolerance for the mediocre or even torturous user interfaces, products, and services.

Killer Mobiles for Killer Apps

Continuing my series on mobile platforms, I now think killer mobile apps need mobile devices designed like game consoles, meaning that it has one or two slots for application cartridges.  Each cartridge contains one or more applications.  Cellphones would come with a built-in cartridge containing the phone app as well as others.

Adding a cartridge adds new apps.  Applications have two modes: running and stopped.  The Next-App button (aka Appy button) activates (brings to front) each running apps in turn.  Some apps can activate itself when an event fires (phone call received).  To see the list of available apps, keep the Next-App button pressed for a second.

Eventually, app cartridges will be advance to become platform cartridges, taking over the full functionality of the mobile device to offer better application platform services than the one that came with the device (i.e. easy to use app download service that auto-configures apps for your device).  If you don't like the built-in calender, just stop it and run a third-party calendar instead.

Evil Twin

Evil Twin (via Dave Winer) Wi-Fi vulnerability is another example of typical boneheaded security designer's mindset: single-side authentication.  While Wi-Fi users have to identify themselves to protected Wi-Fi routers, routers don't have to identify themselves to the users.

The Next Mobile Killer App

The first killer-app for mobiles is the phone calls.  I believe static downloadable audio contents such as music, audio books, and podcasts will be the next killer-app. Only design problem is sharing one battery for both critical (phone calls) and casual (listening to audio) uses which calls for smarter power management and more powerful batteries.

Great user experience and clever hardware design is where Apple excels at so I expect Apple to introduce iPod phones within a year or two at the latest.

Unfortunately, screen-based applications and dynamic audio contents, driven by voice browser technologies, will continue to struggle in the near future due to tedious user experience.  Mobile killer apps must be available at the user's fingertip, not hidden behind a wall of patience.

Mobile Platforms

The last time I've done any intense development work for mobile devices was 4~5 years ago.  At that time, I've looked at Palm, Pocket PC, J2ME, and WAP and concluded that mobile platforms were not yet ready.  Last week, I've looked at the mobile devices and OSes again.  My opinion is that it's still not ready despite the amazing change in capabilities and capacities.

The main problem that prevents emergence of killer apps on mobile platforms is that applications are treated as second-class citizens, placed in a straight-jacket and pigeon-holed.

To receive or make a call, one just flip-opens the phone or press a button.  To use an application. one has to navigate around a typically hierarchical tree of functionalities.  Some devices have separate buttons for built-in applications but they either cannot be remapped to another application or controls for remapping is buried and lost in that confusing tree of functionalities.

In addition, functionalities are not tightly integrated and offers wide array of modal experiences depending on where you are on the tree.  On top of the default phone mode, browser mode, SMS mode, e-mail mode, address book mode, and various preference modes, each application has its own mode.

Before killer apps can emerge, mobile platforms must be changed drastically, removing modes and allowing applications to add their functionalities without being boxed in.