- 1 Scenario
- 2 Current User Experience
- 3 Alternatives
A forum member (lets call her Susan) is at a community picnic and wants to post a picture from her mobile phone to her neighborhood forum. Susan is on a limited data plan and is concerned about using her limited data capacity.
Current User Experience
Susan users her phone’s native Camera app to take the picture. She then either
- Uploads the photo to a cloud sharing service (Google+, iCloud, Facebook, etc...), copies the resulting URL, and includes that in an email to her forum
- Emails the picture to her forum via her phone’s email app, which is available as an option in the phone’s share menu.
- Navigates to her group via the website and adds the photo from her on phone gallery as an attachment to a new post from the website -or- includes the link mentioned in method 1.
The photo is stored somewhere other than E-Democracy. This forces readers to leave the site/email app to view the picture, prevents E-Democracy from including the picture in file searches and digests, and introduces another ToS into the user’s experience. Furthermore, the process of uploading a photo to another site, then copying a url into an email or web form is a bit clumsy, especially on a mobile phone. Also, a user either has to upload the photo immediately, and author and transmit a post on their data plan, or remember to upload the photo and author and transmit a post at a later time when they are on wifi.
Many E-Democracy users are unaware that they can start a new topic via email. Many E-Democracy users also do not know how to attach a file to an email - although this is moot if the user uses the phone’s share menu to start an email with the photo. This method also requires the user to know the email address for her forum - or have it in her address book - and the name of the thread if she wishes to post to an existing thread. If concerned about data plan usage, users have to remember to transmit the photo and post when they are on wifi.
Difficulty navigating the site is a common piece of feedback among users. This is even more true on mobile devices, as the site is not optimized for mobile use. This method also requires users to use two applications, contributing to a confusing experience (similar to method 1 problems). Also, a user either has to upload the photo immediately, and author and transmit a post on their data plan, or remember to upload the photo and author and transmit a post at a later time when they are on wifi.
The photo is stored somewhere other than E-Democracy. This means less bandwidth usage and storage for us. The photo is also own a social network, though there might not be a link to the E-Democracy topic.
This is the closest of the methods to an end-to-end method with smooth transitions between the apps involved. This method also gives the user the option of delaying transmission of the complete post if she wishes, but she does have to remember to send the mail later.
This method provides the ability to read posts and respond in an existing topic at one screen. This method also gives the user the option of delaying transmission of the photo, but she has to remember to author her post and attach the photo later.
Educate Users on Email Usage
Most of the problems with method 2 revolve around user skills and knowledge, which can be tackled by an effort to educate users about how to use E-Democracy via email. This could involve regular emails containing helpful information, creating a text and/or video tutorial on how to use E-Democracy via email, and a campaign to get users to add the email addresses of their forums to their address book.
Low tech costs: Sitewide emails can be sent either via MailChimp, or something can be figured out for sitewide emailing on GroupServer. Hosting a text or video tutorial is also pretty simple. Email is on every phone, in their share menus: Every smartphone comes with some email app, and Android and iOS (and probably Windows and Blackberry, but haven’t investigated) include the email app in their media sharing menus, contributing to the smooth end-to-end user experience.
Users still have to remember thread names: As far as I can tell, there is no tech or general education solution for this - users simply have to remember the name of a thread if they wish to reply to that thread via email. Awareness campaigns for event based threads, similar to establishing Twitter hashtags for an event, can probably work in some cases, but doesn’t address the issue for general threads.
Reading and replying to an existing thread: Unless the user is getting an email for every post, the user will have to visit the website to read a thread if they wish to do so before responding to it. Users need to manually manage data plan usage: A user can take a picture and author a post, but if they don’t want to use their data plan, they have to save the post in their email app and remember to send the email later when they are using wifi. Not the most convenient option for users.
Costs of Email campaign and Tutorial creation: Executing either of these well takes time and money.
HTML 5 Posting Page
HTML 5 includes a lot of features that benefit mobile users, and in general make websites more capable with fewer dependencies and hassles. In this case, HTML 5’s File API and Capture tag can be used to create a page that allows a user to add an image directly from their camera to a post. The current post pages can also be modified to use HTML 5’s File API for a similar effect.
In generally, a mobile app provides us with the most flexibility in creating a user experience and interacting with the mobile device. We could design and implement an application whose sole purpose is to allow a user to easily post to groups she is a part of and add a photo from her device’s storage or camera.
Can delay photo and post transmission: An app can provide a user with the ability to attach a photo to a post and author the post, then instruct the app to transmit the post later when she is on a wifi network. Assuming the user keeps the app running in the background, this can happen without requiring additional effort on the part of the user.
Can provide users with a purpose built UI: A single purpose app can guide a user through a process and provide the user with needed choices and information. For example, upon entering the app
iOS does not allow apps to add share menu items: Why? Cause Apple, that’s why. Hopefully that will change in future iOS versions.
Development Costs and Multiple Platforms: You need a Mac to develop an iPhone app. Why? Cause Apple, that’s why. Beyond that, an app would have to be developed for at least iOS and Android, and maybe Blackberry and Windows as well. For this reason, it is common to see organizations create an app on one platform, and then wait months before releasing the app on another platform.
GroupServer API: It doesn't exist. Some of the functionality can work around this (using email methods to post for example, and special web pages for the interface), but this idea can be executed better if there is an API for authenticating the user and fetching their groups.