A visual to-do list, cut nine ways
NINE started as a pet project by one of our team who had identified a problem with how he used his phone camera. He was using it as a quick way to capture information – labels on clothing to buy, movie posters of films to see, even typeface examples for some of our projects! The problem was that as a prolific user of the phone’s camera – all of these ‘actionable’ photos ended up as tiny thumbnails – and worse, the only way to navigate them was by date and location in a huge scrolling list.
We discussed this amongst our team and discovered that we all did exactly the same thing.
Some of us had attempted to organise photographs into folders – but you really had to have done this in advance, or begin creating new folders ad-hoc – what to name them? Is it a going to end up a folder with a single image in it? How do I differentiate from holiday albums?
Others had adopted apps like Pinterest, which do much of what they needed, but again, all those great features get in the way of solving this particular problem simply and did not negate the same decision paralysis over where to put the images you capture.
Decision Paralysis, or choice paralysis is something we have all experienced – trying to decide what to watch on Netflix or picking a price plan for your mobile phone or how to ‘tag’ your items in Evernote. When offered a seemingly endless supply of options (or an empty box), we find ourselves unable to make that decision easily, or quickly.
When it came to our app we felt that we needed to address this issue when it came to organising these visual reminders, and that this would be a key part of our value proposition. We would offer a highly limited choice of ‘tags’ but they would be flexible, everyday and recognisable – they would create a kind of a mnemonic device. You would know where you had put things.
This became the hardest part of the app to design in the end.
We knew that most of the things in the list would be ‘actionable’ and so we started with a list of the most common verbs in the english language, and began to group those that were similar and remove verbs that were not really appropriate (e.g. ‘to lose’ or ‘to become’). The list was great, but still a little too long for our needs.
We also explored visual mechanisms for tag selection that might assist remembering them – and the lightning bolt hit when one of us looked at their phone and saw the screen for entering telephone numbers. Not only did it work visually, but it limited the tags to a simple grid where your fingers begin to remember where things are. You use this all the time – from phone, to keyboard, to bank machine.
NINE was the magic number.
The discussions over which nine tags would cover everything was to prove pretty difficult – personal opinion begins to creep in and skew things. We ended up with several versions of the app over the course of development which were tested by all of our friends and families, which offered some fantastic insight into how people were using the app, and what tags were being used.
In the end, we had to remove some of our favourite tags. For example, ’Eat’ was removed as we decided that this could be captured by ‘Love’ (great dishes that inspire you), ‘Make’ (recipes and cocktails) and ‘Go’ (restaurants and cafés). We added some additional flexibility by allowing our users to label items – this may seem like a step away from the vision, but we made it completely optional – and when we tested it the labels looked really cool on the parallaxing list, so why not :-)
Other features we included were a subtle HDR style filter to the camera as it made any text captures really stand out, and brought some consistency to how the item lists looked. The camera also lets our users import from their photo library – again, something that arose from testing but is a definite improvement. NINE also captures location, if it can, which we felt would be particularly useful for photos of places that you wanted to remember – it even tries to locate where older photos from the library were taken.
There were three things we wanted our app to do, capture quickly, organise simply and find easily, these goals kept us focussed – particularly from a UX perspective.
We can’t wait to see what the world thinks of NINE.