At the end of every release of Mouseaddict I go into a slight depression. Why? Because we have to compile a feature list for the next version of Mouseaddict. We look at the ideas we have for a new version of the app. Most of Gene and my ideas come from our own usage of our app. It is, basically, a navigation app. It’s job? To tell you where to go in the Disneyland resort to find what you are interested in finding. As Mouseaddict developers, what is the problem with this? We generally use the app *very* differently. So we see different features as important.
Gene’s idea of the perfect app has very few features — thought out very well and laid out in perfect harmony. Think of Gene as the “Apple way”. My idea of the perfect app? *Generally* the same, but we see the word *few* differently. I see it to mean “simple” — not “less”. I used to think that you could have many many simple features in an app and it would work. I was wrong.
I have known Gene for 20 years. Think about that — 20 years! The biggest lessons I have learned from him, I learned in the last 2 years — working on Mouseaddict. What are they?
1. Less means less: Sometimes it is not that you shouldn’t implement a feature. Sometimes the feature just needs to be moved or designed differently.
2. The customer is NOT always right: Sometimes the customer does not even understand what they want enough to tell you what it is!
3. Consider ongoing costs when you implement a feature: Standalone features are best. Features that require server-side support? Not so much.
and 4. KISS: Keep it simple stupid! Things should be easy to find. The icons should denote what they do. As much as you can, keep to real-world-idioms.
Interface design is important. It is the single smartest thing you can spend time on in your app. It is not as simple as “touch this button to do this action”. A major feature in Mouseaddict is a map. Simple, right? Well we didn’t start out this way. We originally started out by making you go through up to 4 touches to find a location. Why? We saw the implementation differently. To illustrate:
Originally we presented a list of “Lands” in the resort — such as Fantasyland or Tomorrowland. When you touched a “Land”, we presented a list of categories in that land — such as Ice Cream, Coffee, etc. Then, when you touched the category, we presented a list of “places” that pertain to that category. Touching any of these “places” allowed you to go to the detail screen for the “place”. On the upper right of the list of places there was a simple button that said “Map”. This button, once triggered, would take you to the map view that displayed all of these places.
Well, Mouseaddict does not work that way anymore. Why? We found out that many more people were touching on the Map button and skipping the detail screen. It took a bit of time for us to come up with a good solution. Mouseaddict now has a category chooser at the bottom of the map screen. Simply go to the map screen in the app, slide the chooser to the category and touch the category icon. All the pins drop on that map for the places that pertain to that category.
This is a much cleaner solution — and is a solution that would not have come about had I not learned the lessons from Gene. Less is almost always more.