This current project has been redline free. Let me just type it again: Redline Free!
Disclaimer: I worked at Cingular/AT&T for about 9 years as a designer in the mobile marketing organization, but never for what we termed the "dot com group." In many ways it's both disappointing and unsurprising that this is the user experience.
A few weeks ago it was determined that 2 members of my family were eligible for phone upgrades. Since I'm the CTO for this unit, it was my job to do the research and figure out the best path forward for the upgrades. The best time for me to do this was later in the evening after work and dinner. I logged into my account and followed the semi-clear path to find out my upgrade options. In the "I want to..." drop down, I select "Manage my plan > Check upgrade eligibility."
Once there I see my phones and there is an blue tab in the bottom corner that says: Chat Available. I want to ask a few questions, and I click the tab to talk (chat) with a customer service rep. I click "Wireless," then "Billing, Usage, Plans, and features." in the following choices.
When the tab opens I'm presented with a list of options and one more stage of workflow to theoretically refine my choices so that the CSR can more quickly and efficiently aid me in answering my questions. Standard stuff.
Does this continue the workflow and open the chat window (which I have successfully used before)? No it does not, instead I'm presented with the following screen:
Confusing right? Um, I haven't made an order yet. Plus the number doesn't help, it just sends me up a tree of automated choices that don't answer my questions.
If chat wasn't available then don't present it as an option. How about the tab says: Chat Offline, and if anyone clicks on it, it opens to show the hours when live chat is available, and/or when the phone center is active. That would be an acceptable experience! Zappos does this and it's fine, and it works.
The experience at AT&T is one of my personal UX pet peeves and the overarching moral of the story: Workflow. Don't make customers do workflow without payoff, it is a cul-de-sac of tears and frustration. Plus I will write about it and offer up a sarcastic tweet or two, trust me, nobody wants that!
In conclusion: If your help is offline declare it, tell the users when it's available or offer links to self-serve that actually work. Don't make me do workflow when I don't have to, and make sure workflow has a result. Please.
Thanks for reading!
Last weekend (Jan 22nd) people around the country came out and March for Women in the US. Here in Seattle we had an easy 100,000 + folks march from Judkins Park to the International District and through Downtown to Seattle Center. There were lots of great signs and posters and one that my Sister-In-Law's friend designed, that inspired me: the Rebel Alliance symbol with Princess Leia's hand raised up in a fist. Two of the designs are direct responses to that, the third is just to throw a little gas on the fire. Update:! I was hoping you could buy all three as shirts, mugs, and stickers from my store at Design By Humans.
Unfortunately all the Leia designs were pulled: violation of IP. Plus it doesn't help that DBH is a seller of official Star Wars®️
shirts and more. I even tried making it more of a silhouette. Also just to cross my t's and dot my i's: I don't own or claim to own any rights to Star Wars or Lucasfilm or Disney properties.
I have some other ideas for shirts in our fun new politically charged presidency! Stay tuned!
The Anker® 5-Device Charging Station — with 40W 5-Port Desktop Charger is something that gets used everyday by my family. We had tried a couple of different solutions to try and organize and charge our various phones, and keep them in a central location. Nothing really seemed to fit bill, either very expensive, not great looking, or not compatible with more than two or three devices. Plus at the time of purchase I was carrying around about 3-4 mobile phones (for work) and some of them were definitely power hungry. Of all the different solutions I had seen, the Anker Station seemed to have the perfect combo of usefulness, design, and aesthetics. Below are the product photos I found on Amazon. (Currently the Anker® 5-Device Charging Station is no longer made.)
Looks good. However there are things that could be better. When you see these, or at least when I see them after using the product, I start to wonder: "Didn't anyone not think of this use case?" "Really?" The funny thing is, I really like Anker products. I have three portable chargers, numerous cables, and a cool power block, it's kind of a head scratcher.
Exhibit 1: Why a straight out plug as opposed to a right angle plug? Even better why not put the power/charger power input from the wall in a place where the back end of the station can fit flush or close to flush to a wall?
Exhibit 2: When your phone is in the station, you can't touch the home button. Until you use the station and want to open your phone while it's charging, you won't realize what a huge pain this actually is. Plus it kills the organizational aesthetics of the charging station design.
So now instead of the members of my family slotting their phones into the helpful stand up slots, they lay their phones flat on the top. It's super great...
Exhibit 3: Not only would it be great if the power in cord fit at a right angle to the base, but having the power cord coming out of the wall with a flat right angle plug would be aesthetically better. More than just looks, it would be a better design overall.
In conclusion, The Anker® 5-Device Charging Station — with 40W 5-Port Desktop Charger is a useful and attractive way to organize your phones and a tablets. Unfortunately it only gets a 7 out of 10. The flaws illustrated above prevent it from being the best charging station it could be. I do however think it is telling that the station is no longer for sale; though I haven't found anything recently that comes close. Bluelounge has some good options but they aren't really set up for a countertop family situation. If you have a desk with some space behind it: this could be the charging device organizer of your dreams!
Since becoming a designer, and especially in the last few years working on UI/UX, I've developed a point of view (a critique?) about designs I see.