Get Help: a case study

Okay.. let's try my best here.

Usability and aesthetics

Screen #1

  • What the heck are the SQL queries doing here? I can understand displaying it being helpful in debugging, but that is unacceptable in production. It might pose a security hole also...
  • Icons are meant to be a visual aid when locating elements of interest in the page. In the "need quick help" section the icons are non-aligned and placed after the input elements, which kind of defeats the purpose of having the icons in the first place.
  • Digression: the first SQL query "... ReferChain LIKE '%, ...'" suggests a terrible database design. They should normalize ReferChain to 2 columns and index appropriately.

Screen #2

  • It might be a good idea to make the interface as similar as possible to that of Facebook as a whole (external consistency with the platform). The red buttons must go away, and the sentences in the "wall posts" have to end with a period!
  • I'm starting to think that the italics in the badge description and buttons are unnecessary. It's already attention-sucking red, why do you need to italicize it some more? Why don't you just bold and underline it while we're at it...

Screen #3

  • Similar to the previous screen, the "wall posts" should look similar, if not to Facebook then at least to the "wall posts" in the previous screen.
  • "Probables" is a very unconventional term and does not strike me as an easily understandable term. The correct term is "leads", but that is probably too business-like? Maybe "referrals" should suffice, although it might carry a negative connotation for some people. 

Overall

  • The appearance of the main menu (new project / overview / recommendations) is not consistent across screens, which I think will confuse users ("is this link the same as the one in the previous page?") and just looks broken.
  • Overall aesthetics is actually quite nice. Icons spice up the pages and make it less boring. The badges-profile-stats-invite links look cool but slanted wordings in my opinion are too out of the norm, and it might hamper usability also. I can imagine some little kids tilting their heads or older people grumbling why the ice cream sticks are falling down.

On posting needs 

  • Related items should be near each other. I see at least four separate sections of input element, but actually all of them pertain to one task of "call for help". The "I need help with" section almost looks like it is standalone. The "need quick help?" section is even more terrible because the header is totally wrong: if you want it "quick", you won't "add more details" but instead will click "call for help!" straight away!
  • There is no indication for the purpose of the RSS, twitter, and SMS icons. Do you source out my pleadings via these channels, or do you accept input from these channels, or are they just there for fun?
  • Too many choices might make user feel overwhelmed. Perhaps collapsing all the difficult options under an advanced options field group would be better.

Incentives

  • The idea of having a database of helpers and people needing help already creates value to the users and thus will motivate users to keep visiting the app. Especially when they need help.
  • The feature to refer people is a rather ingenious attempt to break the chicken-and-egg problem. The developers probably hope that users seeking help will actually browser through the list of help needed and refer people accordingly. It is quite unimaginable to have people that are not in need of help currently browsing through the app (unless for badges, which I'll discuss in the next point).
  • The gamification (badge element) adds another element of fun to the app. I don't subscribe to the idea that people will use the app solely to climb up the leaderboard / statistics though... unless it has reached a critical point and being in the leaderboard actually has value.

Other stuff

I am not sure about the vision of the app. It assumes that finding the right friend to help you with something is difficult, but these days when I post stuff on my Facebook wall the right people sometimes-usually-maybe reply. I bet that my wall post is more visible than help pleadings I create in this app.

14 comments

Wow, I have never considered.

Wow, I have never considered the SQL queries as part of the UI.
I *assumed* that it's only for debugging purposes and it's not in the launched product. So I didn't make any comment about that. Nice point.

But even if it's so, I think we don't need to comment on that part, since it's only the database, not UI, which we should comment on.

But nevertheless, it's great that you can bring up that point, even if as side note only. Because that's still some information we can get to give comments and get more understanding about the whole product. =)

*sandwich method* =p

~justhalf~

Haha yeah, the point about.

Haha yeah, the point about the database design is not related to the UI at all. However the part about leaking debugging display is I think a valid concern, although they definitely would (should) spot such an obvious part and modify accordingly.

Sometimes when the world moves too fast, we forget to remove debug lines though, so maybe it's a good idea to wrap debug functions such that it can only be seen by admins / developers.

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