User Aware Apps

April 09, 2012 by Gabe | [mmd] |

I've been noodling around with Drafts since it was released this weekend. Drafts is a basic note app that allows a user to jump right into making words and doing something with them. I love the concept. It reminds me a bit of OmniFocus for iOS in it's ability to quickly get to the reason for its existence.

When OmniFocus first launches, even before the data has loaded, I can start adding a new action item. There's almost no time or effort wasted fiddling with screens or buttons to start using the app. But even OmniFocus stops short of my ideal. There are still far too many views to switch between before creating a complete action with start dates, notes and contexts.

I like the approach that Drafts uses. Drafts drops straight into text entry mode. Open the app and within a second, I start using the app for the reason I bought it. If I go back later, Drafts assumes that I want to enter new words. It's easy enough switch to a list view to browse old entries, but Drafts always defaults to a specific context, which is adding a new note.

I know that overly clever UI controls are all the rage now, but I don't like that version of the future. I'd rather have apps that don't need me to fiddle with controls. I'd rather have apps that learn how I use them and conform to me.

For example, if the majority of the time, I open Mail to create a new message, then always open mail and drop me into a draft message. If I always open Simplenote, WriteRoom or Nebulous Notes1 to create a new note, then they should anticipate my action and open instantly into a new note editor. If I primarily open my calendar and switch to my weekly view, then the app should start me off there every time I come back.2

But how great would it be if apps could learn our routines and adapt? If they could know how my intentions vary throughout the day and week, I'd get more value out of each app launch. Human lives are relatively methodical and oscillate with dependable frequencies. Sounds like a good problem to try and solve.

Thankfully, today we have moved beyond splash screens for most iOS apps, but we now live in a world of knobs, toggles and view controllers that are wasting attention.

  1. My relationship with text editors is complicated, to say the least. 

  2. I don't imagine this is an easy problem to solve. I also understand that an app like Drafts is far more simple than Mail or Calendar apps. I think it's o.k. to dream though.