UX Consultation Pays Off for Loan Calc App
Can you afford that loan? That’s an important question, especially in the U.S., where a long period of easily available credit has been implicated in the economic recession. Help is on the way from Loan Calc, a new app for Nokia devices based on Symbian platform. And with a user experience (UX) consultation provided by Nokia, developers with the app’s publisher, RaaWee Inc., hope to make Loan Calc not just useful but easy to use.
The app helps mobile consumers plan their financing. Users can enter terms and interest rates for auto loans, mortgages, and other types of financing, and then determine what their monthly payments would be. The app’s current version is aimed primarily at U.S. users.
Loan Calc is also the first consumer-oriented app that RaaWee has published in Nokia’s Ovi Store. Most of the company’s work centres on building apps for clients who then either use the apps internally or resell them to consumers. For this reason, the developers were eager to have additional UX help, says Sibtain Naqvi, manager of development at RaaWee. ‘We have our own design unit, which assists us in usability testing, but since this was our first experience with the Ovi Store, we wanted to do it the right way’, he says.
The ‘right way’ involved a UX consultant for Nokia who employed mobile usability heuristics as well as relevant platform style guides to review Loan Calc. These heuristics are essentially criteria used to evaluate a mobile app; they include factors such as visibility of system status, consistency, and error management. In a written report delivered to the developers, the specialist listed the app’s strengths, highlighted some usability issues, and suggested several improvements.
Overall, the UX consultant wrote, Loan Calc is an ‘innovative and useful’ app. It has a ‘well constructed’ appearance, ‘great colours’, and ‘clear’ icons, the report added.
But some UX issues were uncovered, too. Among them: inconsistencies in mapping and icons, a need for more help for novice users, and a need for more tactile feedback when users select items on the screen. And to help RaaWee prioritise its subsequent work on the app, all identified issues were ranked in four categories of increasing severity: cosmetic, minor, major, and catastrophe. It’s an approach that Naqvi calls ‘very useful’.
Many of the suggestions called for the kinds of small changes that for users can make a big difference. For example, the UX consultant suggested that the developers add ‘kinetic scrolling, so that the user can more easily scroll beyond the visible screen’.
Another suggestion: To enhance usability by reducing the chances of user mistakes, make some of the touch areas larger and set them farther apart. Some of these areas, the report said, are quite close to one another, making it ‘challenging’ for users to press them without making mistakes.
The developers found the report helpful. ‘We will implement almost all of the suggestions’, says Naqvi, ‘because we could see the value of the changes.’ In fact, ‘the overall UX has improved quite a lot’, he adds. ‘It’s much easier to use the application now.’
The RaaWee team plans to create a list of general guidelines for future application design and quality assurance. ‘For future apps, we were able to learn from the experience that we had with the Nokia UX consultant’, Naqvi says.
Loan Calc is now available in Ovi Store and sells for 99 cents. The app runs on Nokia touchscreen devices based on Symbian (S60 3.x and 5.0).