UX Consultation from Nokia Improves RecycleMe Usability
RecycleMe is a mobile app that is helping Singapore become a bit more environmentally friendly, one Nokia user at a time. This Web Runtime (WRT) widget for Nokia devices, developed by John Paul Lozano with help from his twin brother, aims to promote recycling; help users reduce, reuse, and recycle waste materials; and increase community awareness of recycling.
RecycleMe’s creativity and usefulness was recognized in Nokia’s 2010 Calling All Innovators competition, where it was first runner-up in the competition’s Eco/Being Green category. More recently, the app received a sponsored user experience (UX) consultation from Nokia that Lozano says will help him improve the app’s usability. ‘It is easy to forget about the UI design as I move on the coding’, he says. ‘So this was perfect — a new set of eyes before deployment.’
The RecycleMe widget offers five main functions:
- eBin — Shows city blocks where recycling pickups are made.
- eCentre — Offers useful recycling-related information, including relevant phone numbers.
- eCollect — Helps users arrange for trash pickups. To launch eCollect, a user enters his or her name, address, and time of pickup; participating trash collectors are then notified via e-mail. Once the collector responds, the user is notified via short message service (SMS) of the pickup date and time.
- eTips: Provides recycling advice that is updated by a partner company in Singapore.
- News: Delivers information of interest to recycling-minded users via an RSS feed.
In the UX consultation from Nokia, RecycleMe was analysed against a set of mobile usability heuristics. These heuristics are criteria used to evaluate mobile apps; they include factors such as visibility of system status, consistency, and error management. The design expert prepared a written report that listed the app’s strengths, highlighted usability issues, and suggested improvements.
The UX consultant lauded RecycleMe as ‘informative and useful’, and appreciated its ‘minimalist’ design, which uses only a few colours and a simple layout. Issues were few. The consultant recommended larger fonts, to make reading more comfortable, and standardised margins for all text.
Text margins in the app were inconsistent, the consultant wrote in a report on RecycleMe, and different styles were applied to text and tables. These design issues relate to the heuristics of ease of input and screen legibility. To remedy the situation, the developer should use fixed, consistent margins throughout the app and should adopt only one style of text and table, the report said.
Fortunately, making these and related design changes should be easy, Lozano says. That’s because he used Cascading Style Sheets (CSS) in developing the app. ‘We overlooked those issues, but we will definitely fix them for the next version’, he adds.
RecycleMe is available in Ovi Store, and it is free. The app runs on Nokia devices based on Symbian (S60 3.x and 5.0). Looking ahead, Lozano and his twin, John Michael, plan to port RecycleMe to the Qt application development framework, from Nokia’s Qt Development Frameworks, so that the app can run on the Nokia N8 mobile computer and other more-advanced smartphones from Nokia. Also on the drawing board is a web-based version, to give Singapore consumers yet another way to clean up.
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