Vringo Calls On UX Expertise for Greater Usability
The Vringo mobile app takes ringtones to the next level with video — including user-generated content and the ability to share content. Now, Vringo’s creators are taking the app itself to the next level, thanks to a recent user experience (UX) consultation from Nokia.
Vringo is a video-ringtone app, with an accompanying website, that is compatible with more than 300 mobile phone models from a wide range of global manufacturers, including Nokia. Users can create ringtones by selecting videos from their own personal collections or from Vringo’s library of more than 5,000 clips.
When Vringo users make calls to one another , the people they’ve called see and hear their personal, Vringo-powered video ringtones. A secondary feature, VringForward, lets users share their ringtones with friends any time they want, not only during calls.
Excellent UX is key to Vringo’s success. In fact, when Eshed Doni, New York-based Vringo Inc.’s vice president of product, joined the company in 2010, improving the UX was first on his to-do list. ‘The first thing I focused on was, how can we enhance the usability and really make it as straightforward as possible?’ Doni says. ‘So the Nokia UX consultation came just in time.’
The design expert who provided the UX consultation employed mobile usability heuristics to evaluate Vringo and, in a written report, listed its strengths, highlighted its usability issues, and suggested improvements. These heuristics are criteria for evaluating mobile apps; they include factors such as visibility of system status, consistency, and error management.
Given that Vringo has been available since 2006, it’s no surprise that the UX consultant found the app ‘mature and finalised’. He also wrote that the app ‘has a beautiful visual appearance’, adding that ‘there is plenty of entertaining content available ... and it is easily accessed’.
To help the Vringo team prioritise its work on improvements, all issues identified were ranked by the UX consultant in four categories of increasing severity: cosmetic, minor, major, and catastrophe.
Nearly all of the expert’s suggestions were helpful to the Vringo team, Doni says. The company’s Symbian development team is now incorporating changes from the consultation into the app’s next version.
One type of suggestion Doni especially appreciated related to consistency across the Symbian platform. For example, some of Vringo’s pages lack an Exit button; while this is common on some mobile platforms, on Symbian it means users cannot exit the application. As a result, it is a major issue that the Vringo team will address. ‘We are designing the look and feel to be consistent with the platform, rather than being consistent with our app’, Doni says. ‘Consistency is important to users, even if they don’t realise it. If they are used to using their handsets in one way, and the app is designed in a completely different way, they will come to places in the app where they won’t know what to do.’
Other suggestions from the UX consultant included adding ranking numbers to a top 10 list of downloaded videos, indicating the sizes of video clips before downloads begin, increasing the size of the Help screen, and streamlining the country list during setup.
Looking ahead, Doni says Vringo will be user-tested on ‘crowdsourcing’ focus-group platforms. ‘It’s an alternative, and different from what you get from a single UX expert’, he explains. ‘Compared with a UX consultant, real users are less technical, use a larger variety of devices, and use those devices in more different situations.’
Vringo 2.0 for Nokia devices based on Symbian (S60 3.x) is available now in Ovi Store, and it is free. A version of Vringo for Nokia’s newer Symbian phones, including the Nokia N8 mobile computer, is in development. Says Doni: ‘Definitely, if you check the app in a couple of months, you will start seeing more and more of these comments being implemented.’
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