Nordic Design

Design, Music and Life, by Alex Lillo

Bye bye Foursquare, or how to save battery on your phone

Battery usage on a Nexus 4I’m not sure if this is a Nexus 4 issue, or happens to every Android device. But from time to time mine decides to stay awake, even if I’m doing nothing with it. Stopping Foursquare put the phone on sleep mode again, so if you have this issue try it, it may help.

I know of a bug on the Mail app that makes the phone stay awake whilst on the train. I suppose that as it looses and regains signal, the app enters in some kind of infinite loop trying to check the network and download mail. It means that unless I kill the app, every time I go see a client my phone is dead in an hour.

Some Fridays ago I was having some drinks with my Webcredible colleagues. Battery was doing fine, and I hoped to have some left to listen to music on my train back home. Then we moved into a pub, I checked-in on Foursquare and… zas, my phone turned into a heat emitting device capable of frying a steak. Battery was dead a few minutes later, something my wife didn’t appreciate.

So when my phone got into hot pan mode a few days ago, I decided to investigate a bit. As you can see on the screenshot, there was a drastic use of energy going home (1). That’s normal, as I was using Spotify and checking some news. Problem is, I got home, stopped using my phone at all, but it was still quickly draining the battery.

A quick charge later, battery was still draining at a ridiculous rate, so we checked what was running in the background. Foursquare was there pretty high on the list, even if I don’t use it at all. So I killed the app (actually uninstalled it), and as you can see (2) my phone went into sleep mode again. That’s probably what happened that Friday night, Foursquare kept running in the background in some kind of infinite loop.

I’m sure there are other apps that do exactly the same, so if you have this issue and don’t use Foursquare, simple go to Settings > Battery, check what’s using it and kill it. Quite likely that is some app checking your location or trying to sync information.

Air traffic visualisation

The guys at NATS (UK’s traffic control provider) have created a beautiful video showing what happens in the UK airspace in 24 hours.

Airspace navigation and traffic control is a fascinating topic, something that very few are aware of, but that keeps all the planes flying securely and on time(ish).

Via Microsiervos (in Spanish)

How long it would take us to hate Material Design?

I have to say that, right now, I love Google’s material design. It’s fresh, easy on the eyes, affordable enough, and has as little visual design as possible. The right middle point between the silly flat design, and the pompous skeuomorphism.

But as any trend, it will soon fade and people will hate it, make jokes about it. At least we designers will do it, we’re a bit nerdy sometimes.

In the meantime, if you’re building a website and want to quickly make it look nice and modern, here’re a couple of frameworks to materialise your design:


UX is a way to measure a product’s quality

You’ve probably heard/asked the question many times: What is User Experience? Ask it to a 100 people, and you’ll get 100 different answers.

If you look at the job roles in the industry, UX is related to the user research and design of digital products, in particular websites and mobile apps. So it’s understood as a discipline, like Graphic Design or Project Management.

User Experience (UX) involves a person’s behaviours, attitudes, and emotions about using a particular product, system or service. User Experience includes the practical, experiential, affective, meaningful and valuable aspects of human–computer interaction and product ownership. Additionally, it includes a person’s perceptions of system aspects such as utility, ease of use and efficiency.

(Quote from the Wikipedia)

I don’t think User Experience is a discipline, but a way to define the quality of a product.

I’ve said many times that UX happens whether you want it or not. It’s like quality, can be good or bad. You take care of many details and that increases a product’s quality.

When you design a product, you may create a great User Experience, that’s a quality that defines it. But you’re never doing UX. You’re designing to create a great UX.

You can study a product’s User Experience, though, so in that sense UX is more related to research than design. The understanding of an audience’s behaviour and needs, the study of a user journey, the different touch points your customers interact with your business, all that is the study of a particular User Experience. It’s the ammunition you use to create something better.

If you’re creating something, if you’re solving a challenge and exploring new solutions, you’re not UX’ing, you’re designing.

On swarms and squares

If you’re one of those that like to check-in at every place you go, you’ll know that now foursquare has a dedicated checkin app, Swarm. The old app is now all about exploring the city.

As every time a popular service changes, the Internet has gone nuts. People has started to publicly state that they are about to stop using it. Like if anybody cared.

Why so sad?

Apparently they don’t like the product decisions at Foursquare. I suppose that’s fine if you work for them or own shares on the company. I can see a shift this size affecting the app usage. But for a mere mortal like me, well we’re just a merchandise for them to trade.

Personally, I don’t care about them splitting their functionality in two. Actually, I’ve always found the recommendations side of the app pretty useless, so that angle won’t be missed from Swarm (if I’m looking for a nice restaurant nearby, one that’s 9km away from me is not helpful, thanks).

And I quite like the way they’re transitioning from one app to two. I’ve found the process quite smooth, even if Swarm is quite different from Foursquare. So I’m enjoying the transformation (and taking screenshots of it, you never know if a client will need something similar in the future).

Ultimately, people don’t hate change, they just hate when you change things for the sake of changing. Maybe the new Foursquare will be so amazeballs that everybody will agree that the move was genius. Maybe the app will fade, become irrelevant and be sold/close, like gowalla, who knows. But in the end, it’s Foursquare’s decision. Disagree if you want but, why so emotionally?

Extra ball

That guy complaining about the horror that is their forced Swarm app install, works for Facebook. A company that forced users to install their Messenger app if you wanted to keep chatting with your friends. But probably that was ok. </irony>

2nd Battle of St Albans re-enactment

Living in the British countryside it’s easy to find little fairs and celebrations about all sorts of things. Last week the Medieval Siege Society remembered the 2nd Battle of St Albans, so it was the perfect opportunity to take my camera out and photograph something different than my daughter.

medieval lady

The battle took place on Bernards Heath in 1461, as part of the Wars of the Roses. More info about it on the wikipedia.

It's a hard life

Apparently the First Battle of St Albans (1455) marks the beginning of the Wars of the Roses. So if I they ask me that type of questions when I request the nationality, hopefully I’ll get this one right!

A few more photos on my Flickr set.

A bit of music – Poliça

According to the blog’s tagline this is also about music, so here’s one of my favourite bands of the last 6 months, Poliça.


It’s not me, it’s you Feedburner

I still use feedburner to serve my blog’s feed, but given that Google stopped supporting it like 2 years ago, it’s time to move on. I will delete the feedburner feed soon, so please update whatever you use to read me to the new url:

BTW, you probably already use it but I recommend Feedly, a great free feed reader.

On lean and documentation

Andi Plantenberg from Neo writes about using lean UX on secret project where you can’t get out of the building to validate your hypothesis. There’s a paragraph I particularly like about fidelity and documentation:

Work low-fi. It’s important to acknowledge that the starting vision is wrong, wrong, wrong. It will need to change as you’re building. So we work fast, low-fi and towards a common goal. We think aloud as a group, favor white-boarding to wireframes, favor hacking up screenshots rather than maintaining PSD masters. We favor the product over design artifacts and documentation. Get over it. Your product is the documentation.

Unfortunately not everybody understands this reality, and we have to educate a few clients overcome their fears about the lack of documentation. Good progress is being made though, and I expect that in a few years those that understand and embrace digital will prevail over their more traditional, documentation-heavy colleagues.

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