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My Three Nits with FriendFeed’s iPhone Interface


On my recent trip to Hawaii, I had a chance to road test my brand spankin’ new 3G iPhone. My web surfing largely consisted of FriendFeed. So I had a good chance to try out the iPhone interface for FriendFeed.

Overall, it was great experience. The links, pictures, comments and Likes came through well. But a week of living only with the iPhone did make me see some things that could be improved:

  1. The text input box on the iPhone and the Web interfaces have completely different purposes
  2. It’s too easy to inadvertently hide or Like things as you scroll the page with your finger
  3. Refreshing the FriendFeed page is a pain because you have to scroll back to the top of the screen (if you don’t know the iPhone “tap” trick)

I’m no UI expert, I certainly don’t have the UI chops of FriendFeed’s Kevin Fox. But why not dive in and see if there are ways to improve things?

Inconsistent Input Boxes Lead to Embarrassing Mistakes

Both the FriendFeed web UI and iPhone UI have text entry boxes at the top of the screen. But the text entry purposes are completely different:

On the web, the text box is to perform a search. On the iPhone, the text entry box is to post a comment. But people used to the web interface and the search box have made the mistake of a search term being posted to FriendFeed via the iPhone. Three examples:

  • Robert Scoble’s ego search for “Scoble
  • J. Phil’s search for “recluse
  • A European blogger also did an ego search for his name (since deleted)

A different mobile app, FF To Go, has a similar post box at the top of the page, as opposed to a search box. After Thomas Hawk’s wife Mrsth made a similar mistake trying to search for “thomas hawk“, FF To Go founder Benjamin Golub commented:

Sorry; many people make that mistake, any advice on how I could help that not happen again?

To which FriendFeed user Madsimian replied:

@bgolub The problem is simply that the normal web interface has ‘search’, not ‘share’, on the homepage. I’d change the link to ‘search’ for a link to ‘share’, and make the text box on the homepage search. I’ve done what @mrsth has done, twice.

Making the iPhone interface consistent with the web interface would help. On the web, you have to click “Share something” before posting a comment. Why not have the same approach on iPhone?

Accidental Liking and Hiding

As you scroll down the screen, your finger can accidently tap the hide or Like links for a given post. I did this while in Hawaii. Hugh MacLeod tweeted the German word for blowjob. I had no intention of Liking that (really!!!).

Yet a subsequent scroll down the page showed that I had Liked that entry. Which meant people who followed me also saw it, and saw that I Liked it. I quickly un-Liked it.

I also noticed hidden entries at the bottom of the page that I didn’t remember ever hiding.

I commented about this on FriendFeed, and Ben Hedrington noted the same issue:

Done it a number of times… hid Marshal K for a bit, sorry Marshall! Seems like it needs a solution.

How about this? Dedicate a strip of white space on the side of the screen for scrolling? No links appear in that space. I know the space is already cramped, but perhaps a centimeter-wide strip could be carved out?

Refresh the Page from the Bottom of the Screen

Once you’re to the bottom of the page, there’s no obvious way to refresh the page. So you scroll all the way back up to the top of the page. This is something that others have noted as well:

  • Justin Korn: “On iPhone particularly, but would work/be helpful on main as well…a back to top/refresh button at the bottom of the page. On iPhone it is REALLY a pain to scroll all the way back up to the top just to refresh.”
  • Andrew Burd: “I would love a “top of the page” button on the bottom of the iPhone interface. I wear out my scrolling finger trying to navigate between the rooms and my friends area”
  • Mike Reynolds: “New FF on iPhone: “Best” page needs a “go to top” link at bottom of the page. Otherwise, I have to scroll all the way to the top.”

However, it turns out there is a way to handle this. You simply tap the top of the Safari browser on the iPhone, and it automatically returns you to the top. Works just fine.

This nit is an iPhone buyer education issue. But if iPhone buyers regularly fail to know about this option, FriendFeed is one of the sites that would benefit from having a return to top link at the bottom of the page.

*****

So those are three things that occurred to me during my week of iPhone-only access. Still, the iPhone interface was great for FriendFeeding, and AT&T’s 3G coverage was just fine around Honolulu.

*****

See this post on FriendFeed: http://friendfeed.com/search?q=%22My+Three+Nits+with+FriendFeed%E2%80%99s+iPhone+Interface%22&public=1

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About Hutch Carpenter
Senior Consultant for HYPE Innovation (hypeinnovation.com)

One Response to My Three Nits with FriendFeed’s iPhone Interface

  1. J. Phil says:

    I definitely agree with the search/share nit. In fact, the FF iPhone interface not only has that quirk, but also doesn’t have any “more” links (which means you can’t delete something you post, or moderate comments), nor can you subscribe/unsubscribe from someone. Annoying.

    I already knew about the “click title bar to scroll to top of page/jump to location bar” trick, so that’s been a non-issue for me.

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