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Aidan Hiljeh

Lessons in Successful App Design: Glitches in the Jawbone UP

Dec 12 2011, 03:38 PM by

Technology has made life simpler than most of us imagined it ever could be. You could even say it has made us lazy. Simplicity is obviously what the recently introduced Jawbone UP strived for, and while it succeeds on many levels, a closer look shows us that this one might be a few ingredients short of a winning recipe.

The Jawbone UP is specially made for the digital savvy fitness nut. Created by mobile technology expert Jawbone, it is essentially a wristband that doubles as an app for your smartphone. In a nutshell, what it does is keep up with the user’s physical activity, tracking everything from workout activities and how many calories you’re burning to the number of steps you’re taking and how you’re sleeping at night. The Jawbone UP definitely looks the part on the surface. Boasting an oval-like shape, it is easy to port around and fits comfortably on the wrist without looking too much like a laser-firing bracelet.

While the hardware is obviously an important component, the juicy goodness of this gadget is all in the software. In fact, the UP is pretty much useless without this program. The application, which is available for free in Apple’s App Store, is installed on your iPhone. Equipped with a neatly designed graphical user interface, it allows you to see things such as how many hours you slept during the night, the time you awoke and even your overall quality of sleep once synced with the device. Although the software is generally easy to use, a few glaring holes are keeping it from being truly useful.
Lessons in App Design
According to early reviews, the biggest thing standing in the Jawbone UP’s way of being a hit is how it creates a feeling of disconnection. Many users were disappointed to learn that it does not allow wireless syncing, which would have been possible if support for Bluetooth was included. In order to sync the data, the UP must be plugged into the audio port of your smartphone. Considering how people are literally glued to their mobile devices these days, this extra step alone makes Jawbone’s digital wristband more of a hassle than the average person would prefer.

Although the omission of wireless functionality and not being able to instantly access the data on your phone are a bit disheartening, they were somewhat justified when experts let it be known that the use of wireless technology would drain battery life significantly faster. Still, that wasn’t enough to cover up for all the design flaws found in the UP’s software. Users have griped over everything from the shallow social features to the complete lack of a web-based user interface. The overall consensus is that the app missed out on some golden opportunities to engage the user, which pretty much leaves us with an incomplete package in the Jawbone UP.
Off to a Rough Start
If it seems like we’re taking unfair shots at Jawbone and its new gadget, trust me when I tell you that is not the case. The feedback on this one has been so bad that the company reportedly decided to offer a “no questions asked” refund and halt further production of the wristband. Various sources are reporting that both software and hardware issues were factors in the decision.

The Jawbone UP got off to a rough start, no doubt. So rough, that it may never be able to recover. When you’re designing your app, whether as a stand-alone device or as an outgrowth of some service your business already provides, it is important to remember to take the user’s point of view, from not only conception but also through the design process and release. As mentioned above, the Jawbone UP had the elements to really succeed: fitness essentials to both tracking health and improving one’s life; but the app stumbled at the design phase.

These days the social aspect of any app is practically essential. And yet, even if that could be overlooked, can you imagine anyone willing to forego music while they exercise? It might not be part and parcel of the work out experience, but a compromised audio port is going to be a flat-out deal breaker for many, no matter how health conscious they are. When designing your app, bear these points in mind and do not lose sight of who you’re building for.

Posted in Tips & Resources, Online Tools and Applications, Tech Editorial

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