[UX Critique] Foursquare
In my last post, I mention that I use Foursquare often, and described why I use it. Now I'll take a look at how I use it and how I think the app could be improved. (This critique is limited to the Android App.)
The Friends tab, ostensibly being the home screen, is the first thing you see when you open the app. I don't really like this. Instead of having a small rectangle to check in, I want to have more/all of screen dedicated to checking in. This is what I want to do 99% of the time when I load Foursquare. Since this is the main action, everything should be built around facilitating this action.
Below is my quick mockup to demonstrate what I would like to see when I open up the app. It automatically pulls up a map and a best guess of the place to which you want to check in. You can see a list of other places if it got your location wrong, or you can search to help the app out. It gets the job done, and I can do what I want to do, and do it quickly.
Now I realize that Foursquare wants to do more than just let you check in. They have a lot of reasons to want to keep you in their app as long as possible, and to turn checking in into a secondary feature. Among other things, they have promotions to push and their new ratings feature to showcase. (Btw, I love this new feature, and I see lots of potential for it.) I get it. If I was a Foursquare designer/researcher, I would focus my efforts on finding the right balance between showing users what I want them to see and letting them go toward what they want to do. But right now I'm a lowly grad student who is selfish and is only concerned with apps that facilitate my goals.
Back to the home screen thing. Currently, the Foursquare logo at the top is just a logo, and is not an actionable button. The end of the logo is a notifications button, but this could and should be separated into a separate icons. We know from interactions with nearly every website or app that the company banner in the top left of a page is linked to the home screen. So, I should be able to tap the Foursquare logo if I wanted to start over, instead of pressing the back button multiple times. Unfortunately, this doesn't work (at least in the Android app). I really dislike this, as the perceived affordance assumed by the user is not really there (I use the term perceived affordance because according to Don Norman, affordance only refers to physical things; 'perceived affordance' is the preferred terminology for the digital domain). My fix would be to simply make the logo link back to the home screen.
The home screen, I think, should be different from the opening screen. Again, the opening screen facilitates checking in, and the home screen, then, should be a hub of the other Foursquare features. Currently, the home screen is more like home tabs. This is fine, I guess. Although occasionally I'll spend some time scrolling through the Explore tab looking for places, and then find myself fruitlessly tapping on the Foursquare logo to get back to home to start over. Or if I press the back button, I end up exiting the app unintentionally. I'm not sure this is necessarily bad, but it makes it tough to build a mental map of the app. I think a dedicated, recognizable home screen could go far to increase the user experience - well, at least this user's experience.
Another big thing is that you can't swipe between tabs. I suppose this could be due to error reduction, as we don't always swipe perfectly vertically or horizontally. Still, it's becoming an increasingly common gesture throughout the mobile world, and is something I expect to be there. Swiping shouldn't replace the tap to switch. Both should be available.
That's it for now, since I mostly use the app just to check in. But Foursquare has their new ratings feature, so perhaps in the future I'll dive into how well it's integrated to the app or how it compares to Yelp.