Usability — Ye Flippin’ Gods…

Posted by admin on September 27th, 2013 filed in Technical Writing

My mission today, should I accept it: Open my company’s customer magazine on flipboard.

OK. I go to flipboard.com in a web browser. First impression: No search, no obvious way to create an account or to log on. The shiny front page images look like category buttons (“news!”, “arts!”, “science!”) but most turn out to be unclickable decorations.

Only at the bottom of the flipboard.com front page are some clickable sample magazines to read in the web browser. OK, I pick a random one, it looks pretty, but it browses clumsily, I can’t search — and it’s not what I came here for.

I click subscribe on a random thing –- which finally prompts me to “sign in”. I can sign in via an existing account (I have none) or via Facebook (I am presently signed on to Facebook). Alternatively it suggests to use the mobile app to create an account. I click “Facebook” and get “Could not sign in with Facebook. Please create your account with the Flipboard application before trying again.”

Oh well. Clearly “get the mobile app” is the main purpose of flipboard.com. I click the app store link and install the app on my phone.

First impression of the app: A meaningless picture. Second impression: There is no search and no “create account”. I have the option to log on using an existing account. I can slide up and down to select categories, some of which are similar to the categories on the web page. At the bottom I have the option to “create a flipboard”. I don’t want to create a flipboard, we already have one. I want to subscribe to a flipboard and read it. *Sigh.* I cannot find any other buttons, gestures, options, or settings (not in the phone’s settings panel either where the Facebook etc. mobile apps have extra settings).

When we complained that “we couldn’t find the Flipboard stuff”, a colleague created a http://flip.it shortcut directly to the right flipboard page. Opening the URL in the desktop browser, I find the page, and I get the option to “share” or “subscribe” or “get the app”. Opening the URL in a mobile browser, I can flip one page to read the content, and I get the additional option to “open in app” (see below). I flip back and click subscribe. It asks me to log on via existing account or facebook. *Sigh.*

Reading flipboard.com kinda works in the desktop browser, but in the phone browser, the web page is very flimsy. For some reason the content of the first page keeps fading to black. Before it fades to black, the bottom edge twitches and plays a flipping animation — independent of whether I click something, hold the phone up, or just have it lie on my desk. When I manually flip down and up again, or reload the browser page, I can again get a glimpse of the first page and quickly read or click something. So clearly, I rather want to look at Flipboard in the mobile app, right? But I already tried that…

Back to the phone browser. I tried to sign on via facebook from the web page several times. Entering my facebook name/pw failed 4 out of 5 times, just saying “failed, try again later”. There is also an option to install the Facebook app. Clicking “get the app” takes me to the app store, which tells me I already have the Facebook app. Yes. I know that. I am signed on in it… And in the browser too. *Sigh.* I close the app store and go back to the browser and try my Facebook credentials again. I get to a point where Facebook wants to allow Flipboard to access “my profile and contacts” (cursing under my breath), before it fails again. Twice Flipboard tried to post something to Facebook under my name (really? I click skip) before it fails again to continue. Back to the sign-on page then.

Dark blue on black, the Flipboard sign-on web page (in the mobile browser) has a “create account in app” link. (Sorry if I’m not quoting messages literally, but switching between apps and between devices also switches between German and English in my case).

OK. I click “create account in app” in the phone browser. Flipboard mobile app opens. “Setup required, this link was shared via flipboard, sign on first or create a Flipboard, and try again” … … *AARRGH*

Back to our page in the mobile browser. I try the “Open in app” option. Flipboard mobile app opens. “Setup required, this link was shared via flipboard, sign on first or create a Flipboard, and try again” … What. The. Flip?!

I give up and click the last option I haven’t tried, “create flipboard”, in the Flipboard app. It shows me 4 introduction slides (“subscribe to top magazines!” blablabla). I’m a second away from closing this slideshow when I see that the last box says “create user account.” *Sigh* Really? I click create, tell it to sign on via Facebook for the 10th time. This time the apps open and close themselves a few times as Flipboard and Facebook seemingly battle it out like shadow puppets. I disallow Flipboard from posting on my wall for the 10th time. … OK, I seem to be logged on?

Finally I get to see the real Flipboard app. The one that is not just a picture, but actually has a search and settings and stuff! *rolls eyes*

Now what was it that I wanted to search? Oh yes, my company’s magazine. The basic search turns up one marketing channel and some unrelated tuff, I click show more. I get tons of irrelevant stuff from google+, youtube, Instagram(!), and finally, Flipboard results again. Is this an “OR” search? Using quotation marks turns up no results at all. Oh well. After some scrolling, I find my company’s “information services” (fancy word for documentation)…

Now, when I go open the direct http://flip.it link again in the mobile browser, and click “Open in app”, it finally works.

So apparently “Flipboard” is my custom account that I use subscribe to news? Flipboard is not the news itself nor a method “of other people” to edit or publish news as I thought? Verdict: Finding specific content on Flipboard took a lot longer than necessary and the app is very unclear. If I were a customer, I would have given up earlier. :-[

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