lean ux

Challenge 11 of 52: Error Handling in RoketSMS

As a designer, we usually fall trap into two kind of oversight. First, what we thought was important is not important to the users. Secondly, things that we thought will not go wrong will go wrong in the hands of the user.
I think I’ve sorted out the first oversight last week so this week I’ll drill down the second oversight. As the designer of the web app it seems really obvious that the message limit is 160 characters and you need a valid phone number to send the message to. So, during my tests I skip over these two scenario.
Then come real users and the errors crops up. The problem is that error message given by the system is unhelpful. The error is the same no matter what causes them – either a crashed database or simply an invalid phone number. This causes distress to customers especially since they stand to lose precious SMS credits.
The top two error is that the message is too long and invalid number. There’s two ways to manage errors; first is to prevent the error from happening and secondly give more helpful information. One is proactive while the later is more reactive.
Preventing the first error is straight forward. Just put a character counter and disable the send button once the limit is crossed. For the time being I ask users to check character count at http://www.charactercountonline.com/

For the second error, a delivery report function should be implemented. This will help users to identify the faulty record and delete it.

Another week, another challenge completed. I think I’m going to look into food & beverages in the coming weeks.

Challenge 10 of 52: New Features for RoketSMS

Double digit! At last! Alhamdulillah, still managed to maintain the momentum. Now, I’m almost 20% through the project.

RoketSMS have started to have paying customers. Most are strangers that come from FB Ads. Only one is a friend that pay in person. After they had been using it for a few weeks, I emailed them to vote for new features to be included in the next version.

Many replied the survey promptly and here’s the result for the top two feature request:

  1. Contact groups
  2. SMS customization
So, I get to work and design the UX for version 2. For the contact groups I decided to implement via tabs since that’s a familiar approach for anyone that use modern browsers. Certainly it will suitable in a web app.

As for SMS customization, I decided to reduce the probability of error. Rather than introducing markup codes to be inserted manually by the users, it will be easier to choose from a drop down menu. This will reduce error probability and saves us from adding a preview function for the time being. 
Looks like my hypothesis about user requirement is off the mark. Rather than TinyLetter for SMS, it seems they wanted GetResponse for SMS. All and all, it’s good to have paying customers and helpful feedbacks,
Next up: Error Handling design

Challenge 7 of 52: RoketSMS

This week entry is a bit different. Rather than describing design flaws around me and the proposed solution, this time I’ll share about a project Abi Dzar and I work on. This week we released RoketSMS – a simple SMS marketing system. We rolled out to those who had pre-registered the week before.

What brings us to create this particular web app? Isn’t there already a lot of SMS and marketing apps out there? Why SMS?

One strong drive that leads us to create this web app is the increasing frenzy of Internet companies to find and manipulate choke points. Facebook had flexed its muscle in monetizing the choke point. On average, only 10% of a FB Page fan will see any new updates. Need more reach? Pay Facebook.

Gmail also starts to follow suit by introducing the Promotions tab – a feature dreaded by email marketers. Open rates are down and adding salt to the injury is Google’s audacity to sneak ads that looks like email right in the Promotions tab.

Apart from direct mail, SMS seems like the only convenient and affordable solution. Robo-calls are also available but I think that’s too annoying to be an effective marketing medium.

So we set out to build a web app that help to collect mobile phone numbers and then send SMS broadcast to those who signed up. My experience with email marketing software such as Aweber and GetResponse reminds me to keep things simple. Businessmen and marketers wnated to connect directly with customers, not to be bogged down with bloated software.

Thus, our project is modeled after TinyLetter, effectively making the concept of RoketSMS as TinyLetter for SMS. This app is extremely simple, no autoresponder, no segmentation, no nothing – which is actually a good thing.

With no outside funding, Abi Dzar coded the web app during his free time. Marketing started in earnest after the Eid holidays and after 10 days (or so) we are open for users. 
That’s our story so far, if you read Malay head to www.firdausariff.com for more in-depth story on this project. 
See you guys next week.