Home screen survey: initial thoughts

Posted in Core User Interface, Thoughts by

Before moving the Nemo home screen to the next level, we decided to create a survey and ask people about how they use their home screens on their devices. I’m going to publish more details in another post, this is just for my initial thoughts and impressions.

First, thanks to everyone who filled the survey and to those who shared or retweeted it. Without you guys, I don’t know what I’d have done. It also feels very nice that there are lots of people who we can count on when it comes to these matters.

I had the survey and questions carefully reviewed by people, but still, the end result wasn’t perfect. Lots of people didn’t understand what we mean by “home screen”, and this was the major source of misunderstanding. Perhaps we should have used the term “operating system” or something more general, because there was people who thought hey, this or that feature is in the operating system, not the home screen, blah-blah. Of course, from a technical point of view, these features are a part of a piece of software which lays on top of the operating system (this is what I call home screen), but for non-technical people, it indeed might be quite challenging to see the difference. Apart from this, most of the questions themselves were okay, and we’ve had useful answers coming in.

So, let’s go through the first few parts.

9% of people think that a home screen is not important. The rest of them think they are important for this or that reason. The next thing we see is the audience is quite biased, unsurprisingly, towards MeeGo 1.2 Harmattan. Since Nemo is mostly of interest to those people, we must accept this for now. Most of the people who answered have used every sort of OSes, but of course the majority is Maemo or MeeGo users. The things they liked most are Harmattan (57%), Fremantle (19%) and Android (10%). Some people did like WP7 and a few iOS.

The textual info here is very interesting, seems that people like to fill large text boxes with their hearts’ content. Basically, the ideas were mostly the same things repeated. I have here an extract of the answers.

  • According to some people, the traditional app grid is boring. Some suggest to categorize app or allow searching between them.
  • Many people noted that the home screen should allow to find what you need most, either by hiding irrelevant info or pinning relevant info or features.
  • Many people want close integration with IM, calendar, email, calls apps and other events to see what’s happening at a glance.
  • Some people want widgets and customizability, and some specific features related to widgets.
  • Many people (more than the above) have realized that widgets are just cluttering up their space, so they simply want the info they need without any clutter

Obviously, the most challenging here is to find a balance between those guys who want all-customizable widgets and whatnot, and those who actually want to get stuff done. This is an interesting question and it’s well worth a post on its own.

Of the basic features, the app switcher wins. 83% of people want to have it in their reach all the time, with only 6% saying that it’s not important. App launcher has similar figures, but only 68% feel that it always has to be in their reach. The widgets question was tricky (should have been asked in a better way), but there only 58% feel that it has to be always in their reach, despite that most of them are saying that widgets are just clutter and are ineffective at quickly conveying relevant information to them. To the question asking which feature is the most important, widgets win (40%) and social feeds are next (26%).

NOTE: There were a few “easter egg” features in the survey as well (eg. favorite web sites and media) which most people identified as “doesn’t belong to the home screen”.

The gestures part is also very interesting. Most people perhaps don’t know the meaning of the word “flick” and they answered “swipe”. Apart from this finding, the “what gesture do you prefer” style questions were quite useless, as long as the accessibility of frequently used features was the topic. It was nice to find out though that most people don’t care how rarely used features are accessible.

The questions with pre-defined answers are kinda easy to analyze (google even draws pretty graphs from them), but very surprisingly we received lot of long textual data as well, which I haven’t finished processing for all questions yet. I’m going to write another post when I have.

In the meantime, if anyone is interested in the actual survey data, I’d be happy to share.