Wireless Wonders

No news, just comment about mobile phones and services, from a veteran practitioner...3G, GPRS, WAP, Bluetooth, WiFi, etc...

Thursday, February 10, 2005

Basic MIDP mistakes...

I just downloaded the mobile feedburner MIDlet into my Nokia 6600. It violates several basic principles of mobile design.

Firstly, I had the endure the pain of entering a URL like this:

Remember, I'm entering that behemoth of a link on my 6600, which does NOT have a QWERTY keypad. Nevermind that the folder and MIDlet name are too long, what's with those superfluous dashes?

Once up and running, I wanted to enter a feed address - my own blog naturally (for testing purposes).

Firstly, the menu options didn't have something obvious like "Add Feed". The option I needed was called "New". If you have the characters and display available to write a more meaningful menu option, then it's better to use one.

I duly entered my feed address. Full credit to the guys, as they provided speed buttons to enter "www." and ".com" and "/", the latter two being useful in my case.

My MIDlet then went off to download the feed. This is where is got tedious. Firstly, I was offered three connection options by the MIDP environment. Which one should I pick? As it happens, I picked the wrong one.

This selection is confusing for anyone and is all to do with having different GPRS APNs on the phone. If you don't know what they are, it doesn't matter except that if you don't know what they imply, then you might pick the wrong one too. I thought that the one I picked allowed open access to the Internet, but it obviously didn't.

Picking the wrong one highlighted a potential design flaw in the MIDlet.

Not being able to access the Internet using the connection I chose, the MIDlet couldn't find the feed. Not necessarily a problem, but it kept me waiting and waiting and didn't offer me a cancel button. A sensible design rule for accessing online info is to pass it over to a separate thread in the program, leaving the foreground active, so that the user can still operate the program, like hitting cancel.

When the MIDlet eventually returned from a timeout, the only option available was for me to exit the program. That's bad design and especially irritating as the feed address wasn't saved first. I had to restart the application and then re-enter the feed URL the next time around. AHHH!!!!

What's the odds that the coder has only ever tested this with good connections and feeds?
If mobile applications remain this painful, we'll all be out of business soon.

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