Wednesday, 28 March 2012

best app for weeks... pair app

Pair app - iPhone only to date, forgive pun ;) and what it means for social mobile networking

I have just come across a great app via allthingsd, and one that hits on something I have been mulling over for a while - the diversification of social networks, which will be another post at some point. Basically Facebook and all are great, but Foursquare clearly tapped a niche market for smaller groups, mostly close friends checking in to places where they may not always want their wider friends, bosses, parents even seeing; bars, pubs as well as just boring places like where you prefer to have coffee...
Social Network Interaction by frequency / Audience © Christian Borrman 2012
How social networks fit by frequency and audience
I had for a while being playing with the idea of creating other "circles" and funnily enough called them circles, and at the time I was working with my colleague Keith on a mobile social network for a client (so have a witness!) and then Google launches G+ with circles as its main theme. While for many it seems popular to be a detractor of G+, I see it as firstly a great development and move away from certain monopoly in social networks, but secondly, 100 million users in a very short time is endorsement that the concept of circles is a winner, as just because a big company does something, if it does not get taken up, then the idea was not that great after all. Now many people get disheartened when you had a good idea and it becomes a bigger success than you could ever imitate, and of course, you know you have to come up with a new name now; but having someone as big yet dynamic as Google thinking the same way about concepts that are not in the public domain, is in fact the best endorsement probably even above imitation: it means you are on the right track!
Pair is a great and welcome addition to apps and social networking
So along comes pair, targeting the smallest of circles - the couple. In a very short time it has had a lot of downloads, which is a good sign, especially given its woeful engagement process (more on that in a minute) and I very much hope it is a success before its USP just gets copied by the big boys, again... yes you know who you are! I am sure everybody has had a moment where Facebook, the comments made or the time spent on, has become an issue between couples... Pair could make a difference.

In terms of an app, it has killer app potential, however lacks (at the moment) some key emerging app success criteria, namely great engagement. Part of Path's appeal, as described in my list of iphone killer apps is its seamless UX in terms of engaging users: Pair is very different: the background is a plain colour. Whilst this is no biggie, and better than a pastiche image, a well chosen image or a more inviting colour or gradient like a big blue sky or a large green field.. anything would be better than Dorset Cereal's box olive green/blue... however as a whole it is not that bad, it is not crowded, does not have irrelevant feeds and does have the right concept, its just the execution needs a bit more thought and/or the input of someone else....
Engagement process had me scratching my head though...
 I say this as, a) I do this for a living, but even if not, b) like many people now, I have been here a few times before and so know what good looks like!,With pair I was left scratching my head as where to start, and ended up pressing "sign-up" a few times, then entering my details and pressing "sign-up" a few times, and it was not until I pressed next (my last option before abandoning the app!) that I got an error message telling me the way forward... where Path has a clear centre stage"enter your name here first" then there is the engagement process
Finding out how to progress via an error is not great UX, but easily solved
Another annoying element was that it asks for a photo, but could only take a photo, not chose from library: this a) places you in a terrible situation of there being a slim (in my case very) chance of me being as presentable as I would like at the point of engagement! you have to remember that much mobile interaction happens during what is referred to as "downtime" - waiting for a plane / train, having your first coffee(s) of the day, in bed still, etc, etc. very few of which will have you looking your best. moreover, b) it means you can only use the front facing wide angle, low res camera - even George Clooney does not look good pictured with a wide angle lens 5cm from his nose... There is more, it then asks you to send a video, which while seeming a bit "speed networking" or worse "speed dating" I persevered only to get a warning that its only 15 sec. This should be referenced above the recording as an instruction, not relayed as an error message. As it happens my video was done by 15 sec, but the app had only recorded the first 13 sec...

So, I don't want anyone to think this is bad, its actually very good, they are small floors in what is otherwise still a gem, and can be changed with a bit of thought, a slight change of flow and some instructions which will no doubt come from incorporating feedback over the next few days, weeks and months... and I really, really look forward to see how it progresses. On a more fun not, also how it may diversify: maybe an app called "trio" for the French market, "dozen" or "centernar" for the more promiscuous and "uno" for the divorcee or dumpee in denial :)

I shall be adding more in the coming months and pasting updates via my G+ or the Virtuser Google+ and Virtuser Facebook pages, so please like us on Facebook and +1 us if you have found this article interesting, useful or helpful.

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