Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Sony Ericsson XPERIA Mini Pro: poor user navigation and Help (user guide)

I wanted to move over to a touch screen mobile and bought the Sony Ericsson XPERIA Mini Pro as it looked stylish and cost less thanks to some "offer". Moreover, I was excited with the Android OS. However, I made a bloody mistake and did not check out the usability of the touch screen enabled navigation. I was yes new to touch screens and had assumed that I would get what I had all along been used to with a normal keypad mobile phone.

In the name of making the application modern, the whole navigation has been made difficult. Let me provide two examples:

1. I want to save a number from the call log under a new contact. I expect to just tap the number and get an option to save it. However tap dials the number which is rather irritating although cool. Yes that's a fundamental problem with touch screens I accept - but I cannot understand why they have not provided an icon that would give me a list of options. The + sign icon for add is not self explanatory. To save a contact from a log list I need to do these:

- Open the touch keypad
- Click + next to a number in the call log
- A new screen appears (says Search on top and I get confused) where I have to again select another + sign (with face image)
- Then I have to type in the contact name and save. However, the conatct is still saved without a name when I use the back button on the "hardware mobile". The plus sign disappears although I have not yet saved the contact under a name :(

So the application is a bit tough to get used to. I need Help to understand...

Being a technical writer, I thought I would check out the phone's mobile help. I found an "user guide" but the Help item for the above scenario is not easy to find. I used search to find the answer.

The Help topic for this is listed under Contents > Calling > Call Handling.

A procedure head says "To add a contact from the call log".

I think this topic should be under Contacts > Dialling and Saving Contacts. It should also be under "Call Logs" (which I don't find anywhere on the Contents).

This topic should also be under FAQs. Yes you could hyperlink the topic from Call Handling too.

Here, I was looking for convenience. I should be able to quickly save a number as a new contact - maybe using only my left hand while traveling or driving as my other hand is not free. The way the application made me go around was bad. The Help was not easy to find too as the author must have thought from a system perspective.

2. I don't use SMS so much. They are better for students/kiddos as text messaging is cheaper. Yes it helps when you are in a meeting and can't talk but still want to convey. Or when you don't want to call. But SMS using touch screen is a bit cumbersome. I did not find the obvious "Reply" option when I tap a message. So I open the Help and go to User Guide > Messaging > SMS and MMS > Using SMS and MMS and I find a procedure "Reply to message sender". I have to tap a message and then select "write message". Instead the Help says "Tap the text field". How do I know which is the text field?

Why not a simple Reply item?

Why does not Help specify this: Tap the area where it says "write message"?

Finally, I managed to find the screen lock (press the power off/on switch once). Once the touch screen did not respond when I touched it but worked after sometime.

All in all a disappointing mobile with unfriendly navigation. Help is also poorly structured. I wish the authors had done a better analysis of the users and scenarios. At least they could have explained the icons and navigation better. In fact they should use a few more icons - for instance when I see an entry in the call log, I know if I touch it, I would dial the contact or number. So if I wanted to delete the log item quickly ... all I need to touch is a simple delete icon. Currently, I have to keep pressing the contact carefully to launch the options.

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