I was recently asked, what makes good and bad design on a smartphone?

Since then, I have have turned that question around on people I interview. As I talk to Digital Wanderers, I will occasionally write posts on how users perceive smartphone design and popular applications.

I don’t want to pick on Windows Phone 7 because I do believe it is a solid platform. But, like the Palm Pre, it is one of the phones that I hear the most complaints about. This weekend at a Fourth of July party — Happy 4th everyone!– , I spent some time walking through the phone with a MS employee. Here is the free consulting I shared with him. For time’s sake, I will just focus on the home screen.

Rule #1 – attractive, useful, intuitive

Good Design Points

  • The concept of Active Tiles is awesome and the Facebook integration are great!
  • The ability to have more real estate given to tiles that are more important, e.g. Pictures, helps the user have more emotional attachment to the device.
  • The home screen is not cluttered and the design is intuitive.

Bad Design Points

  • A fifth of the screen is wasted. Positive and negative space balance is critical in design; however, the home screen is off balance with negative space on the top and right side of the screen.
  • The native System apps are all mono color (by default blue) i.e. phone, text, email. Not only is the mono color an eye sore, these are all apps that don’t need this much real estate. They could easily be made into convenience buttons with smaller notifications. Users want to jump to these apps from every screen, not just the home screen.
  • Live Tiles are an awesome concept, but what is the value if nobody designs their tiles to be live by default? Make the app framework and tools work so that developers think live tiles from day 1.
  • Why implement buttons like the arrow over key? People get the swipe, use it.