How Apple Broke Call Waiting in iOS 7

| 02.5.2014

I recently upgraded my iPhone to the new 5S and downloaded iOS7. I’m enjoying some of the changes (finally, automatic app updates!). But the other day, while driving to work, I experienced one design change that wasn’t just disappointing – it was downright panic-inducing.

I got a phone call while I was on another call. I glanced down at my phone and was confronted with this screen:

Huh? Quick – which button do I press to answer the call?

I felt the pressure begin to build. I tried to keep my eyes on the road while reading the small print on both the “Answer” buttons. By the time I’d finally made sense of my choices, my call waiting had already gone to voicemail.

Had Apple even tested this new design at all?

My initial confusion with this screen hasn’t improved over time. These buttons trip me up every time I see them. Answering my call waiting – a common task I’ve never had problems with – now causes me to panic, especially if I’m driving.

Let’s look more closely at the old screen and its wordy, flattened replacement.

Why was the old design so much better?

Here’s what Apple did wrong in their new design:

  • The options look too similar. The top two buttons are both titled “Answer.” They look identical at first glance, requiring users to read the small text in order to distinguish between them.
  • There’s too much text! The old design used fewer than half the words to present the same three options.
  • It’s too easy to accidentally end my current call. The “End current call” option is listed first, is no longer red, and could easily be mistaken for the “Hold current call” button. Apple’s designers seem to have changed their minds about which option they think people will use the most. I can’t speak for everyone, and I haven’t seen their research, but personally I’d rather ignore call waiting rather than accidentally hang up on the call I’m already on.

What Apple got right:

  • The grouping makes much more sense. I do like that that the new design groups the two “answer” buttons and separates them from the “decline” button.

Here’s how I’d improve the new design:

Here, I’ve emphasized the differences, not the similarities, between buttons. I’ve kept the text large and readable. And I’ve kept the words to a minimum.

My advice to fellow designers: Imagine people using your product while they’re distracted, multi-tasking, or in a hurry. How can you use color and text to make all the options clear in a single glance?

Flipboard: A tale of tough choices

| 06.20.2011

I recently had a discussion with Mike McCue, the CEO of Flipboard, on how he and his team managed to get things so right with the Flipboard design. In particular, I was interested in how they were able to balance functionality with delightful, polished, user experience features.  Mike’s answer was very simple  — they had to make some very tough choices and a lot of cuts. Their goal with Flipboard was to communicate to first time customers the potential of the product and have them yearning for more. Mike explained that when people used Flipboard for the first time, he wanted them to think, “Yes, I get it! And it would be even better if…” Consequently, they cut all but the most important functionality for their v1. For example, Flipboard was a news reader but didn’t have full RSS on first launch; it only supported some predetermined feeds. Also, it had a Twitter reader but didn’t let you post tweets. These types of painful functionality decisions allowed time to implement the polish to the interaction that Flipboard is known for – gorgeous visuals, subtle animations and a magical, contextual user experience.  Flipbooard’s goal was that people would become so enchanted by the experience on first use, that they would be willing to wait for more complete functionality in v2.

This approach clearly paid off for Flipboard, but it’s a difficult one for many companies to embrace. We frequently have conversations with clients who try to cut user experience features and polish in order to put in more functionality.  Many of our clients ask us why they can’t have a product that works like an iPhone. If you remember when iPhone first launched, it also had all the polish and a limited set of features that were far less than current market leaders like RIM or Palm. However, by capturing people’s imaginations with amazing user experience, they were able to buy some time to round out their feature set in subsequent releases.

The lesson? Creating a beautiful, compelling, polished user experience for v1 takes guts. You have to be ruthless with your feature set and treat the user experience features as equal to the core functionality when planning your roadmap. We’ve often seen companies who have great design ideas cut those ideas at the last minute to squeeze in one more feature so it’s not a lack of ideas that’s at play here. It’s a matter of priorities.

Looxcie Launches!

| 09.15.2010

Looxcie has just launched their wearable camcorder and the associated mobile app that we designed! Looxcie is basically a camcorder that you wear on your ear which pairs with your smartphone so that you can use it as the viewfinder and to review, create, and share clips.  If you see something interesting, you can hit the “instant clip” button on the headset which will save the last 30 seconds of video and package it into a video file which can be shared via Bluetooth to the companion mobile app. THERE’S MORE…

WeatherBill Site Launched

| 09.15.2010

WeatherBill has just launched our new site design targeted at farmers and insurance agents. Following several rounds of rapid iterative design and Fast Insight user testing, we developed a user experience that educated customers about the unique process for purchasing WeatherBill’s insurance, provided insight into their current risk, and offered a simple yet powerful information architecture.  Here’s what Greg Smirin, WeatherBill’s Vice President of Marketing and Product, had to say about our work:

 “SlicedBread was a dream to work with. They’re smart, creative and took the time to understand what our users really wanted – and needed. The whole WeatherBill team can’t wait to work with them on the next project.”

A few of our favorite features

Doormat drop down menu for WeatherBill products:

Clear infographics that communicate a farmer’s current risk:

Beautiful visual design:

To check out the site for yourself, visit

Intuit Trends Redesign Launched

| 02.25.2010

We’re excited to share that our redesign of the Intuit Trends application has just launched!


Intuit Trends is a free online application that lets small businesses compare how they are doing financially (such as income, expenses, profits, etc.) with other businesses that are similar to them.

We talked with small business owners to find out what they most wanted to understand about how their businesses compared to their peers/competitors, and then introduced some big improvements to the previous design. This release delivers the first preliminary round of changes, and there are many more to come.

Key features of our redesign effort included in this preliminary release are:

  • Introduced a new, personalized Scorecard
    • Before the redesign, the Trends application only offered small businesses the ability to view general trends about how their peers and competitors were doing. Now, small business owners can also see how their own company compares to their peers along three key business metrics and receive individual and overall scores.


  • Provided a simple bar chart and scoring solution
    • Now that the site was going to show comparisons between a specific business and its peers, we needed a compelling way to present this information. To get started, we explored a variety of different design options for how best to show comparison data. Next, we usability tested our ideas and moved forward with the design that users liked best. Our final solution combined a simple bar chart with a visual quartile score, in a format that was easy for scanning.


  • Created a clean, fresh, and consistent visual design
    • We all know that it is important for information on a site to not only be useful, but to also be presented in a clear, visually appealing way. To help the Trends site appeal to its audience and convey the desired tone, we created a modern, clean look and feel for the site that also followed Intuit’s brand guidelines. We also introduced a consistent color scheme to use for “Me” and “Peers” across the site to help users differentiate between the two types of data.


You can check out our redesign for yourself at:
We’d love to hear what you think!

2 SXSW Panel Proposals

| 08.17.2009

We’re proposing two panels for South by Southwest. Audience voting on the panels is open until September 4th and you can vote thumbs up or down on any as many panels as you want so if these sound interesting, please vote yes! (note that you’ll have to register but it only takes a second)

1. Mac-n-Cheese: Learning About Product Design from Comfort Foods

Comfort foods are the epitome of success. Delicious, ubiquitous, and easy. This panel of chefs and designers will explore what food can teach about product design. What makes a new recipe take-off? How do you make your product comfy on first use and then make people want to use it again?

Questions this panel will answer:

  1. What do eating a food and using a technology/software/website have in common?
  2. What makes comfort foods so appealing?
  3. Can those same qualities translate into software/websites?
  4. How do you create a new recipe that a mass audience will like as much as an old standby like mac-n-cheese?
  5. How do you have a successful yet cutting edge restaurant?
  6. How do you create a new product that people will feel comfortable using from the start?
  7. What techniques/lessons from recipe creation (for magazines and restaurants) can be applied to the design of new technologies?
  8. How do you innovate if people like known things?
  9. How do you get a following for your food? For your restaurant? For your product?
  10. What mistakes should you avoid when doing something new?

2. Flex, Silverlight, Javascript??? Picking your RIA Technology

Dazed and confused in a sea of technology and marketing fluff? This talk will help you pick the right technology for your Rich Internet Application based on the user experience implications. See specific examples of the trade-offs with each so that you can finally make an informed decision.

Questions this panel will answer:

  1. What is a Rich Internet Application (RIA)?
  2. What sorts of features should you expect a RIA platform to offer?
  3. What is Microsoft Silverlight?
  4. What is Adobe Flex/Air?
  5. Can you create a RIA using HTML/CSS/Javascript?
  6. Are there any other technology platforms to consider?
  7. What are the pros and cons of each platform from a user experience perspective?
  8. What are specific examples of applications using each technology effectively and ineffectively?
  9. What tools are available to design for each platform?
  10. What are the ten key points to think about when deciding which technology to use?

Yummly & iConstituent

| 03.10.2009

Economy be damned, we’ve just started working with 2 new clients in really interesting spaces.


Yummly is a start up looking at the intersection of food and the internet.  They’re in stealth mode so that’s all we can say for now but we’ll keep you posted.


iConstituent is a more established company that provides email communication solutions to congresspeople. We’re working with them on a visual refresh followed by a more comprehensive user experience redesign.

We’ll post pix of our latest work as soon as we can.


Trends in CommArts Annual

| 01.20.2009

I just received the annual Communication Arts Design Annual, which is the compendium of the best print graphic designs of the year. What does this have to do with interaction design you might ask? Well, if you are in the business of creating great experiences that people want to interact with, you are in the business of making things look good for your audience as well as be easy to use.  We subscribe to CommArts because we want to know what the latest visual trends are so we can create the right experience for each design project, whether it’s in order to create a hot, modern experiences or deliberately steer away from what everyone else is doing. Trends in the print world bleed into the digital world and vice versa. Here are the trends that I noticed that people should know about:

1. Large font as the primary graphic element

This trend was is rampant in all categories and was is sometimes blended with other trends I discusselements below. Oversize font was is treated as the primary visual theme and communicatesd the brand, often in black or another primarybold color.


2. Bright primary colors

Flipping through the pages, in a cursory way  I was struck by the brightness of the designs. Bright, saturated colors were are overrepresented…sometimes complimented by black or dark brown. Pastels and muted tones were are almost missing. Orange was  is  the most prominent color – used alone or in combination with other bright colors.


3. Physical objects

Many designs mimicked real physical objects in an unusual space. Aqualtis unusual bag for advertising the ability of its wool and cashmere clothing line to be thrown in themachine washing washed machine set the standard for other designs to come including large brands like Tommy Hilfiger and Coke. and many other novel uses of real goods.  Sometimes, as you can see in the Kresge annual report below, the large type theme was combined with a physical object to have both trends represented.