Percolater is an iPad app that makes reading your news as easy as sifting through a stack of paper. After loading the RSS feeds you like to read -- the easiest way is to do a direct import from Google Reader -- you can quickly sift through screen shots of your favorite sites without needing to wait for pages to load one by one. You can get a rough idea of how this works from the video and screen shots below:

An overview of how the Percolater App works

Percolater is a nice, polished app. I can't take credit for all the polish, but I do take credit for much of the user experience. When folks ask "who was the designer?" the developer/designer and I both point at each other, often leading to some very confused looks. Below, I'd like to show you how our co-creation process worked, how I got involved, and what I did as the User Experience (UX) Designer.

Design the UX

Develop the Point of View (POV): 1)  WHO is it for?   2)  WHY would they use it?   3)  WHAT can it do that no other app can? People like designers who read visually-rich pages with unique fonts, layouts, and lots of graphics. Because they don’t like wasting time waiting for links to load, but they like seeing content in its original form. Let you read your news even when you have no internet connection.

1Recruit an appropriate person to give feedback in exchange for a free dinner. On a college campus, this step is like shooting fish in a barrel.  2 Buy said person a dinner. While waiting for food to arrive, hand over an iPad with Percolater loaded. Tell them it’s an app that you can use to read news, but let them figure everything else out for themselves.   3Watch as they poke at various images and buttons. Bite your tongue as they repeatedly do things that make you want you to scream “YOU’RE NOT SUPPOSED TO USE IT THAT WAY.” Note what they attempt to do, and ask questions like “What are you trying to do right now?” and “How did you expect the app to respond when you did that gesture?” Your job is to figure out what’s going on in the user’s head: their mental model.  4If the user gets stuck or you want to see them try a feature, prompt them with requests like: “Let’s say you want to email this to a friend. How would you do that?” 5When the food comes, put down the iPad and ask general questions like “What do you wish were gone?” and “How does this compare with other apps you use?” For Percolater, we also ask what news sources our interviewee reads on a regular basis and how (web browser, mobile platform, dead trees, etc.) This information is handy, since it helps you know how to interpret their feedback.  6 After solving egregious UI issues, seed beta versions to anyone who’s able and willing to try it out long-term. Meet with them after a couple of weeks to see how they use the app. Chances are good that they’re not using it exactly like you’d expect; we had one user who used Percolater for only one of his dozens of feeds, but loved the app for reading that one source. The feedback you get from short interviews help to fine-tune a person’s initial encounter with the app. Longer-term beta users are invaluable in understanding who the product resonates with, and how it will integrate into their life. Feature Updates

Ideas and Wireframing

Preparing to launch the app - Terms of Service, Privacy PolicyLaunching the app - seriously exciting.

Supporting the app: Call and email customers to solicit feedback, and monitor app reviews.

In case you're curious, a blog post about User-Centered Design and a good sample of my writing can be found here.

In addition to being featured in the App Store’s New and Noteworthy section, we were reviewed by Mashable, macstories, and a number of other sites.