Just a few days ago I’ve learned that Vodafone Germany has released the version 2.0 of their Handyfinder RIA. I’ve posted various entries on this type of Flash-based Rich Internet Application back in 2003 and 2004 when my employer (msg at.NET) at that time invented and built that tool for Vodafone in Germany the first time.
Now, 4 years later, Vodafone Germany apparently decided to re-vamp their whole website and also ordered a new release of the Handyfinder from msg systems (msg at.NET doesn’t exist anymore and is now msg websolutions). As I’m not involved in this project anymore, this would be a good chance to have a neutral look at it:
1. Launching the application
I went to vodafone.de and clicked on “Handyfinder” in the lower right corner. IE 7 didn’t open the tool as it was blocked by the internal popup blocker. Hmm, not optimal, the average user might be confused at that stage. Works fine in Firefox 2.0 though! Another minor issue – the way the Flash app is embedded in the php page doesn’t trigger the launch of the movie in IE automatically.
2. General layout
Very nice, clear and a nice hover effect when one moves the mouse over a mobile phone. This “extended” view shows three buttons (move item in cart, compare, details) for further actions, very good. Bad is that the icons of the buttons do not have tooltips. Particularly the button in the middle is not really easy to be recognized as “compare”.
3. Filter UI components
The filter components are at the right border of the window. From my own point of view, the font sizes are too small, but I guess that’s a bit of personal flavour.
The first issue I came across occurs when you try to open the “Handy-Hersteller” or the “Handytyp” accordion. By opening one of those, the sliders for price, standby, weight etc. are pushed down and just disappear partly. That’s bad and confusing – I’d rather move them into a accordion element and hide them completely.
The “Handytyp” accordion element is interesting itself. It’s a very good idea to let people select the type of the mobile they’re looking for (i.e. clamshell, candybar etc), but the meaning of the 4 tiny icons are hard to get without a tooltip.
While playing with the sliders (or any UI component) the mobiles in the display area move around instantly and are reordered on the fly. That’s nice (the guys took the idea of the Flex 2 mobile finder demo application, hmmm? 😉 but takes a fair bit of computing power on the client. Not that I’d bother with my machine, but I wonder how the app performs on a 800 MHz Pentium III? Any testing done, Beefy?
In regards to the reordering of the phones: Obviously when you get to the stage of having a restricted number of phones on display each single phone has a larger screen estate – I wonder why this screen estate is not used to display more information on the phone but just the phone name and the price.
Down at the bottom of the window are two buttons for sorting the display area by either name of the phone or price. As in reality the sorting by both criteria at the same time doesn’t make a lot of sense, I’d like to see the currently active sorting criteria locked in by a different color.
5. Comparing phones
The comparison area in the lower right corner is not intuitive at all. It says (translated) “Drop up to 4 mobiles to compare here”. Hmm, but how? Drag&Drop doesn’t work – it took me a while to notice that the little icon the the hovering state of the detail view is identical to the Compare icon next to the compare area. Weeeeeelllll…. that could have been done better!
Overall: Good release and a bunch of good and new ideas come with it. There are a few flaws and inconsistencies in handling and displaying stuff that imho should be tweaked rather sooner than later. But besides that, well done, msg websolutions.