Or, the crucial link between UI and UX.

A few weeks ago i came across the online app Solo. I don’t remember where exactly, within one of my rss feeds probably. That’s not important. The important point is, i have been a freelance webdeveloper & designer for almost a year and recently i felt the need for a better way to manage my work.

So far i have been using different tools such as the amazing Trello to organize my projects, Googlea Agenda for my to-do list and few other things. Those are fine, but the idea of a global tool came recently as it was clear i needed something more, something that would bring those tools together and others in one place.

I then discovered Solo.

thrivesolo.com

First impression, at thrivesolo.com, the site looks really nice. As a designer myself, i can say that they had my attention right away. And it’s responsive. Sweet.

“Freelancing’s tough, luckily you’ve just found your wingman.”

Couldn’t agree more, let’s see what you guys offer. Project management, time tracking and online invoice among others. Ok. Scroll down the page, woa, massive testimonials with svg images that barely fit into the screen. And a signup form for the newsletter. Some screenshots or other infos would have been nice but ok. Let’s head up to the “Tour” page. Still those social icons in the middle of the page. come on. If i want to follow you guys, i will. But put those in the header or somewhere else and use the space for usefull infos.

Anyway. First screenshot, or is it? Well it’s another massive svg that looks more like a wireframe. So in the end i don’t really get to see how it looks like. Oh wait, there’s a screenshot button. Well, why not show it directly? Why hide the main information and let the user wonder like i did at first? Ok, got it now. Scrolling down, other features.

That all sounds good so far. And finally a statement that i can try it for free during 30 days! In my opinion this should have come much before, right at the start. Let the potential user that i am know that it ain’t free but that i can at least try it for a while. In my opinion a longer try would have been better. Like 60 days. Can you really try a software that will be in charge of your whole work in just 30 days? But that’s another question, and not the point of the whole article.

Well i’m almost onboard!

Case studies, nice. Oh and there is a web designer too! Sweet, same as me. let’s click on his case study… to end up at the page /timesheet-calculator. Hu? Ok, i’m a bit obsessed with the details here.

Reading on, sounds all good. 14$ a month or 140$ a year. Can i unsubscribe at any time at no extra cost? Not so sure. But it’s written “NO HIDDEN COSTS”. So i’ll believe them.

Ok, i’ll get the free trial.

Click the button, join with Google account, load the app and voila!

solo dashboard

First thing here, i’m trying to read the large text in the middle. Wait, it scrolls by itself in like 3 seconds! How can some read that fast? Ok, let’s stop crying. Business metric, client rating, today’s events… All at zero. Well sure, i didn’t start yet. But. How do i start? Would have been nice to tell the user where to start. Like those new interfaces bubbles combined with an overlay element to quickly show what’s new or what to do.

So here i start clicking around, planner, timesheets, to do… How do i add something? Oh, the “+” sign on each side. Not the clearest i first think. And when you resize the screen? No responsive this time. So be careful to have at least a window larger than 1180px. Otherwise, no side arrows or add button.

disapearing controls

Worth noting: damn it’s very nice! Nice typography, effective contrast, colors for each section. A pleasure to watch simply put.

But there are some crucial UX problems in my opinion, as i already wrote. And here are a few others.

After browsing a bit, i realized that it was all in pounds (£). Well, i’m located in Brazil. I don’t mind at all having just one language, english. But being able to change the currency is something very important i think. So, there has to be some settings somewhere. Let’s find them. Yep, top of the page, “Settings”. Autocroll down the page and i get some.

solo-dashboard-settings

Well, not much. Nothing else? in fact, you have to navigate through them by using the same top menu. And that’s not very obvious. because at first it would seem that those buttons will get you back to the pages they were loading when you first clicked them. Logical.

Ok i change a few things, let’s head back to the dashboard. Clicking the upper left dashboard button. Nothing. Weird. Oh. You have to actually click the settings button once again to scroll back up. The dashboard button doesn’t do anything. And as far as i can see, doesn’t do anything at all. But it does change as we navigate through the pages. Hmm, so it’s the current page title! But why making it a button that does nothing?

Still checking the interface, i see this “Subscribe and pay” button. Wow. Kind of aggressive. Why not saying “Subscribe and ease your life”? Or something similar. Like Jakob at goodui.org says:

Imagine two simple buttons displayed on a page. One button tells you that it will “Save You Money”, while the other one asks you to “Sign Up”. I’d place my bets that the first one might have a higher chance of being acted on, as a sign up on it’s own has no inherent value.

Here’s a direct link to the idea #18. Btw, the whole page if filled with good ui tricks!

I then try to add a contact, input his first name, last name, email and… Where’s the “save” button? How do i keep this contact? So i click in contact in the main menu and now see that it’s been saved. But it was a guess, not an obvious behavior.

On the same page, i see a slider with a “50” above a little bullet. What is it for? Nothing’s written here.

solo-slider

I could go on like this with other examples.

Sure there’s a help desk with some guides and tutorial. But you should not have to dig those at this early stage in my opinion. You want your new user to start using the app right away. For sure, later on, when hitting more tricky tools it would be helpful.

The point is in the end that even if the user interface is very nice and well designed, it just doesn’t work without a good UX (user experience) thinking. It has to come together. Don’t get me wrong, i’m not saying that the Solo app is bad, i’m saying that i was excited at first and that many little details kept me from actually using it for good and therefore subscribing.

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About

So, i'm a developer from France currently living in Rio de Janeiro. I do code for the front-end side of the web with things like javascript, html, css, preprocessors, tasks runners, version control, frameworks, tdd, CI, Wordpress and others.

I do speak english, portuguese and french, read tons of books, love to play on a wake, bmx and snowboard and would like to travel to the Karakoram range, Tierra del Fuego and Mongolia.

I do appreciate you stopping by and admit i did abuse of the auxiliary verb do in this about.