Microsoft’s Kin: a step in the wrong direction?

Everyone’s a fast follower these days, watching closely to see what Apple will do next.

It seems after Apple’s announcements of the iPhone and the iPad, everyone wants a slice of the mobile computing pie.

Enter the typical “knee-jerk reaction” product: poorly designed, more often than not mimicking the hardware of Apple’s products but with the software and user interface severely lacking.

The Kin
Microsoft’s Kin, from the little I’ve seen, seems to have a little more thought in it. Apparently, they’ve done face to face research with over 50,000 people which directly lead to this product. They did a deprivation study where they deprived respondents of their mobile phones for a whole weekend and then asked them later what they felt and missed most. Interesting method.

Critiquing
But the ball kinda drops after you see how the interaction was designed. The interface was branded “browsing my life like a magazine”, and for the most part, it does feel that way. Cool pictures of your friend’s blogs and facebook pages, twitter accounts, RSS feeds. I guess it’s only as pretty as the pictures of your friends. Must…get…pretty…friends…

The Kin-Spot (the little green dot at the bottom of the screen) was borderline titillating (what happens if you rub the Kin-Spot, hmm?). In the video, the example was “I wanna share stuff with people; just drag it to the Kin-Spot and then drag your friends and then send it”. Personally, I don’t think drag and drop is an efficient way to perform this task. Tapping’s much faster, and certainly more intuitive. What’s wrong with tapping a [Share] button, then tapping on the people you want to share it with? It just feels like this portion of the interface was designed because “drag and drop is cool”, rather than with practical usage in mind.

The interface hardly even fits the screen! I mean seriously, with 3-4 feeds filling the screen, how much flicking and scrolling am I gonna have to do to finish with my “update reading list”?

Also, adding contacts to send stuff looks clunky. First, it doesn’t appear to be organized alphabetically from left to right, so I have to rely on spatial memory to remember the approximate location of where a contact is in the horizontal list. Compare this to the iPhone’s interface, where you can search for contacts alphabetically from top to bottom, and the order is spatially mapped to the vertical axis of the screen. So you know that “K” for Kevin is probably somewhere in the middle of the screen.

Plus, since when have lists been horizontal? Look at your grocery list: do you write it from left to right, or top to bottom? Why should the contact list be horizontal?

I’ll probably catch a couple more Kin videos online to see how it works. Let’s hope there’s something good in there worth worshipping.

Read more: Microsoft Kin One and Kin Two announced: Windows Phone roots with a social slant (updated with video)

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