Give What Users Want. Now.

YouTube used to display a bar chart to present the “likes” and “dislikes” of a video. What I would immediately see upon landing on the page was the proportion of site visitors who pressed the like and dislike button. But guess what I would immediately do? I would drag my cursor toward the chart and hover the cursor on top of the chart because that was the only way to see the actual number of “likes” and “dislikes.”

Statistics does not mean much without a good number of samples. I’m interested to see the numbers first. YouTube has since replaced the chart with the old school, straight up numbers. I suppose a user could infer the ratio of “likes” and “dislikes” himself.

Likes Statistics

Likes Statistics

Great User Interface: Read Users’ Mind

Ever looking up a word online and having to look up another word in the original word’s definition? Here are the steps to do it if you look up the word online.

  1. Go to dictionary.com
  2. Enter the word to look up
  3. Read the definition
  4. (Upon finding another new word) Copy the new word and paste it to the search box

Step 4 may not be much, or it may be (a sequence of a double mouse click, CTRL+C, move mouse cursor to the search box, CTRL+V, and ENTER), but dictionary.com has managed to simplify that step 4 into the following sequence of steps: click the new word, click the tooltip immediately above the new word. That’s it–two clicks and barely a muscle to move the mouse.

Passing Value from Child Page to Parent Page

Nov 2, 2010 Update: Microsoft releases a toolkit which includes a control ListPicker–which my article tried to emulate. I’ve downloaded it and it looks good so far. I no longer need to employ a separate page to list options. The concept in this article is still useful if you want to allow selecting multiple items. As far as I know, ListPicker control won’t let you set up such thing.

When presenting an input with a list of options, normally we will see a drop down menu (or a list box, combo box, and the like) or a child window employed to present the options. On Windows Phone 7, there aren’t such controls (there are hacks and workarounds, though), so one of the methods to display the options is to present them in another page.

Passing Value from a Child to a Parent Page


Say we have a page (MainPage.xaml) where a user could select his favorite color. The following is the (portion of) XAML code.

    <!--LayoutRoot is the root grid where all page content is placed-->
    <Grid x:Name="LayoutRoot" Background="Transparent">
        <Grid.RowDefinitions>
            <RowDefinition Height="Auto"/>
            <RowDefinition Height="*"/>
        </Grid.RowDefinitions>

        <!--TitlePanel contains the name of the application and page title-->
        <StackPanel x:Name="TitlePanel" Grid.Row="0" Margin="12,17,0,28">
            <TextBlock x:Name="ApplicationTitle" Text="MY APPLICATION" Style="{StaticResource PhoneTextNormalStyle}"/>
            <TextBlock x:Name="PageTitle" Text="about me" Margin="9,-7,0,0" Style="{StaticResource PhoneTextTitle1Style}"/>
        </StackPanel>

        <!--ContentPanel - place additional content here-->
        <Grid x:Name="ContentPanel" Grid.Row="1" Margin="12,0,12,0">
            <StackPanel>
                <toolkit:GestureService.GestureListener>
                    <toolkit:GestureListener Tap="GestureListener_Tap" />
                </toolkit:GestureService.GestureListener>
                <TextBlock Text="my fave color" Style="{StaticResource PhoneTextExtraLargeStyle}" />
                <TextBlock x:Name="txtFaveColor" Style="{StaticResource PhoneTextSubtleStyle}" />
            </StackPanel>
        </Grid>
    </Grid>

When the user taps on my fave color, he will be redirected to another page (ChildPage.xaml) where he can specify his selection. In the parent page (MainPage.xaml), we need to specify a public property which the child page will set. The following is how the public property FaveColor defined in the code behind (MainPage.xaml.cs)

    public partial class MainPage : PhoneApplicationPage
    {
        public string FaveColor;

        public MainPage()
        {
            InitializeComponent();
        }

        private void GestureListener_Tap(object sender, GestureEventArgs e)
        {
            this.NavigationService.Navigate(new Uri("/ChildPage.xaml", UriKind.Relative));
        }
    }

The child page is to set the property FaveColor of parent page within the OnNavigatedFrom event where the parent page context is available.

    public partial class ChildPage : PhoneApplicationPage
    {
        private string selectedColor;

        public ChildPage()
        {
            InitializeComponent();
        }

        private void lstColors_Tap(object sender, GestureEventArgs e)
        {
            if (lstColors.SelectedItem == null)
                return;

            selectedColor = ((TextBlock)lstColors.SelectedItem).Tag.ToString();

            NavigationService.GoBack();
        }

        protected override void OnNavigatedFrom(System.Windows.Navigation.NavigationEventArgs e)
        {
            if (e.Content is MainPage &&
                selectedColor != null)
            {
                (e.Content as MainPage).FaveColor = selectedColor;
            }

            base.OnNavigatedFrom(e);
        }
    }

Now, we can use the the property FaveColor as the content of the control which displays user’s favorite color.

    public partial class MainPage : PhoneApplicationPage
    {
        public string FaveColor;

        public MainPage()
        {
            InitializeComponent();
            this.Loaded += new RoutedEventHandler(MainPage_Loaded);
        }

        void MainPage_Loaded(object sender, RoutedEventArgs e)
        {
            txtFaveColor.Text = FaveColor;
        }

        private void GestureListener_Tap(object sender, GestureEventArgs e)
        {
            this.NavigationService.Navigate(new Uri("/ChildPage.xaml", UriKind.Relative));
        }
    }

This technique is originally found in Charles Petzold’s “Programming Windows Phone 7.”

Edit Post Screen (Variant II)

I thought of this during the long wait at In-n-Out drive-thru (yes, it was good).

Utilizing the pivot control, I could place the writing area in one view and the auxiliary components (less used features) in another view. Which components are more or less used is up for pointless debate, though.

I can see how this is beneficial for the workflow of writing a blog post. When writing a post, I would normally start with a title and move on to writing the content. While writing, I’m focusing on writing and only writing. When I’m finished, I would set the categories. Writing the post content and setting the attributes of the post are two separate tasks in the post writing workflow; hence, the separation of the views.

Edit Post Screen with Pivot Control

The UI Design and Interaction Guide for Windows Phone 7 does not recommend pivot control for this kind of usage, however. The following are excerpts from the guide that the pivot control in Edit Post screen violates.

Pivot pages should not be used for task flow.

The pivot control should only be used to display items or data of similar type.

I understood why the first item of guideline is there. A task flow requires a strict order; user has to complete task one before proceeding to task two. Pivot control does not enforce that. User can navigate to views in pivot control in any order (except there is always one same initial view). This is less of an issue for this scenario. The big issue is that pivot control does not guarantee that a user will navigate to all views. I could click [save] and realize that I forgot to assign categories in the other view.

For the second item in the guideline. I could argue that I do use the control to display items of similar type: blog post’s properties of most used, and less used. But the author(s) of the guideline may disagree with that. Microsoft uses the email reader to show how a pivot control should be used. In the email reader, pivot control is used to display emails with status unread, flag, and the like in the different views.

Whether a pivot control is appropriate for the Edit Post screen, I need a usability testing to know if it will work for users.