Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Like a truck hauling a load of scrap iron

As I wrote back in May, performance is an important part of a good user experience. The perception of performance is something that a designer can manage by providing appropriate feedback, such as a progress indicator or message. Sometimes, though, the actual performance needs to be managed rather than just the user’s perception of it.

I’ve been thinking about this over the last several weeks in the aftermath of updating my Apple iPhone 3G to iOS 4.

What had been a fine mobile device prior to the update became a sluggish annoyance after I installed iOS 4. In addition to noticeable overall slowness, my iPhone became prone to random screen freezes that lasted four or five seconds or more.

Even though Apple had disabled some of the features in the iOS 4 release when installed on an iPhone 3G model, there were still several remaining enhancements that I enjoyed. While appealing, though, none of them were enough, for me, to make up for the severe performance degradation that accompanied the release.

This past weekend I finally took the plunge and downgraded my iPhone to version 3.1.3 of the OS. As this is something that Apple appears not to want users to do, I used directions that I found in this article at Lifehacker, and they turned out to be clear enough for me to get the job done. The improvement in performance has been dramatic. Under iOS 4 my iPhone felt about as responsive as a flat-bed truck hauling a load of scrap iron. It’s now back to feeling like a small sports car, fleet and nimble and fun to use. I’m happy to sacrifice the iOS 4 features that I now no longer have for the snappy user experience that again defines my iPhone. And that says a lot about the importance of performance to user experience.

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