Designing for the mobile web is a challenge, designing the interfaces that we use to browse the Web is a greater challenge. James Pannafino sits down and chats with VP of User Experience at Wildcard and author of Subtraction.com Khoi Vinh about his most recent work.
Khoi Vinh’s Wildcard: Building a Better Mobile Web
First, congratulations on the release of Wildcard. For those who don’t
know about it, could you tell us what it is?
Wildcard is basically the first step in a long campaign to build a better mobile web. We think that the page metaphor worked great for the desktop web, but it’s wrong for mobile. And we believe cards are the right metaphor. So we’ve built a browser that delivers cards to users—compact, atomic bits of content that are much faster and more expedient than Safari or Chrome on your phone. We’re also trying to kickstart a card-based web by proactively card-ifying hundreds (and soon thousands) of websites out there. We also have have a powerful search engine that’s tuned for cards to help users get just what they need from the web.
Why do you think now is the right time to release Wildcard?
We’re seven years into the iPhone era, and the mobile web isn’t getting any better or easier to use, at least not relative to what you can do with native apps on iOS or Android these days. It’s still really painful to browse with your mobile browser. We can see a new, better mobile web just over the horizon, but we decided the only way to get there is to start now, building it in public.
What was your UX approach when designing the experience for Wildcard?
Building Wildcard was a bit like building a small operating system. So there was tons of research, prototyping and experimentation, all tempered with an eye on the calendar because we knew we wanted to ship before the fall is out. So I don’t know if there’s a simple way to summarize our UX approach, except to say that we tried to reconcile our big platform-level ambitions with what would make sense for our users on day one.
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What are your future plans for the app?
Our goal is to replace Safari or Chrome on your phone as your browser of choice—so expect that!
What else are you working on?
For the past year I’ve been building Kidpost during my nights and weekends. It’s a simple service that collects the kid-related content you post to apps like Facebook and Instagram, bundles it up into a daily email, and sends it off to your friends and family. It makes it easy for your loved ones to keep up with everything you post about your kids without having to visit separate sites, open separate apps, or sign up for new accounts. That’s live right now and you can try it out at http://kidpost.net.
I’ve also been collaborating with Adobe on a new app which right now has the codename Project LayUp. It’s an iPad app that turbo-charges the brainstorming phase for designers. It lets you create lots of different layout ideas really quickly; you can even just draw the layout you have in mind, and it exports editable files to Illustrator, InDesign etc. Keep an eye out for that soon. You can read more about it here.
Wildcard is available through itunes and more information can be found www.trywildcard.com.
Khoi Vinh is a designer, writer, entrepreneur and one of Fast Co’s “50 Most Influential Designers in America.” He is currently VP of User Experience at Wildcard. Previously, he was cofounder and CEO of Mixel, a groundbreaking mobile startup that was acquired by Etsy, Inc., and digital design director for The New York Times. He writes a widely read blog on design and technology at Subtraction.com.
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