Alto Mail – Stack and organize your mail

I’m very excited to examine one of my favorite recent discoveries, Alto Mail by AOL.  Alto Mail complies your AOL mail, Gmail, Yahoo mail or iCloud mail into one clean interface. This product allows you to conveniently customize, aggregate and organize your mail experience. The best part about this product is that it allows you to visually organize your mail into dynamic stacks according to your preferences or preset categories (presets include things like: daily deals, photos or retail).

The interactions that make the user experience and keep things organized are the following:

  • Drag and drop to create stacks – This allows you to easily create a new stack by dragging an email to the “+” stack.
  • Toggle stack view options - When you click into a stack you can toggle between 3 different view types: message list, page view or list view. This could be improved with the ability to set a default view type so you don’t have to change it every time you click into a stack.
  • Photo gallery browse - There is a photo stack option that aggregates photos from your emails and puts them into a tile view when you click into the stack. From there you can click on a photo and it takes you into a larger view to quickly navigate through all your photos.
  • Hover scan on stacks - When you hover over an individual stack you can move your cursor back and forth to quickly scan through introductory text or photos to preview a stacks contents. I find that I use this the most with my daily deals and photos stacks since these are easier to scan than text.
  • Skipping the inbox - I can easily hide my daily deals so that I don’t have to sort through them to get to my more important mail but they are easily discovered, within a stack, when I do want to browse them.

The two friction points I encounter are:

  • Viewing a conversation thread - When I am looking back through my emails or want to see what other friends were saying on a particular thread, it slows me down to click “View Conversation”  in the top right corner of the email. This action takes me into a new screen which means I need to navigate back to wherever I was before. This could be remedied by allowing users to simply scroll down through an email thread.
  • Default email address - When you send an email there is a drop down at the top that allows you to choose which email to send this message from. You can easily overlook this drop down, however, and send an email from a different address than you intended. I find that I always run into this problem and it could be fixed by creating a default email address setting. – Speedy wireframes in your browser

 Picture this. You are brainstorming with one of your friends on a great idea for a new mobile app and you want to visualize your thoughts in a mobile layout. There is no paper, no sharpies or even Omnigraffle to be found. What do you do? Head to for a quick and easy wire framing tool. is a basic wire framing tool that allows you to quickly create, edit and share interface ideas for desktop and mobile.

Here’s what is great about this tool:

  • It is first and foremost an easy to use and free wire framing tool.
  • There is a simple options menu that facilitates quick creation and editing of elements.
  • No download is required and it is accessible through a browser.
  • It provides templates for both mobile and desktop wireframes.
  • Annotations allow for further explanation of any element and give users some ability to provide feedback.

How to improve this product for users:

  • Allow users control over the menu bar placement so they can move the menu and view items behind it. This is especially useful on mobile layouts and for smaller elements.
  • Changing text edit control to a single or double click instead of limiting it to the edit menu. My first impulse was to double click to enter text and it took me a bit to find the pencil icon in the edit menu.
  • Ability to create versions of a wireframe for rapid prototyping. This will give users the ability to make multiple iterations of an individual wireframe.
  • A template for tablet wireframes.

Cue – Bringing everything together for you

Feeling a bit overwhelmed when trying to manage your Google calendar, iOS calendar, contacts and more? Cue is here to save the day and keep it organized. Cue by Daniel Gross and Robby Walker is an app that helps users to keep all calendars, contacts, and emails in one place. It aggregates the data from all these sources and puts them together in an intelligent way.

Cue is free on the Apple app store and allows for quick search through multiple platforms, intelligently manages automated emails or contact changes and connects events to both contacts and locations.  The interactions that work best on Cue are the following:

  • Adding a month view into the interface – this allows for a quick snapshot of the entire month and easy navigation to dates that are further out.
  • Added navigation back to the current date – the Cue button in the bottom navigation takes you back to the current date for easy access and eliminates tapping back through dates.
  • Running late feature in event – this allows you to quickly text a contact associated with an event to tell them you are running late. The interface gives you the option of choosing from pre-canned time increments or customizing the amount.

The main friction points here are:

  • Inability to edit events within the app – this interrupts the in app use and forces a user to open up other applications to manage their data.  Allowing in app edits would keep users within the app and make Cue a hub for event, contact and email management.
  • Option to clear search history function – this would help to unclutter the search area for those of us who like to clear out items for increased organization.
  • Labeled Today button in bottom navigation – it is unclear right away that the bottom Cue button will take you to the current date, changing the text to today will help users flow through the app easily.

This app is a great way to view a snapshot of your daily events and keep straight the contacts and locations associated with them.  If you are looking to get organized and see everything in one place then download this app!

Avocado and Pair- Taking mobile communication to a new level for couples.

Want to keep in touch with your sweetie? These apps are hoping to help your relationship stay afloat. Avocado by Avocado Software, Inc., and Pair by TenthBit Inc., are apps that seek to help you and your significant other communicate, organize and store your memories.  Both of these apps seek to create a mobile communication experience for couples to share moments and maintain a private source of communication.

Avocado is $0.99 on the Apple app store and allows couples to upload photos, share their mood, send a hug or kiss and maintain shared lists.  Here is why you should use Avocado and what works best:

  • Shared lists – Couples can create lists and add photos to them to, mark items as important, and more. This is my favorite feature of the app and what I think is the most useful.  User interaction with the lists mimics Clear app and allows users to quickly manage task with motions. (The interaction is also quite fun.)
  • Send a kiss or a hug – Hold the phone to your heart or kiss the screen to let you boo know you are thinking of them. This is another fun and quick action you can take in the interface. Kissing the screen or holding the phone to your heart initiates a message to you significant other.
  • A kick-ass visual style - with subtle gradients, shadows and a “pop” of green.

Here is where there is room for improvement:

  • Lightning bold menu icon – In the main feed there is a green lightening bolt icon that upon clicking takes you into an actions menu. It was not immediately clear to me this was a menu due to it’s placement next to the text box and the icon itself does not seem to fit the theme nor indicate a menu.
  • Swipe right for more options - Also within the main feed, you can swipe right to remove a post, find photo sharing options and tweet a post. This function is not easily discoverable by users and could be moved into the feed with small and slightly transparent icons for quick navigation.
  • Feed not easy to scan – The main feed feels a little cluttered and its difficult to make distinctions between who has posted what. This could be remedied by creating a back and forth conversation feed or by changing the conversation colors so they appear more distinct.

Pair is Free on the Apple App store and features include: photo and video share, thumb kiss, paint, location share and thinking of you.  Here are the best interactions in Pair:

  • Feed readability – Users can easily scan their feed for updates with an interface that mimics Messages and has smaller photo icons with switchbacks.
  • Actions menu is discoverable – Users can navigate into the actions menu intuitively with the add button to indicate that they are adding a new item.
  • Send location option – No need to navigate into any map app to send your location. Users can share their location within the app

What needs some more thought:

  • FaceTime button – While it’s useful for couples to easily initiate FaceTime, it is not clear from the button that it initiates this action. The person icon on the button makes it seem like you will be adding another person and it will take you to an off canvas menu.
  • Moments and Shared Tasks – These items are currently hidden under the off canvas menu to the left of the screen. These items are not easy to discover here and may be better served up under the actions menu from the live feed. Additionally, the moments interface seems superfluous since users can scroll through their feed to attain the same information.
  • Actions menu scrolling unclear – Within the actions menu there is no indication that there are more options available when you scroll further to the right. This could be solved with an arrow indicating there are more items.

These apps are both great ways to keep in touch with the one you love and serve as quick and simple means of communication between couples. If you are looking for a lot of different actions and features, Pair is probably best for you. However, if you are looking to manage shared tasks, Avocado will be better for you as a couple.