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How to offer a good NFC experience to the user?

Due to its being a technology that is not widely known among users, even with the increasing number of smart phones with NFC, you should take some precautions in order for the users to understand the operation and the interaction of your application with NFC.

Starting from elements of a technique that is widely used in inspection of usability, which is called heuristic evaluation, exploratory tests have been carried out for the Tap and Shoot Together application with users who had never had access to or who have never used NFC. Download the application and follow some points of attention observed in connection with the experience of the user:


1. Visibility of the status of the system

It is important that, at every action performed, the user has an immediate and consistent feedback, which may be haptic (vibration), sonorous and visual.


1.1 Feedback

The system must inform the user of what it is doing in an on-going fashion.

It is very common that the user performs an action and thinks that the application has crashed or that it has not performed the said action due to nothing having been "exhibited" on the screen as feedback.

In the Tap and Shoot Together application, when the user touches the cell phone of their friend with his own cell phone in order to have them connected, the user receives a sonorous and haptic sign - standard response of the Windows Phone system - which indicates that the connection has been initiated.


1.2 Status and messages of status

O aplicativo deve manter o usuário informado do que está acontecendo.

The application must maintain the user informed of what is going on. Therefore, it is important to understand the information that the user needs and to convey that with use of a proper visual language. On the main screen of the Tap and Shoot Together application, it is already possible to identify the status of the connection by means of a circle in the upper left corner of the screen - wherein that circle modifies in accordance with the variation in the status of the application.

Example: When the connection has not yet been initiated, the circle displays an animation representing the motion of two cell phones touching, together with a "Tap cell phones" command to the side. This way, the user understands the status the application is currently in.




Visual element indicating the connection status.




Animation in the area of the circle indicates that the cell phones must be tapped and connected.




Animation indicates the loading and the message indicates that it is still connecting.




Once connected, the area of the circle displays the camera of the other user connected. 




When the application is running on a too low battery, the system prevents a number of functionalities from being fully executed. In order to avoid that from happening, the application prevents a connection from being made and the circle indicates that it is not possible to do it, together with the message "Recharge your phone". 


1.3 Connection interrupted

In NFC applications, it is common to have two devices connected in order to perform a certain task. In some cases, to break a connection may interrupt an important activity. In the Tap and Shoot Together application, when a user executes an action which may interrupt the connection, the application displays a notification asking whether the user wishes to continue the action whilst informing of the negative results, if any. Once the connection is cancelled, the application sends a message of connection lost to the device of the second user which it had been connected








2. Correspondence between the system and the real world

It is easier for the user to learn a system which uses words and visual representations which are of the user's previous knowledge, and which has an interface that is similar to that of the "non-computational" environment of work. Avoid technical terms which are too often used in the computational sphere.


2.1. Intuitive symbol

Intuitive symbols demonstrate an action which must be performed by the user with no need for text or schematics to be understood. On the main screen of the Tap and Shoot Together application, there is an animation that stays within the circle in the upper left corner of the screen, and which exhibits two cell phones tapping. The users who performed the tests with that application had been able to understand and reproduce the action. That shows the importance of using intuitive symbols to have the actions of the application explained.



3. Peculiarities of the tap

As you may have already seen or read, the NFC technology allows for the communication without wires (wireless) between two devices by means of a simple touch between them, the tap.


3.1. The need of the touch to initiate (tap)

Due to that peculiarity, it is important that you make it clear to the user that any application which is endowed with NFC is initiated by means of a tap between two devices or between one device and one NFC tag. In the case of the Tap and Shoot Together application, for its being about a peer to peer NFC connection, that is, person to person, the moment of the tap (touch) is always initiated by means of previous relationship between two users. In accordance with the tests performed, the users had had difficulties in performing the action of the tap, due to their not being acquainted with the NFC technology, but, along the test, it is concluded that the action of the tap has become easy and intuitive, for the users had associated the idea of the touch between the devices with the action of swapping something with somebody, a motion that is very natural in the day to day life of the user.


3.2. Priority of the tap

Before initiating any task, it is necessary that the user performs a touch between the elements endowed with NFC. With this action, the user permits the task to be initialized. Therefore, it is important to always maintain the resulting action of the NFC tap as a priority. In the Tap and Shoot Together application - the main function of which is shooting photographs together - every time the NFC tap is performed, any instance of the application is replaced by the expected result of the tap: the connection between the two devices, which consequently makes it possible for the interaction between the two users to be initiated. For example: If the user A (who has got the application open in the gallery of the same) and the user B (who has got the main screen) tap their cell phones, the connection is initiated immediately. In that case, it is not necessary to ask the user B whether he or she is willing to make the connection, and neither to the user A, whether he or she is willing to exit the gallery and initiate the connection, hence the tapping motion is being carried out by both of them. The very action of tapping the cell phones is already permission in itself. Considering the tap as an act of permission reduces the steps and the inconvenient text boxes. In that way, the mostly used function is easily accessed.



4. Pre-requisites for the NFC application to work

It is necessary to identify, in an advance fashion, the necessary requisites for an application to work properly. In the case of an NFC application, it is obviously necessary that the "NFC" option is enabled in the cell phone and, in the majority of the cases, another technology of wireless connection is also necessary, such as Bluetooth or Wi-Fi. Should the system not provide support for them to be activated automatically, it is important to warn the user, so that the very user may activate them. During the development of the Tap and Shoot Together, that impediment of the very Windows Phone 8.0 operating system has been found out; upon the first use of the application, the user is informed that, in order to use all of the functionalities of the application, it is necessary that the option "tap + send" (NFC) of the cell phone be active. The second step has been verifying the status of Bluetooth at each time the application is open; should it be deactivated, a notification warns that the Bluetooth needs to be activated. That way, the user will know that there is a problem and how to solve it, before he or she attempts to connect cell phones without success.




Signals the need of having the option "tap + send" (NFC) enabled in the cell phone for being able to use all of the functionalities of the application. Application - Tap and Shoot Together.




When the application is open, if the Bluetooth is off, then the user is notified and oriented to activate it. Application - Tap and Shoot Together.



5. Tutorial (Educate the user)

To exhibit tutorials when the application is executed for the first time reduces the possibility of the user not obtaining a good response to their actions. Once the user knows how the application behaves, its utilization becomes much easier. And, as we have already seen, applications with NFC have peculiarities pursuant to their use due to their being initiated by touch. On account of that, providing tutorials to the user is a way of optimizing the experience with the applications which use the NFC technology. As a consequence, it makes the experience of the user much more intuitive and natural.

In the case of the Tap and Shoot Together application, the tap (touching) is what initiates the entire action. In the experience of the users who have used that application, it has been observed that the first use is a very critical point, for the users have had to be guided through animations for their being able to conclude the action, hence they were not acquainted with the technology. Due to that, we have been able to visualize the importance of a tutorial to assist the user with their first use, as well as a presentation of the functionalities of the application.

Due to its being an application that uses the camera in a different fashion, it had been necessary to demonstrate how the application worked. For that, upon the first use, it is initiated an introductory presentation of what the application does and of what is special about it: taking a picture combined with two cameras and synchrony of photographs taken.

In a second moment, once that presentation is finished, a tutorial of first use is initiated. On the main screen of the application, a layer of transparency indicates, to the user, what the visual elements on the screen execute or represent.




Explains what the user is visualizing - the area that exhibits the camera - and indicates the functions of the icons on the screen. Application - Tap and Shoot Together.





The circle with the animation indicates that the user must tap the cell phone on the cell phone of another person. Note that, due to the importance of the tap in the experience of the application, that instruction becomes a component that persists in the interface.




After the tap and the connection of the cell phones, it explains new elements that appear on the screen. The circle which previously had an animation requesting the tap between the cell phones now displays an image from the camera of the other cell phone. And an animation in the center of the screen requests for the motion of swiping to the side be carried out. Application - Tap and Shoot Together.




After the user had executed the requested action of swiping to the side, the application reveals another form of visualization of the connected cameras and explains that it is also possible to take a picture of that composition. Application - Tap and Shoot Together.


As you may have noticed, the motion of touching is the starting point and the main form of interaction of system endowed with NFC, that is what makes the experience of the user with NFC applications so unique and peculiar. Though not so common, it is necessary to fit the user to that new form of interaction. Making the user feel comfortable and safe - both before and after the tap - is essential for the success of the application. A frustrating first use could result in abandonment from the user. Therefore, be aware of the elements which compose a good experience for the user.



Last edited Aug 6, 2014 at 11:27 PM by brmontei, version 12