Initial Thoughts on SCG Mobile

Posted by Michael on May 28, 2011 in App Reviews, Usability |

The new StarCityGames iPhone app “SCG Mobile” is a promising looking first release. Though I dispute the “world’s most advanced MTG app” label, it does make reading free SCG articles easier on the phone (albeit at a cost of US$5) and includes a nicely designed life counter with features for Commander (EDH) players. It’s a good start, but suffers a fair amount of usability issues and bugs in this initial 1.0 release. Below I give my initial thoughts on the app. (If you’re wondering, yes, I have some experience in the area of software usability!)

Select Articles

● The app crashes if you navigate to the bottom of this view to show “Loading…”, and then tap an article.
● The app crashes if I pull down to update, then I tap on an article.
● The app crashes if I just scroll down and let it load more articles two-to-three times or so.
● I didn’t have an internet connection when I started the app. I got to this page and saw the error message. However, when I then had a connection, I just saw a black view here and there was no way to reload. I was able to fix this by force quitting the app and relaunching it.
● The “SEE THE DECK” links should be improved by showing the Deck Title and Deck Builder before the link. People like to know what they are about to view.
● Why does the item remain selected after you have viewed an article and come back to the list (happens in the Favourites list too)? You should follow the Apple Human Interface Guidelines. This is just looks like sloppy programming.
● Tapping articles in this list appears to queue articles for viewing. If you accidentally tap multiple articles in succession (or double tap an article), several views are pushed to the Navigation Controller, but only one shows an article, hence you end up often looking at a blank page, and having to click multiple Back buttons to return to the articles list. I guess the programmer was trying to keep the app responsive, but this is not the way to do it.
● The “See Deck” view leaves the app unresponsive while it loads. This is bad. The user should always be able to click back (to cancel this action, for example), or on another tab.
● It would be nice to be able to mark articles as read and unread.
● Search, as well as search from the server would be nice for this view.
● Obviously premium articles would be nice.

Life Management

● This is very nicely designed, other than the issues mentioned below. I think this is the best and most well thought out portion of the app.
● Can you remove a team you have created? I couldn’t figure out how.
● The game selection in the match history is very thin. This should be normal size to help the user tap on it.
● The Create Profile view doesn’t have a save button. Users are likely going to be confused that the back button applies this create new profile action.
● You should be able to select one of the “additional profiles” and set it as the “default profile”.
● The Commander Damage section in the Edit Profile view should probably list the commanders that have been added as a list and allow deletion of them this way. It would likely be more usable than the way it is implemented now.
● I would suggest changing the “Remove” button in the edit player view to “Drop”. Players are already familiar with this as a term meaning to leave the game or tournament. “Remove” is unclear and a little scary, especially when this view looks similar to the profile editing/creation, i.e., “am I going to remove the profile I created?”
● Using a Segmented Control — the bar that displays “Home | History | Settings | Profiles” — is not great. This is usually used for selecting a mode, rather than launching new views, so it’s use here does not feel great. It would probably be better to just have three individual buttons on this bar instead and drop “Home”. At the moment, the Home button can never be unselected and does nothing but take up space.

Dice & Coin

● Is there a way to clear the history? Some people like to be able to “clean up” stuff like this, so it probably should be an option.

Card lookup

● Should use a proper search bar for card lookup. Why create a different widget when users are already familiar with UISearchBar. Also, scrolling the list of cards does not dismiss the keyboard, so you can’t scroll to the bottom without hitting Return. This is bad.
● Cards in the card lookup list does not have an obvious order to it. It should. Probably alphabetical.
● Why display the card popup over the list? They should use a Modal View Controller like they do for viewing decks, this is exactly what modal view controllers are intended for.
● Flipping the the card info over to display the card surprising displays nothing if the phone has no internet connection. This is bad.
● While it is nice to automatically flip over to the card image once it has loaded, if the user taps the “Pic” button before the card has loaded, then it flips to show nothing, and quickly flips back to the text view once the card image has loaded. Probably pic button should not be available till the card image has loaded.
● The “View” button here is ambiguous. What does it mean if the user doesn’t know. Should probably be “Web”.

Favourites

● Why is this view black if there are no favourites. Ideally it should show “No favourite articles” along with a short message telling the user how to save articles as favourites.
● I was somehow able to end up with an article in my favourites that, when selected, opens an empty view with the title “Article”. There is now no way to delete it. This, I think, happened by marking an article as a favourite, opening it in the favourites list, and then marking it as not favourite in the Select Articles tab. Some funny things happened with the the article in both tabs after this. There are some bugs there.
● Ideally, there should be a quick method of deleting articles from this list that saves opening and unselecting the Favourite Star. Probably swiping.

On Price and iPad

● Why charge, or at least, why charge so much for this app? The life counter has some value, but otherwise, this app seems expensive for what it is — an interface to the free portion of the SCG website for iPhone users. While I did purchase the app to review it, I would not have otherwise bought the app at this price point with its current features, and I have a Premium membership for StarCityGames.
● For Evan who asked on twitter “Anyone have iPad experience with it yet? Good/bad?”: iPhone based apps tend to look and behave terribly on iPad. This app is no exception. The 2x mode is awful — fonts are not recalculated but just scaled up. Not your fault at all, but I’d not mention iPad at all until you’ve done some work to make the app nice on that platform (yes, you should really think of it as another target platform).
● The SCG Mobile page says “Available now for iPhone, iPad and iPod”. I’d suggest “Available now for the iPhone and iPodTouch” until official support and layout for the iPad is added.

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