An open letter to the developers of Povio including some hopefully constructive and totally unsolicited feedback about the user experience.
1. Povio is cool
I heard about Povio through Hacker News and immediately installed it. It’s new. It’s humble. It solves the problem of people sharing useless stuff about themselves. I can ping the people I’m interested in, and I feel good when people ping me for a photo of myself. As a member of their target demographic, I’m hooked.
Really – I like the app and I want to see it succeed. The rest of this article is my thoughts on how to accomplish that, mainly directed toward the developer(s) but also as a way to open up a conversation about modern app development, privacy, and heteronormativity.
It solves what I call the “broadcast problem”. Basically the idea that some forms of communication are “broadcast” (snapchat, facebook) and others are direct (texting, skype) and it’s sometimes easy to confuse the two. You can read my thoughts on the broadcast problem if you’re so inclined.
2. Povio needs to not be a dating app for straight white men
The video for Povio features mostly a good looking female who is Povio’d (new verb!) by a male friend and they end up getting ice cream together, or something. Whatever – sex sells, and especially to the coveted 18-24 year old male. But there’s also a problem here, which is that Povio needs to attract people of all genders and backgrounds if it wants to be successful.
In my opinion, if Povio tries to be a dating app like tinder, it’s going to fail. It will turn creepy and the vast majority of users will abandon it. I worry that it’s already on its way to this. Here are the users that are added automatically as friends:
All white, and seriously: Miss Hotty?!
Either Povio will change this, or they’ll lose a lot of users who aren’t heteronormative white males. Even if, at best, it’s based on your facebook gender, race, and “looking for”, which is almost a neat idea for user acquisition, but still gives me a bad feeling about the app.
3. Povio has a neat UI with unintuitive UX
Povio’s UI and graphic design: Clever.
Povio’s UX and command structure: Obtuse.
Let’s say I want to unfriend a user. (I actually had to reach out to the devs on twitter to figure this one out). Expected: I long-click on the user’s list item and get options. Nope – long click does nothing. I click on Best Buddy’s face. Nope – a close up of his profile pic.
Turns out it’s as simple as single-tapping the list item. But it took me a good 5 minutes and a twitter conversation to figure that out. And who wants to see a large version of their friend’s profile picture?
Suggestion: Use the standard long-press for options. Remove the click-to-open-profile-pic action. Get some user testing and work on having a really intuitive user experience.
4. Povio needs to have the ability to turn on strict privacy settings
Yep, just like I suspected. Been on there for 10 minutes, and already getting friend requests from creepy guys I’ve never heard of. I would only use this with close friends. —natasham25
Make sure people know each other on Facebook, Google Contacts, or something. Have an option for anonymous friend requests to require a three-digit password. Photo apps like snapchat already toe the “creepy” line and enabling users to lock down their profile is the best way of combating this.
Allowing “creepy guys” to anonymously ping people is only going to reinforce the “dating app” vibe.
5. Povio shouldn’t show me who pinged my friends
A) I don’t want to see how popular they are compared to me.
B) Nobody wants to see all of the people pinging their S.O.
It’s rare that someone enjoys the feeling of “sharing” a friend. Especially a S.O. or more. I pinged my Fiancee and was surprised to see a list of all the other people who had also pinged her. I’m not a jealous guy – who she sends Povios to is not my business. But I know more jealous types probably wouldn’t be happy to see those names, especially if they’re potential rivals. It also creates the feeling that you didn’t just get a special picture created and shared just for you.
6. Povio is awesome for shy and boring people
Not a criticism!
Povio makes it really easy to ask your friends to include you in their life. As long as it’s easy enough to ignore a ping (with plausible deniability for ignoring it) from someone you don’t want to share with, I think there’s great potential here for an app that allows people to ask “hey, what are you up to” without feeling inclusive.
Snapchat is for broadcasting cool events. I get snaps from some people a LOT more than I do from others. I only send snapchats when something interesting or exciting is going on. To send a snap, you have to feel like you’re doing something worthy of taking up someone else’s ten seconds.
Povio solves that by allowing me to request my friends’ presence when I’m bored and lonely, and therefore makes me feel more social and wanted. I can get pings from friends and be inspired to set up something cool to take a picture of.
Povio is up-and-coming and I hope the best for it. Based on the reactions of my non-immersed-in-the-tech-world friends it has a lot of potential and I can’t imagine it’s userbase is less than viral already.
With a few tweaks and fixes, I think Povio will quickly become a household name.
— Erty Seidel
Edit: Povio’s creator has responded to this post:
@ertyseidel Not at all – job well done! Much appreciated. Sometimes it takes an outsider to see things clearer. Thx! 🙂
— Povio (@povio) March 25, 2014
P.S. – Shameless self-promotion: If you liked my writeup, know that I’m currently looking for work!