Busy executives must be able to maintain telephone and e-mail contact with colleagues and have access to their calendars at all times. Using IBM iNotes ultra-light for the iPhone, they can access their mail, calendar, and contact list on one of the hottest technologies on the market. It offers a "look and feel" similar to Lotus iNotes (which offers reliable, security-rich Web access to e-mail and collaboration applications to manage business-critical information), and it does so in a form that takes the user experience to another level: The screen (320 X 480 pixels) is relatively large, there's built-in wi-fi, and the touch screen interaction is natural and intuitive.
Bringing the Lotus iNotes experience to the iPhone
The goal with bringing a lightweight version of Lotus iNotes to the iPhone was to retain the iNotes flavor while remaining true to the iPhone experience. The team's first step was to do the research: determine the target persona, interview potential users who met the criteria to understand their needs, develop user stories, and study the Apple iPhone Style Guidelines inside and out. The Apple evangelist participated in prototype reviews.
Creating a user experience for a mobile device presented certain challenges to the design team. The team had to focus on supporting the core use cases for the target persona, the mobile executive, and to do so in a way that provided useful access to features, was consistent with the interface guidelines, allowed enough room on the screen for a finger, and provided a user experience consistent with the Lotus Notes product. Practical matters had to be thought through, such as how to do usability testing while looking over the participant's shoulder to see how easy or difficult it is for that user to touch action buttons that are close together.
The design team had to determine the level of information that could be provided on the iPhone screen for the three features that would be included: e-mail, contact list, and calendar. With e-mail messages, users can perform the most common actions (Reply, Reply to all, and Forward). The contact list was put in the main screen so that users would not have to drill down. The calendar gives a daily view of meetings rather than a weekly or monthly view.
Keys to success
Team members attribute the success of the project to several factors. Designers and developers collaborated closely. The designers were instrumental in fleshing out use cases and user stories, and they made ongoing design refinements throughout the project. The team ensured that the user experience for a minimal set of use cases was satisfactory before adding functionality. Early user feedback helped to determine feature priorities; initial prototypes were shown and tested at conferences and during usability sessions. User comments prompted the development of a name validator (described in the video) that reconciles text the user types with the user's contact list or corporate directory.
Upcoming versions will provide the ability to create calendar entries, pick names and dates, and take action on (for example, delete) several e-mail messages at once.