User Interface Sins of Popular Apps

Writing Samples

Repent, app royalty.

App development is more like a school cafeteria than ever before. The bar to get in has never been lower, but the slim chances of sitting with the popular kids can seem like a nightmare from Mean Girls.

But, like a metaphorical Regina George, popularity isn’t flawless. Some of the most popular apps, from social media to games, have features that impede users more than ever before.

If we want access to the communities, features, or content of the apps below, we have to tolerate their less-than-brilliant aspects. But they’re something the rest of us can avoid.

Pop-ups on startup
The culprits: Draw Something, Farmville (Zynga Games)

While hosting ads on free services is a current inevitability even in the most successful apps, pop-ups remain the Internet’s original sin. So much so that their inventor formally apologized for them. However, apps that load only to immediately shove a splash banner, an in-game store, or even an advertisement in the user’s face are difficult to justify. Even worse if the rest of the interface is usable for a split second before the new window appears, causing users to mis-navigate. Zynga games might get away with it, but your app shouldn’t attempt to. Instead, consider other alternatives to trick out your in-app store.

Opt-out Social Media integration
The culprit: Spotify

Spotify is a fantastic music streaming service: all the songs you could ever want for free, with only ads here and there. However, its bad social media connection habits can leave your Facebook posting everything you listen to. Because all of its connection options are enabled by default, users automatically publish their track history to public social media. Social media integration should be opt-in, not opt-out.

Autoplaying videos, even without sound
The culprits: Tumblr, Facebook, Youtube

Do you remember that period in the early 2000s where it was fashionable to have web pages autoplay a music file or flash when you opened them? The legacy lives on: in autoplaying video on Youtube channels, Facebook feeds, and the Tumblr dashboard. While autoplay may be trendy in web applications despite criticism, it’s now disabled in iOS applications. However, Android users still must look out for unsolicited mobile data downloads of buffering video content.

Slow loading times
The culprits: Candy Crush/King Games, App Store and Google Play Store

A better internet connection can fix most cloud download and sync problems, but some apps never load faster. We don’t really have a choice but to use the iOS App Store and the Play Store, and Candy Crush is too big to fail, but smaller applications with a significant loading time in between every function or section can really break a user’s immersion. Users expect web pages and apps to load in two seconds or less; if your app is slower than that, some people may not want to wait. This also goes for multi-platform approaches. If your images load in a web browser but not on mobile, guess which one of those clients is going in the recycle bin?

The culprits: Too many to count

The push for quick development and to get an app from concept to the store is harder than ever in 2015. But some caution might be wise: 95 percent of mobile apps are abandoned within one month. Previous studies have shown that users have a low tolerance for bugs and crashes, and rarely hesitate to delete a buggy app after two errors. Skype went so far as to characterize mobile users as “fickle” and unforgiving, as a reason to focus on getting their mobile approach right.


What is a Horse? A Thorough and Comprehensive Answer.

Writing Samples

A city slicker asked:

I have never seen a horse please tell me what they are.

A horse is a large quadrupedal ungulate that averages in mass at about 500kg. It has a peculiar set of gaits because unlike other animals that walk on their feet, it has only one toe, which has been reinforced with a hard fingernail-like hoof. It shares the same order Perissodactyla as the rhinoceros and the tapir.

Horses grazing in a field

Exhibit A: A variety of domestic horses enjoying leisure time in their natural state of order.

The domestic horse has been valued throughout history as a riding animal and beast of burden due to its highly desirable skeletal anatomy ideal for riding (the back is carried straight, rather than whipping around like a deer’s) and its varied gaits with which it can travel at various speeds and paces. Naturally, it is a grazing beast and requires significant land and pasture to live comfortably, often with others of its kind in a herd structure. Horse herds congregate in hierarchy led by the most dominant or pushiest horse. Other horses then look to this leader for various cues: such as when to flee danger, when to seek better pasture, or when to sleep and rest. Unlike ruminants such as cows, the horse only has a single stomach, and cannot spit up its food. It is sensitive to poisonous vegetation. As a countermeasure, horses have dexterous lips and developed senses of taste that easily discern bitter and poisonous food and can maneuver around even a single sprig of inedible plant life. Even so, colic and other digestive ailments are dangerous and painful to horses. Their delicate, sensitive noses are highly prized by enthusiasts everywhere as the most soft and glorious part to pat and kiss.


Exhibit B: the velvety and fantastic nose of the domestic horse, the most wonderful element man has ever introduced into a selectively bred animal.

When threatened, horses tend to flee. However, if cornered or aggressive with other horses or humans, the same fast-twitch muscles and single-pivot leg joints that make horses the second fastest sprinters among mammals also make for a powerful kick. While not optimized for biting, a horse may also lash out with their teeth as well. During these conflicts, horses will take special care to protect their legs, because they are not proficient at healing wounds and their need to stand most of the time makes significant leg injuries fatal without human intervention. However, usually horses are very docile so long as they do not perceive a threat in their environment. Domestic horses may come to see humans as their “leader” figure and look to them for how to behave in a crisis. In this way, a calm rider or ground handler can guide even an inexperienced horse through significant stress, though to brave hazards such as attackers, loud noises, fire, or hostile environments horses often need special training to remain manageable.


Exhibit C: My sister exercises a horse in a ring riding lesson, taught by a skilled instructor.

Horses come in many shapes, colors, and sizes. Horses as tall as 19 hh (approx. 6’5” at the withers) and as small as 4 hh (approx. 18” at the withers) have existed, but horses under 14.2 hh (approx 4’8” at the withers) are considered ponies. Many variants have been bred to perform different functions, from pulling heavy weights, to sprinting, to endurance and heat tolerance, to braving ice and snow, and even just for companionship. Horses come in a wide range of natural colors and patterns, from pure black to pure white, grey, spotted, light brown, dark brown, speckled, roan, red, yellow, multicolored, and with all manner of patches, stripes, socks, and unique markings. All of them are very beautiful and deserve to be loved with kindness and care.


Exhibit D: A pretty chestnut roan pony regards a stranger with curiosity and interest.

Do not stand behind a horse. Because their eyes are on the sides of their heads, they have significant blind spots directly in front and in back of them. The horse will be confused that they cannot see you and may get scared if you suddenly “appear.” If you must walk behind one, walk closely behind their tail and talk to them quietly so their swiveling ears can pinpoint your location by sound. Do not yell or scream around or on a horse. Horses appreciate your gentleness, patience, and peppermints.

Horses may not seem clever at first glance, but actually can be quite intelligent and some of the keenest can even solve basic problems or circumvent fencing and simple latches or locks. They easily get bored or lonely and should have a companion, food, or at toy at all times to prevent development of unhealthy behaviors, behavioral addictions, or mental illness. Despite their skittish and food-concerned nature, horses are capable of forming real attachments with humans and will prefer to be around people they already know and are comfortable with. While many horses can be lazy if allowed to be, they will also show many behaviors that are cleverly contrived to allow them to eat while working, do as little exercise as possible, and get out of having to obey unskilled handlers. However, other horses are athletes and are even enthusiastic to do well facing work or a challenge with a handler or rider they know and trust well.


Exhibit E: A bored, itchy, stabled horse waiting to be tacked up. If left too long alone in a barn, horses become restless.

Many horses enjoy being groomed, and their hairy coats and long manes and tails are ideal to brush and comb. With a calm, skilled, and confident rider, they can be intrepid adventurers and enduring companions on a ride through the outdoors, though they do not like venturing into caves or underground. Horses are excellent and lovable animals and it is proven that nearly every part of the horse is optimal for hugs and kisses, with possible exceptions of the direct posterior, lower legs, and feet. Regard horses softly and with understanding, and do not alarm them, and they will be your combination walking couch and poop machine for up to thirty, forty, or even an amazing fifty years.


Exhibit F: Horses rolling in poopy dirt paddock after exercising, who don’t understand you have to brush them tomorrow, too.