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A Module for Success

Thursday January 18, 2001 - 4:16 AM EST - By James Hromadka

Let the user decide

Handspring announced late last year a Springboard Gold program for module makers that want compatibility testing. I've been fortunate enough to get my hands on most of the Springboard modules that have been released for the Handspring Visor, and I offer below some usability tips for Springboard module makers.

Let the user decide what applications remain on the Visor. Several modules have been released that have additional software that installs on the Visor. These programs sometimes take up unnecessary space on the Visor. One example is the Omnisky wireless module. OmniMail and Yahoo! Messenger are both installed onto the Visor when you first insert the module, and are reinstalled the next time you insert the module -- even if you delete the applications from your Visor's memory.

Springboard module makers should have a menu option or Setup program that lets the user decide what stays on the Visor. A listing of applications included with the module would have check boxes that indicate if the application should remain in the Visor's memory when the module is removed. From my example above, I may want to write an email to someone while off-line, but I would need the module inserted so I can use instant messaging. Let the user decide.

These settings would be in a small preferences database that remains on the Visor. Application data would of course always remain on the Visor, but users don't want to have 100+ KB programs wasting space on their Visors.

Test with common accessories and software. If you are working on any type of communications Springboard module, make sure that the user can use a keyboard at the same time they are connected with the module. This is one of the biggest (and unsung) advantages of the Visor -- users can be online at the same time they are typing on their keyboards. Take advantage of it.

Release updates. Nobody wants to buy something that is outdated tomorrow. One of the nicest things about the flash memory that most Springboard modules have is that it is incredibly easy to update the internal software. With the release of the Visor Prism, there is no excuse for modules to not have some color functionality. Even simple modules like the Backup module could use color. Why not have the "Back up now" button be green and the Restore button be a dark yellow? People want to show off their new color Visors, and if your module is in color, they will be showing it to potential customers. Nobody is demonstrating Tiger Woods Golf.

Underpromise and overdeliver. It's always nice to surprise the customer. Card Access is the poster boy for this. Thinmodem users already had a nice standard-size modem, but Card Access went the extra mile and updated their software so that users could also store ~500 KB on the module as well. The company didn't have to do that, but they did it anyway, and users loved them for it.

Release dates & working with others >>

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>Let the user decide
Release dates & working with others

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