I played with Jelly a few times in 2014 when it first launched because I was interested to see what one of Twitter’s co-founders, Biz Stone, would come up with next. Jack Dorsey famously co-founded Square after leaving Twitter, and Evan Williams founded Medium.
With Jelly 1.0 I remember asking a question with a photo, and receiving a few immature answers from people I didn’t know. I believe the goal was to connect your questions to friends’ friends on Twitter and Facebook.
The app faded away somewhat quickly. Now, it’s back. I’m going to write my thoughts about the iOS app as I play. Perhaps I’ll write about the web app another day. Let’s take a look.
App Store Description
“From Twitter cofounder Biz Stone comes an app that…” Right away this feels like the app can’t stand on its own, and it needs Biz’s help for promotion.
“Jelly uses your connections across social networks to supply quick replies to all your quandaries.” Quandaries. Great word. It also sounds like I’m going to post questions to people I know on Twitter and Facebook similar to the old Jelly. (This is David 20 minutes in the future. Boy oh boy David from 20 minutes ago is incorrect.)
App Store Screenshots
- “Jelly is a new kind of search engine.” New how?
- “Get concise, helpful answers from real people.” Real people instead of? I always get answers from real people. This isn’t new.
- “Help people out by sharing what you know.” Oh so there’s a place in the app to just share information? I thought this was all about questions and answers.
- “Ask (anonymously) and go back to your life.” Why anonymously? Does that mean I can ask… anything? Will this lead to lots of inappropriate content? Perhaps this is a rare situation where the goal is not to build a reputation. How noble! Also why do I need to go back to my life? I’m trying to get an answer to a question!
- “Jelly delivers answers and saves you time.” That’s a big promise. The first answer to my first question better be good.
Home Screen Icon
The home screen icon feels a bit small compared to other apps’ icons. I’d like to see the Jelly logo a couple pixels larger. I also wonder what would happen if you inverted the colors: green background and white logo. Would that stand out more? Would that seem more fun?
"Ask Jelly anything–questions are always anonymous. And answer questions to help people out." This might be a bit picky, but why start the second sentence with a conjunction? I'm also still curious as to why Jelly continues to push anonymity. Is it for my comfort? The opposite occurs for me. I assume that I'm going to see an unregulated hodgepodge. Perhaps the Jelly team is betting that people will ask more honest questions if they are allowed to do so anonymously.
Excessive drop shadow button
Why use a white field with a giant drop shadow? I think a 1pt green border would accomplish the “hey tap on me” goal. It would also solidify that green means tap. Honestly, I’m not a huge fan of the excessive drop shadow trend we are currently seeing. It feels particularly odd on iOS.
The text in the excessive drop shadow button just says “Ask Jelly.” Ask Jelly what? There’s some explanatory text below that says to ask anything. Why not make that the default text in the excessive drop shadow button “Ask Jelly anything?” That would be much clearer.
I’ll try asking a question in a minute. Also, from now on I’ll say EDS instead of Excessive Drop Shadow.
Learn more about Jelly
Tapping “Learn more about Jelly” takes me to a web browser with, what I like to call, Dropbox-style illustrations. They’re friendly and cute, but they don’t feel confident. They feel a bit too sketch-like (sketch with a pencil – not the application).
This screen is concise which I appreciate. If you want to learn even more there’s an FAQ.
Oh look! Now I see why the button has an EDS. When you scroll, the button floats on top of the content. I think transitioning from a 1pt green border to no border with an EDS would accomplish the goal of indicating that I should tap on that button when I arrive on the screen, and I can continue to tap on it after scrolling. I believe in design context wins over consistency. Therefore, make the button’s design fit the context: green border when I arrive, and EDS when I scroll.
The first question I see is “What’s your favorite national park in the US?” This is the moment I realized how the answer’s visual design is virtually identical to a comment on Medium. I know there are 4 answers, but I can only see 1 from “Katelyn.” The first answer Jelly shows me is from a user who has no avatar, and who has only contributed 2 “helpful answers.” This is a great opportunity to showcase the power of Jelly. Instead, I see a 1 word answer: “Yosemite.” That’s it? No reason? No story? This is pretty underwhelming. Also the first question is just a chance to share opinions instead of a situation where a user "delivers an answer and saves time."
I’ll try answering the question even though I’m not outdoorsy.
“Yosemite I guess.” The interesting part is the subtle “How do you know?” field. I suppose this means I can provide some proof that I know what I’m talking about. This is another missing piece of data from the first question Jelly showed me. How did Katelyn know that Yosemite is her favorite national park? But that doesn’t make sense either because one can’t know an opinion.
When I try to submit my answer, Jelly wants me to sign up. The first thing Jelly wants to know about me is my full name. After my name, the app asks me for my email address and a password. That’s 2 things right? The app says “One last thing” but then asks for 2 things. Hmm.
I’m in. I appreciate that the signup flow is not full-screen. That makes it feel quick and easy. I knew it was going to be over quickly because it wasn’t covering up the content. This is a great idea.
I see other answers to this (silly) question: Glacier, Tetons, and Rocky Mountain. Okay. More opinions.
There’s a “Post” button that I assume allows me to post this answer outside of Jelly. Unfortunately, I’m mistaken. The “Post” button is my opportunity to comment on an answer. This doesn’t make any sense. There’s a reply icon next to “Post,” so I after pondering for a moment I realized [reply icon] + “Post” = comment. This is a big mental leap. Don’t be clever with copy. Just say “Comment.”
Now that I’ve signed up, I’m taking a look at the feed. At this point Jelly doesn’t know who my friends are, if I have friends on the app, or what my interests are. The feed is just a list of random questions. I can’t imagine a situation in which I’m bored and I would think, “Let me see what questions I can answer.” Back in the days of Aardvark, I would receive an email when someone asked a question about a topic that I claimed to know about. Here? Randomness.
The middle tab is topics, and it looks like I spoke (wrote?) too soon. This is where I can express interest in topics. I chose movies of course because I am the master of movie knowledge. Hopefully this will affect the content in my feed.
I searched for a “design” topic, but only found deals, death, and death metal. This must be a bug because the second time I searched “design” worked as expected.
Apparently this isn’t my profile! The tab bar icon is a person, and my name and avatar are at the top of the screen. However, there is a “Go to your profile” button. Very strange indeed. I suppose this is where I see a summary of my participation in Jelly.
When I tap on “Go to your profile,” I see an avatar and my name again! What is happening?! The question I answered earlier is here as well. Why is this a different screen? Apparently this is where I can edit my profile by adding a real avatar and a tagline. If I had the opportunity to sign up with Twitter, the app would already know my name, avatar, and bio. This would have saved me time and effort.
I strongly believe these 2 profile screens should be combined into 1 screen with 4 tabs: Notifications, My questions, Saved, and My answers.
This screen desperately needs whitespace to help differentiate sections. It feels like a sea of text. An additional 20 points above “Account,” “Notifications,” and “About” would make this screen much easier to read.
Notifications are always more complicated than people expect. If you are actively using an app, push notifications from that app do not appear. As a result it’s beneficial to design and build custom in-app notifications. Jelly has them with a nice horizontal line that tells me I can grab the area and slide it up to dismiss it. Unfortunately, this doesn’t work. You can only tap on the bar to dismiss it. I waited several seconds for it to disappear automatically, but it didn’t. I think an in-app notification should animate off screen after a few seconds so it doesn't block content.
Finally! I’m going to ask a question: “What’s the best way to make a cup of drip coffee at home?” Obviously this is my first question, and I’m the best person to answer.
After entering the question some photos were suggested. I don’t know where they came from, and they’re pretty bad. I can use my own photo by tapping on a tiny, vague icon. There’s plenty of space for “My photos” and “Camera.” Again, don’t be clever. If there’s room for text, use text. You can also use 2 icons: the current icon, and a camera icon. This allows me to jump directly to the action I want.
I can hide and show the suggested photos. It’s just a way to show more whitespace. I don’t know why this functionality exists.
I added a few “details” to my question: grinder, machine, and beans. I’m interested to see how these appear in a question considering I didn’t notice any “details” in the questions on my feed.
Ah-hah! Notifications. I was wondering why I hadn’t been asked yet, and the answer is context. If you wait to ask until a relevant moment the likelihood of turning on notifications increases. I’ve seen this again and again during user tests. “We’ll let you know when your question gets answered” is a great way to offer.
After asking a question I’m taken to the top of my feed where my question is posted. I see “+3 details,” and, again, I wonder why Jelly didn’t force the first question I saw in the beginning to have details. Show off the functionality! The Yosemite question was dull, and left me with a “meh” taste when I arrived.
When I try to share my question to Twitter, there is no text in the popup. I have to assume this is a bug.
I asked a decently complicated question about coffee, and I received some nice answers. However, I’m not sure how Jelly can be a better resource than searching for questions on Quora (which I hear some people still do), or just searching Google. What about looking up coffee kits on Kit? Or asking on Facebook? After designing and launching Trullo, I kept asking myself, "How can I get people to do x on my app instead of Facebook?" I believe Jelly needs to answer this question as well.
The overall design is pleasant. The designer(s) focused heavily on typography, and I appreciate the nod to Medium’s aesthetic.
The flows are simple. There’s really only a few screens in the entire app. Keeping it simple (stupid) is hard, and I respect when a team accomplishes this.
Please let me know if you enjoyed my writeup by hitting me up on Twitter. This was an experiment, and I’d like to continue doing it as new apps launch.