I was a big fan of Foursquare’s last iPhone app - I wrote about it here. So when the new version was rolled out with lots of fanfare, I was excited to download it and try it out. But when I saw it, I was heartbroken.
The app is definitely more beautiful - a great example of how design can make even a small screen feel spacious and exploration-friendly. The look and feel is more polished, more sophisticated, and visually richer. So why didn’t I like it?
They moved the check-in button.
It’s out of the “thumb zone” and up in the top-right corner, where typically you’d expect important secondary options. It’s also for me, as a left-handed person, one of the harder places on the screen to reach easily if I’m holding the phone in one hand.
I didn’t understand why they would do something so apparently user-unfriendly until I read this New York Times article about the redesign. The key paragraph:
The company says its app’s basic check-in function has become less popular, with users more often just looking to see what their friends are doing, or searching for information about bars and restaurants.
I’m an early Foursquare adopter - heck, I migrated over from Dodgeball. So of course to me the check-in button is the center of the experience - it’s what I’ve been using for years. But to service a new set of users, and build itself up as a recommendations tool, Foursquare has taken the Explore button and given it the center-bottom pride of place that check-in used to have. What I thought at first was Foursquare making a mistake with the central feature of their app was instead them redefining what the center of their app is going to be.
It’s hard to see products you like and use change, and it’s scary from the other side to risk alienating your early adopters. I admire Foursquare’s willingness to look clearly at what all their users want from the app, and evolve to serve their new audiences, even if it leaves me as a longtime user a little sad to be left behind.