Orderly: To do lists with lots of gestures

Orderly (US$0.99) is exactly the kind of app that I normally don't write about in posts. It's a good example of a somewhat okay app that was released too early without proper testing and development, and lacking in any number of killer features.

Despite my reservations, I was encouraged to write this post to give a sense about apps that really don't fall into the "must buy" or "exquisitely awful" categories that you normally read about. The developer's pitch letter says,

This has great 5 star ratings so far. This app is unique in the sense, it purely uses iPhone gestures in the most comfortable and natural way to create and manage TODOs on your iPhone.

Sadly it does not deliver on this promise.

Orderly is a to do list. It's pretty enough (despite an unoriginal icon) and was built to leverage gesture-based interaction. It starts with 11 pages of tutorial overviews before you jump into the app itself.

Once in, the app is pretty easy to figure out despite those 11 pages. For example, you tap + to create a new to do list. There's even a pretty animated transition from the overviews to the detail screen.

Here's an example of where the app disappoints. In the following video, I attempt to navigate between the detail and overview screen. Keep in mind the principal of least astonishment as you watch this.

First, I end up tapping somewhere by accident and the screen flips on me. Then I use the un-pinch-to-zoom feature to go from overview to detail. That gesture is non-reciprocal. I cannot use similar gestures to move back to the previous state. Instead, I must tap the "<" button which, for iOS users, has a very specific meaning in navigation terms. That meaning is slightly distorted here. Finally, the actual animation back shows artifacts. None of this is damning -- the accidental touch at the start is entirely my fault -- but as reviewers we do notice the rest. We're looking for a slick interactive experience and this isn't it.

When I pulled out a hardware keyboard to test text entry, I received another surprise. The app doesn't take that hardware into account. The text remains "indented" into the portion of the screen normally usable when the on-screen keyboard is shown. If you ask why this video is "on its side," that's because the app was apparently never tested on an iPad, let alone with hardware text entry -- a natural accessory for entering large quantities of text in an app that revolves around text.

It's about at this point, where I normally make the review/don't review decision. There were enough quirks to prompt me to move onto the next item in my inbox. Only Dave's request that I showcase the exploration process brought this post to life. Had everything else worked properly, I would have tested the app over a few days in real life scenarios and then written up my overview.

An app as pretty as this deserves better. Despite really good intentions, the developer failed to deliver the kind of product that earns a TUAW recommendation.

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