Backup & Transfer

I worked as part of a small design team tasked with the redesign of Backup & Transfer for Android & iOS. Backup & Transfer is relatively straight forward white label app used for backing up and transferring data between phones.

This was back in 2015 or 2016. We knew from research that some of the issues faced came down to trust, and communication. At the time, Google had just introduced the idea of asking people to give apps permission to the data on their devices. App developers were able to pillage everything freely up till that point.

Although it seems crazy now you could pull all the contacts, messages, and photos, off someones phone pretty much without asking. It was declared in the manifest file when you downloaded an app and never mentioned again. That was the landscape for Android back then. No consent or consideration for people or their information. How times have not changed.

Animation of Backup & transfer application on a phone. Display shows a list of items selected such as contacts, photos for backup to the cloud
Michael Rickard was the lead visual designer on this, and made this fancy animation.

Backup & Transfer required access to everything. It needed trust.

You cannot back up or transfer data if you cannot get access it. Backup & Transfer only worked if you granted the app permission to the data on your phone. This required some people to trust the app. Others were more cavalier and just hit ok on everything.

Old visualisation showing click paths and steps that were tested for usability using remote unmoderated participants
Some visualisation of research findings used to communicate with stakeholders

Permission Priming.

The unfamiliarity with permission requests meant that we needed to educate upfront to say why we were asking and demonstrate the value of granting permission. Permission primers are common now, but at the time we were all trying to figure this out. Both Android & iOS presented some unique challenges.

Personal Cloud Animation showing Value proposition for Backing up Mobile Phone Data
More animation and visuals by Michael Rickard for Personal Cloud that shows some of the priming for what is to come. We contextual requested permission at the point where they selected file types to backup.

iPhone users were familiar with permissions, but the platform has a very strict policy around requests. In effect, you only had one chance. When a user denied the request there was no way to ask again, or update these settings without significant effort and knowledge on the users part to grant these permissions.

Android on the other hand was more lenient. You could prompt people more than once. However the dialogs that requested permissions were quite technical, and frankly scary. Also, they were new and unfamiliar.

If you want to learn more about this UserOnboard is a great resource for learning about primers, and onboarding. I especially enjoy the tear downs that he does.

White label?

White label, for those of you who may unfamiliar with the term, simply means companies like Verizon and AT&T could add their own brand element to this app. Typically, things like logos, colours, typography were variable. Fundamentally, however, the apps were the same as far as functionality and user experience.

Data lists made visual

Data lists, nodes, heads, and tails. These were all foreign objects to me at the time and to be honest my grasp of them today is still a bit wooly.

The wikipedia version: A singly linked data list is a type of linked list that is unidirectional, that is, it can be traversed in only one direction from head to the last node (tail). Each element in a linked list is called a node.

This is part two in the series of old work I am posting here. You can see part one here. In effect, this is one of the first pieces of work I did after graduating from the Institute of Technology Blanchardstown. This is now part of TUDublin. So, it is fitting that one of the first paid gigs came from them.

Motion graphics.

Employed as a study aid to teach the concept of creating data lists, essentially the objective was to support students in grasping a complex unfamiliar concept. Typically this required the lecturer to conduct a white boarding session for each student before they grasped the concept.

In total ten videos made the series, which myself and Daire put together over the course of five weeks using a combination of Apple Motion, and Flash. The result, it would be fair to say, skews young. We had in our mind that they could be used to teach kids. The college runs boot camp in the summer to teach children to code.

The lecturer Arnold provides the voiceover, and had to teach us the fundamentals first. So, we got the white boarding lesson, and it did indeed take a few times to catch on. Overall, the end result isn’t bad for the five weeks given to learning, scripting, motion graphics and editing.

Visualising data: Creating a list

The videos serve as an introduction to people getting their heads around this topic. The metaphor of a train is one that Arnold uses to teach students the data lists concept, so we ran with that.