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Design Critique: Jawbone UP

What is the Jawbone UP

Jawbone UP is a wearable technology powered by an mobile application which tracks your steps, distance, calories burned, inactive and active workouts, as well as tracking your sleep patterns. The system consists of a sleek wristband device, and an iPhone application. The wristband itself is small with one button and an audio port. The iPhone application shows total number of steps and sleep, team information, a feed of your friend’s activity, challenges, and basic profile information. Plugging the wristband device into the headphone port of your iPhone allows you to sync your logged activity and view it in a couple of ways. It could be argued that the overall goal of Jawbone UP is to help make people more aware of their daily activities, concerning physical activity as well as sleep, so that habits might be exposed and changed over time.

Why Did I Buy One?

I am very interested in wearable and fitness technology. Jawbone UP is the first device that is fashion forward enough to wear every single day, which constantly tracks my movement and sleep patterns. I purchased the device in order to track my daily habits and see where improvements could be made. Tracking my sleep patterns and visualizing the information was also very appealing as I have always been curious about how I sleep (as I’m a very “deep” sleeper).


Overall, the UP is quite delightful and good at it’s stated goals. Switching from wearing no forms of jewelry (rarely even a watch) to consistently wearing the device every single day was easy. The device is fashionable without bringing too much attention to itself, and it easily fits in to my overall style and aesthetics. The iPhone application however has many problems. Over the course of 10 days I’ve encountered a number of design and software flaws with the application.

Interaction Design

Jawbone UP Home Screen

The overall design of the iPhone application could be said to be simple and fairly easy to use. First time use or Out Of Box experience was pleasant and gave me a clear sense of what to do within the application. While I’m usually a fan of design which does not require tutorials, designs which sync hardware and software are still a bit new, so some basic tutorials could be useful to a myriad of users. I also find syncing the device to work quite well, thought the tappable buttons seem to be too small and I find myself missing them on the first try. Syncing can also be an issue if the device isn’t fully plugged in and pushed completely into the audio port. To be fair the Square Card Reader has some similar problems.

While most of the application is straightforward and easy to use, I’ve come across a number of problems with the design. While some of these issues are easily fixed usability issues, others are frustrating to use on a daily basis.

Jawbone UP Sleep Activity

  • No understanding that you need to rotate the phone back into portrait view
  • No way to dive deeper into details of the timeline
  • Feed isn’t intuitive and doesn’t mean much to anyone
  • Why would anyone add to their feed manually when this device is all about the automatic?
  • Why is my profile and feed only showing my sleeping activity? Why not all activity?
  • Poor quality scrolling
  • Tapping on Sleep doesn’t bring up the sleep timeline, but rather takes me to the last synced timeline.
  • A 24 hour day in the timeline does not fit with my understandings of a day, if you know when I sleep and wake, you know when my ‘day’ starts and ends.
  • Activity Indicator and vibration alert can not seem to tell when I’m standing and working but not moving beyond shifting weight a bit.

Industrial Design

Jawbone UP with lost cap

The UP device looks fantastic, and I’ve actually been complemented on the fashion of the device. It fits into my overall wardrobe and style seamlessly. Wearing the device is comfortable and I’ve gotten to a point where it feels natural. While the material of the device feels nice, it often get’s caught in cuffs of jackets and shirts. Further, the audio port cap comes off too easily resulting in a lost cap after just 8 days of use.

Missed Opportunities

While the Jawbone UP device is very new to the market, and the overall market of wearable computing is in it’s infancy, I think Jawbone missed several compelling opportunities with the UP device.

  • Telling me how to actually improve my sleep.
  • Vibrating the bracelet until I actually get up and move around (or at least more than once)
  • Automatic snooze of sleep timer.
  • No social graph to recommend people to be in my team.
  • Nap mode, especially given that it knows my sleeping patterns.
  • Not able to add notes about particular sleep or activity patterns to help me see the bigger overall picture of my health. This could work much like the meals option and notes.
  • Should the device be smart enough to go into Sleep mode by itself?


Overall Thoughts

In summary, I love my Jawbone UP. It provides great data on my overall activity, especially sleep patterns. The UP is comfortable and fashionable enough to wear everyday. The only time I take mine off is to shower, but with the device being water and sweat resistance, that isn’t even necessary. I find myself syncing the device 3-4 times per day to see how I’m doing. While the device has some issues, it’s missed two nights of sleep data, and the application has quite a few design problems, I think Jawbone has put forth a great piece of useful and fashionable wearable technology.

‘Brave’ Sketches

After Bruce Sterling‘s ending keynote for Interaction 11, I knew my capstone could not continue has it had before. Tonight I decided to go back and sketch more designs, while trying to be ‘braver’. I also attempted to take to heart two other Interaction 11 speaker notes by looking at how I handled complexity within the interface, and how I might use the information itself as the interface.

My desk as I was sketching
JW desk while sketching

Overall, I’m very happy with these new sketches and I’ll continue to explore new designs for critique.

Have thoughts, comments, or feedback? I would love to hear it.

Give a Crit Iteration 5

In this iteration, I’ve added some toggle buttons that allow for viewing the title, description, category, and exif information for a given photograph. This information appears as an overlay on the image directly, and is always ‘at-hand’ during a critique.

5th Design Iteration


I’m looking for feedback from photographers and designers. For background information on this design, please see, the first post has some good information.

An Analysis of Critique Content

In an upcoming paper, I will argue that Deviant Art provides for a better quality critical discourse. I argue that certain formal characteristics along with use qualities create a particular style. This style is then affected and made sense of through social structures such as photography culture. This style leads to better quality critiques, even though it has weaknesses.

What makes for a quality critical discourse?

According to Carey [1] a quality photography critique talks about both objective elements, such as exposure and composition, as well as subjective elements such as artist intention and expression. Whittington [2] says that effective critiques talk about some formal elements of the photograph, unity, rhythm, balance, and communication. Abrahmov [3] talks about common criteria for a quality critique saying that quality critiques should talk about the focal points, the quality and direction of light, composition, depth of field, as well as the relationship between the foreground and background. So, according to these authors a good photography critique should talk about both formal elements of a photograph (those intrinsic to the photograph itself), as well as subject elements of a photograph. By providing both objective and subject elements in a critique, a criticizer can talk about the technical elements of a good photograph while still discussing the viewers aesthetic and emotional response to particular elements within the photograph.

What makes for a weak critical discourse?

When quality critiques talk about formal and subjective elements of a photograph, they quite usually discuss elements in a fashion of good elements, elements that need improvement, and usually conclude in talking about the overall affect of the photograph. So then, weak critiques would talk about either just formal elements, just subjective elements, or neither. I’m leaving out ‘critiques’ that simply demean or put down a photograph without talking about good elements within that photograph or with mean spirited comments about what needs improvement within that photograph. In fact, I’m not counting this type of commentary as a critique at all, as they provide no real discourse to the subject.

When a critique focuses on only formal elements within the photography, they fail to address the interpretation and intentions of that photograph and photographer. As photography is used for many different purposes, it’s important to speak to the artist’s intention to understand how a particular photograph will be used. Similarly, focusing only on subjective elements leaves no real basis for objective comparison between photographs. This style of critique tends to be an “anything goes” critique and normally fails to add to the discourse of photography. Furthermore, this style of critique normally fails to provide elements of improvement for the photographer. In simply saying “This photograph is beautiful” or “This stinks”, a criticizer isn’t saying much about the photograph at all, but rather speaking of their own personal opinions. When adding discussion about particular elements, such as “the exposure, light, and shadow of this photograph work well to create a beautiful composition” a criticizer is speaking to what creates, helps, or hinders their aesthetic experience.

Content Analysis

In determining what makes a quality critique, I looked at two large photography websites that allow for some sort of critique; Deviant Art and Flickr. I conducted a content analysis of both sites using 70 photographs from each respective website. Each photograph was picked at random. Comments and critiques were read and then coded. These coded results were then grouped according to the type of element being discussed or the type of discussion happening. For each site I grouped my analysis according to artist expression, color, composition, detail, emotion, exposure and lighting, and focus. While Deviant Art allows for 4 ratings to be given to a photograph, I also looked at how criticizers referred to or used those given terms within their textual critique. Within Flickr, comments are used for critique but also for leaving praise and awards to artists from the community (which is a form of critique itself).

What kind of critique is given on Deviant Art?

In looking at Deviant Art, I found that over half of all critiques talked about compositional elements (perspective, background, foreground, framing, etc) as well as exposure elements (lighting, contrast, tones, shadows, highlights, etc). Furthermore about half of these critiques also referred to the artists intention and the emotional affect of the photograph. About twenty-one percent of critiques also talked about Deviant Art specific keywords (Vision, Originality, Technique, and Impact) giving meaning and discussing how they interpreted these keywords within the photograph and critique.

What kind of critique is given on Flickr?

In looking at Flickr, I found some very interesting results. Overall, ninety-seven percent of photographs I studied contained comments simply offering praise or praise in the form of ‘awards’ (graphic icons stating greatness). Within these Flickr comments as critiques, only 30 references to formal elements were made, compared to 145 references on Deviant Art. Furthermore, only 4 references to subjective elements such as artist intention or emotional affect were made, while 32 such references were made on Deviant Art. It’s clear then that most of these comments were praise only not talking about any formal or subjective elements of the photograph. So, what did these praise only comments talk contain if not talking about formal or subject elements of the photograph? Most of these were contained of small three to five word phrases like “I love it”, “gorgeous”, or “this is the best!!!”. Exalting comments like may help the photographer feel better, but they do not provide a quality critique.

Why does this matter?

In all arts, critique is important in that it provides discourse and learning opportunities. Photography critique brings forth a discussion of what makes for quality photography in a non-arbitrary fashion. This provides knowledge and learning opportunities for other photographers.

Above I have discussed what makes for a quality critique, and what makes for a weak critique. I have shown how that Deviant Art has quality critical discourse, while Flickr offers a mostly praise only environment. In coming posts (and in my paper), I will show that the interaction style of Deviant Art is what allows for these quality critiques. By teasing out the details of the interaction style of Deviant Art, I will bring forth principles for designing for critique.

  • 1. Cary, Rick. 1985. A Structure for the Critique of Student Photographs. In Annual Meeting of the National Art Education Association.
  • 2. Whittington, J. 2004. The process of effective critiques. Computers & Graphics 28, no. 3 (June): 401-407. doi:10.1016/j.cag.2004.03.007.
  • 3. Abrahmov, Shlomo Lee, and Miky Ronen. 2008. Double blending: online theory with on-campus practice in photography instruction. Innovations in Education and Teaching International 45, no. 1 (February): 3-14. doi:10.1080/14703290701757385.||D404A21C5BB053405B1A640AFFD44AE3.

A Critique of iTunes Ping

Below are notes from my quick critique of the new iTunes Ping social network. These are in a rough form, but I thought it was important to get this out there so that people can think about and discuss these issues. I think Apple could have caught many of these issues had they done some simple user testing. This was done in a quick and dirty format and I had only briefly looked at iTunes Ping before.

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