Helping people find lost items faster
Tile is a Bluetooth LE tracking device and mobile app that helps people find stuff that matters, like keys, wallets, luggage and devices.
In early 2016, the product team wanted to focus on improving the experience for out-of-range items. Having an out-of-range Tile can be an emotional, panicked experience because it's not immediately findable, so the app should be straightforward to support a user in this goal. We'd been seeing a lot of user confusion and complaints that the app "wasn't working" simply because people weren't understanding what "out of range" fully meant, or how use the app to find items when it was in this state. For example, when the status says "out of range," the item is often nearby, and the user just needs to walk around a little bit before they come in Bluetooth range.
Beyond improving the "out of range" experience, this project was about rethinking the larger concept of a Tile status. How could the product better communicate what it means for a Tile be in range, out of range, connecting, shared, low on battery, and beyond?
Tile states: Before
The Tile detail screen is accessed from a list view of all of your Tiles — it's the screen you use to find an individual item. Here's how some of the major states looked previously. Beyond the opportunity to be more helpful in the stressful out-of-range moment, the screen also needed some structure and hierarchy improvements to better support all of the information it was presenting.
Tile states: After
The new design hinges on the idea that the app can provide more helpful information based on what it knows about a user's context. If an item is out of range but the last place it was seen was near the user's current location, the app can infer the item is probably not too far away. Maybe the user is in their living room and they're looking for an umbrella that's in their garage — far enough away to be out of range, but close enough to be findable with just a little bit if moving around. If an item is out of range but the last place it was seen was several miles from their current location, the app can treat that as a different scenario and offer different guidance.
The top half of the screen contains primary information and the supports the primary task most users come here for. The word "out of range" is removed entirely in favor of more descriptive and helpful information. The The item location uses new, relatable terminology like "last seen nearby" and actual place names instead of addresses when available.
The bottom half of the screen is now architected to immediately present a "Tip" — guidance on what to do from here or, if all is well, introductions to features you may not have known about. The user can also access an "Options" panel that supports more actions and info — and will scale better long-term as the app grows with more features and functionality.
Process and explorations
Fortunately, user research for this was pretty baked into my long-term understanding of Tile users. I'd conducted several research projects and user phone calls, and frustration with the out of range experience was always a top issue that I heard about so I was already familiar with the pain points.
This is the first wireframe I created to communicate the UX concept and goals:
Here's an early exploration of the visual design that I explored. The challenge was introducing a new order and hierarchy while maintaining the app's current look and feel.