Suggest Tweak: Night Time Volume Level Google Assistant

I posted earlier about an idea for Google Assistant on this site.

Read my earlier post:…-mockup-included/

Seeing it again I realize that my initial design was far too complicated so I decided to quickly redo the design.

Please see linked post above for context.


In the above screen the assumption is that the volume level would return to its previous day time setting when the night time quiet period ends. This information could be displayed via text on this screen, if UX testing revealed this assumption was not commonly made.

Hope you enjoyed this small update. Much simpler than before while still addressing the initial problem of an overly loud voice assistant at night time.

Thanks for reading.


Fun Tweak: Netflix’s ChromeCast Connection Screen

I have to admit, I have only been using Netflix for 2 months! Crazy I know, but it’s true. So far it’s been great but whenever I hit the cast button while looking at a show on my iPhone I get this screen.

It made me wonder a few things:

Why does this screen exist?

Why does Netflix not default to this device when its the only one that exists in the list?

Why does a UI option not exist to set a default ChromeCast device on this screen?

I thought about this for a while and then thought of a few designs that would allow for a default device selection option.

The more I thought about it though the more I came around to the idea that this may not be possible due to security / sdk reasons. This screen may be restricted in its ability to set default devices or simply default to the device when only one device is present.

Assuming the above, I figured what if anything could be done in this screen may be limited. Then I thought why not just have fun with it and tweak the UX a tiny bit.

My Updated Version:

Playing with the movie / show theme I used an old fashioned movie theatre curtain to set the mood.

It kinda feels like the show is about to start.

Then I also placed a “ghost” button around the ChromeCast link to increase its touch area. Now the links touch area it’s at least 44 px in height to make it finger friendly and hopefully increases its visibility on screen. I also didn’t duplicate the “Connect to device” text as I felt that was a bit redundant at this point, however it could easily be added back in, perhaps as white text along the bottom of the screen.

While creating this screen I had a follow up question come to mind:

How many ChromeCast devices on average do people own?

I am going to guess most ChromeCast owners have 1 device only. With that in mind I do not believe a design maximizing touch space around each device will run out of screen real-estate easily. I would also guess that the upward limits of the number of ChromeCast devices people own is 3-5 per home. I would be very interested to see the real stats on this. Perhaps I am greatly underestimating some users out there.

Finally, one final thought I had was that it could be even more interesting if there was a way to turn off lights in a home automation setup from this screen as well.

Hope you enjoyed this simple fun tweak / post. Thanks for reading.


Suggested UX Tweak: Image File Upload (before and after mockups included)


Unclear image upload UI elements on SurveyMonkey Form Designer, which maybe prone to user error.


Simple redesign of UI elements to make it more consistent and less confusing.

I have been using for years and it’s a great tool. I noticed today while creating a user survey that the image upload form in the survey design tool on their website could be improved with a few small tweaks.

Really, I clicked on something that wasn’t a button and wanted to fix it.

Lets look at the current modal window in question from SurveyMonkey.

(I have added arrows to highlight two key points on the image.)

Issues to address:

  1. The Cancel button (lower orange arrow) looks similar to JPG GIF PNG text (upper orange arrow) onscreen, despite one being a button and the other not.
  2. The upload a file from your computer link (blue arrow), is displayed in small grey text (why not at least make it blue?).

Why did they design it this way? Maybe it’s following some internal design guidelines, maybe they really wanted white text for the JPG GIF PNG text and on the current modal background the contrast was too low (it is, I tried). To me, the JPG GIF PNG text look very similar to the Cancel button, simply with inverted colours.

After a few tweaks:

I have replaced the “fake” buttons from the modal window and replaced them with second level / tier text. Then I used another text label to provide the user with an obvious decision point.

It is now pretty clear there are three basic options a user can perform from this tab in the modal window: drag and drop to upload a file, click the Choose File button to upload a file, or click the Cancel button.

(Note: the Choose File button could look more like the Cancel button or vice versa, for illustrative purposes only. Made in Sketch).

I also decided to make the Choose File button at least 44 pixels tall, as is recommended for any situation you think someone might be using a touch based device (basically every Windows 10 laptop / tablet).

I would also be very interested to know the statistics on the usage of the drag and drop upload feature versus the Upload a file from your computer link currently on SurveyMonkey. Perhaps the drag and drop UI elements / labels should be the visual second class UI citizen in this particular case.

However, this current design may favour using one method over the other and as such make such analytics less informative.

Thanks for reading.



A Suggested Feature: Day & night volume levels for Google Home Assistant (mockups included)



Limited Volume Settings Leading to Unwanted Loud Google Voice Responses at Night


Allow the users to easily set day / night volume levels at their discretion making use of standard material design interaction elements.

Google Home Assistant is a great way to interact with your smart home devices, but sometimes Google’s volume level is not so smart.

Most nights I used a custom Stringify flow to tell Google Home “Goodnight” and a second later my TV is off and all my lights are turned off except for the bedroom and bathroom.

My Google Home responds “Goodnight!” with the volume set to wake the dead from my morning routine of listening to the news at max system volume while brushing my teeth.

A simple solution: introduce time / volume settings for Google Home.

Here is a quick and dirty mockup I made based on the current Google Home screens on iPhone.

I have added a new option in the settings menu for Day & night volume control. See above.

The feature itself is fairly straight forward.

  1. Enable the day / night volume control.
  2. Set a volume level.
  3. Set a day / night start time. 


This allows the user to, for example, always start the day at volume 9 once the time has passed 5:00 AM.


This means that if your significant other is asleep in the next room and it’s after 10 PM the Google Home won’t shout out “Goodnight” or “Performing Action” or “Turning 10 lights off” loudly waking them up.

Thanks for reading.

Note: This may not be pixel perfect as it is used for illustrative purposes only. Mocked up in Sketch.

Any product that needs a manual to work is broken? No!

Have you seen quotes like this around the web?


Well I am here to tell you to think carefully about these quotes.

Don Norman makes an important distinction in this quote from the Design of Everyday Things:

“When a device as simple as a door has to come with an instruction manual—even a one-word manual—then it is a failure.” – Don Norman

I want to say that I believe Dr. Dray would offer more nuance to her above quotes if I asked her. I picked her quote only as it was easily found on UX / HCI quote website found through Google. (Fun Fact: Dr. Susan Dray is well know for rapping during her talks at CHI. She makes handmade bracelets in her spare time and loves giving them out to anyone that asks.)

When things are simple, a door, a shower, a simple mobile game, they could be said to be a failure of design if they require a manual to understand or use, however, this is not the case for a lot of more complex tasks / products.

Imagine if we said the design of piano was a failure simply because it takes hours of careful practice to learn to use effectively. Know what else takes some skill, practice, and instructions to use… our favourite everyday interaction devices, the keyboard and mouse.

If you ever get a chance to see someone use these devices for the first time you would be amazed.

Instructor: “Lets start by pointing the mouse to the folder on the screen”.

Student: Picks up mouse and touches screen with it.

The keyboard on the other hand takes hours of practice to use well and often contains many poorly labeled function keys. Why do we keep using such complex input devices over simpler ones? Because once you learn how to use them they are very functional, accurate, and fast to use.

When designing software for power users or complex tasks simple is not always best. 

While less is often more, when it comes to software sometimes more is more. Don’t be afraid to take some risks when designing software, sometimes something that takes some skill and time to learn will be more useable in the long run.