Freeing the bubbles. Context aware messaging app concept.

I have this silly UX problem that really bugs my mind lately.

The thing is, that I like to stay on topic while I’m using messaging apps
on my phone. One topic at a time. Some kind of order. It is hard though. Often times I derail conversations by prematurely introducing new subjects.

In real life, when someone’s speaking — you’re listening. It would be rude to speak at the same time.

But we type simultaneously all the time. I can see the three dots jumping, but I start typing anyway. My friends don’t wait for me either. We babble over each other — just using keyboards.

Consider the example below:

So I’m finishing typing a message that will change the subject by 180 and open up a whole new conversation. But before I’m done I receive a message. A question.

Now I really want to answer that question before we move forward.

One, sad, lonely message compose field.

There’s only one field that we use to compose the messages. It’s stuck to the keyboard and it’s unaware of anything. The keyboard feeds letters to the compose field. The “Send” button pumps them to chat bubbles. The chat bubbles playfully render on the feed, but no one is keeping track of the conversation.

It is the one design principle that all messaging apps seem to follow and the one that makes the simple task of changing subjects quite hard.

left to right: Messages, Slack, Google Hangouts, Facebook Messenger

Once you put something in compose filed, you can either send it, or delete it. It’s unforgivingly linear. There’s no “Wait, I want to keep this message, but send something else first, cause it makes more sense all of sudden”.

Well… There are ways around it. The obvious one looks like this:

Yep. Long press, Select All, Cut, Type in, Send, Long press, Paste, continue. Unfortunately I find myself repeating this pattern quite often.

Context aware compose field?

So what if your app understood that whatever it is, that you were busy typing in, can not possibly be an answer to a question that just arrived a millisecond ago? Or in any way relate to it…

What if it offered you an option to bench a message and continue the subject?

Here’s video of my clunky prototype challenging this problem.

Yes, I did focus on the context of my conversation only. And yes, it is just a simple “draft” functionality.

Ultimately what I’d like to see is a way to a carry on multidimensional conversation using a keyboard on my phone. I don’t want to “cut and paste” all the time, because I want to keep a basic order in my messages.

The main component of every messaging app out there is the same sad, lonely filed that we seldomly used to text “Call me” 15 years ago. There must be a way to make it handle our 2016 drivel.

The prototype above is my very first, crudest design iteration. I do have a list of ideas to work on, but I’d really love to hear from users, developers and designers out there sharing their own ideas and solutions.


About the prototype video:

I used Sketch app to design the prototype. I built it using Facebook’s Origami plugin for Quartz Composer. I used PaintCode plugin for Origami to design, parameterize and animate irregular chat bubbles for my prototype.

Download raw and unoptimized incoming chat bubble from the prototype.

Download a PaintCode canvas with chat bubbles.