Disassembling the Maketoys Mobile App
A quick look into a not-your-everyday-kind of mobile app
Hi, a disclaimer before we carry on further, if you have strong feelings against adults addicted to plastic crack i.e. toy collecting or images of transforming action figures… You’ve been warned.
Now some background on the app originator: Maketoys is an independent toy maker, specializing in figures that resemble characters from a certain transforming robots franchise (basically they’re an unofficial/third party company). They have established themselves by getting pretty good at what they do in terms of toy engineering, aesthetics and quality. Like some of their competitors, they have also made efforts to increase the brand’s exposure through various social media platforms e.g. Twitter, Weibo, Facebook etc.
Maketoys was the first amongst the unofficial third party companies to release their own mobile app. From their website, the aim of the app was to offer a complete experience by providing accessibility to information such as new product announcements, product photos, instructional guides/videos etc. As much as I liked their physical products, I cannot say the same for this app.
Before we get started, I just want to make known that there is a tutorial available on Maketoys’ website. However it’s parked under announcements and not a dedicated section by itself. So let’s assume that we have no prior knowledge of this after we’ve downloaded the app.
Getting Started & Navigating Around
Upon launching the app, what greets the user after the Maketoys logo is a full product line-up. Let’s take a look at the title bar first:
Notice the arrow next to the ‘ALL’? It actually took me 2–3 tries to realise that it’s not clickable (lacking visibility of system status).
Next, the ‘MT’ icon, only after clicking on it then you’ll know it’s a link redirecting the user to Maketoys’ website (again lacking visibility of system status).
Lastly we have the hamburger icon, well, with an extra patty in-between but that’s a minor comment. Clicking on it reveals a menu with the main functions and also a small ‘SHARE’ text, reminding us that we can still share the app if we haven’t already before arriving to this point.
The main functions:
1. Announcements — Self-explanatory, selecting this will bring the user up to date on news or releases available on their online shop etc. Yes they do have an online shop but unless the user clicks on an announcement related to a product available in the shop and there’s a link to it, the user won’t be able to access the shop directly through the app.
2. Augmented reality — I must applaud Maketoys for this brilliant feature: the ability to view augmented reality renders of their products simply by printing out the ‘tokens’ downloaded from their website. Users can now compare their products against the figures in their own collection.
3. Products — Allows the user to browse through either the complete line-up or filter by series. Users can view the photo galleries for each product, instruction manuals and sometimes instructional videos.
4. Download — Brings the user to the ‘Download’ page on Maketoys’ website.
5. Settings — Toggles the news alert function.
Right down below are 3 buttons that will take the user to the various social media fan-pages (though the buttons aren’t very obvious whether they are active) and a short ‘Slide Back’ text telling the user that the menu can be hidden by sliding it back to the right. I found myself having to slide a couple of times before it actually worked.
Here’s what I’d like to suggest:
1. Allow the user to access the main functions instead of showing the product line-up immediately upon opening the app (user control and freedom).
2. Remove the ‘Download’ link function, reasons are: user cannot use the downloaded AR tokens as they need to print them out; only two instructions are available and these are already viewable at their product pages in this app (also helps avoid having to redirect the user out of the app).
3. Add a new function that allows the user to go directly to Maketoys’ online shop or open the online shop within the app itself.
4. Add a notification icon for each function whenever there is an update to it, e.g. a new announcement, a new product gallery or a new release in the online shop.
5. Consolidate the following under ‘More’: Share app, Maketoys Facebook/Twitter/Weibo.
6. Inside ‘Announcements’, add a slider at the top for users to select whether they want an alert for updates.
7. Inside ‘Augmented Reality’, add a thumbnail at a corner for users to view the snapshot(s) taken.
8. Inside each product gallery, instead of having the tiny icon for the instruction manuals, have it become a thumbnail at the end of the gallery. Do the same for the instructional video if there is one.
For Android users, allow the back key to go back to the previous page instead of asking the user whether to quit the app.
While its ratings on Google Play seems pretty good at 4.6, I feel there is definitely room for improvement for this app, as mentioned by this user:
Aside from the issues that can be picked out using heuristics, I do think Maketoys can bring it to the next level and make it more engaging by conducting user research and usability testing. Especially since they have held private ‘play test’ sessions to garner feedback on their physical products, why not get the test audience to try out the app too?
[Thank you for reading this rather different kind of article.]