Reviewer: Simon Norris Date: Friday 28th January 2011 Version: WorldCard Mobile 3.0.0
World Card Mobile is the “leading business card scanning application for iPhone” and allows you to transfer your business cards into the iPhone contact list. The app is made by Penpower Inc (www.penpowerinc.com) which is part of the Penpower group who are experts in several digital signal processing technologies, especially Optical Character Recognition (OCR). The release of the WorldCard app continues the trend of digital gadgets replacing physical objects http://www.paulgraham.com/tablets.html. WorldCard allows people to scan cards using the camera or pictures from their photo albums. The details on the card can be added or merged into the contact list, as well as, shared through iTunes. Cards can also be browsed in a Cover-Flow interface. If like me you are a ‘collector’ of business cards and have a constantly growing collection, keeping them all together in an app makes a lot sense. In fact, business cards are still a common method for sharing details, so the hassle of storing and finding them can be removed with this app. Therefore, having the details available in your phone is very useful because this is the most obvious place to keep them!
Scanning a card is made easier by providing a card capture template that helps to ensure you can increase the accuracy of the scan by placing the card between two grid markers. The app also provides a ‘shake reduction’ feature which further improves the accuracy of the scanning process.
Hidden and non-standard features
However, not all the features are clearly available from the User Interface (UI). The "photo" button on homepage is not clear and the Cover-Flow browsing of cards is not obvious. The coverflow mode is a great feature and should be surfaced in the help text so people can quickly learn to browse cards in this way because it provides an enhanced experience to the default presentation of a vertical list of contacts. A button could be used to show that the screen can be rotated! The UI does not follow the iOS Human Interface Guidelines (e.g. buttons, workflows, navigation of the app), so this increases the level of mastery required to use the app. People are forced to investigate and find features through trial and error which is not good for apps. Typically apps should follow "a fast launch, short use" paradigm and be easy to use.
The app does present a number of dead ends to users and this will make the user wary of using features that may make the app crash. Whilst the app benefits from advanced Optical Character Recognition (OCR) technology every card scanned did require additional editing to ensure the information was accurate. This could put users off!
The tip functionality above could be more intuitive. On first impression I thought it was placed close to the ‘recognize’ button to reinforce the card scanning task. However, it is actually a button which detracts the user from the task.
The WorldCard app uses fantastic technology that could change the way business cards are used. However, the core technology is clearly affected by a poor user interface that hides features and could frustrate the user. A better user experience will lead to better reviews and increased take-up of the app.