In Praise of Checkie: the Minimal Foursquare iOS Client That Could, Can, And Does

on (ttk.me b/4Mj1) using BBEdit

If you use Foursquare on an iOS device, I highly recommend trying out the Checkie iOS app. It's an incredibly minimal and efficient interface for checking into Foursquare.

Though I'm a big fan of the numerous innovations that Foursquare has made, the user efficiency of Foursquare's fundamental check-in feature has been steadily deteriorating since the days we could simply send a text message to Dodgeball.

Foursquare: 5+ steps with waiting to check-in

Now it takes several steps check-in with Foursquare:

  1. Launch Foursquare
  2. Tap the "Check-in" button
  3. Wait for network response
  4. Spend time reading/scrolling to find the venue you want
    • if you don't find it, search and wait for network response again
  5. Tap a venue in the list
  6. Wait for network response to fill in information
  7. Tap the "Check In Here" button
  8. Consider entering a message (and/or photo)
  9. Tap the "Check In" button

On the other hand...

Checkie: 2 steps to check-in

With Checkie, it's two steps:

  1. Launch Checkie - it lists the venues from the last time you used it (in easily readable nicely sized black on white Helvetica to boot), so if you're nearby, it's easy to immediately find your new venue. Or if you wait a few seconds it will quickly and automatically refresh the list.
  2. Tap a venue to immediately check-in

That's it, you're done. Power-button-lock your device and put it away, no need to wait to see the UI update, though it eventually does, showing you the number of points you got for that checkin. You can also optionally tap-and-hold a venue in the list, and Checkie will take you to a second screen where you can add a message to the check-in.

Mobile UI = focused, task-oriented, minimal

Minimizing the number of steps it takes to check-in is super-critical for an application like Foursquare, where you're typically out and about, and want to spend very little time interacting with your device before putting it away. I wrote most of this recommendation to use Checkie as a comment on Edd Dumhill's Google+ post where he lamented: "I never have time [to check-in] when I'm somewhere interesting." Edd's observation is spot-on. Mobile UI design must be focused task-oriented in order to be cheap enough in terms of time/attention cost to be worth using. Get in, minimal steps to do the task, get out. All the "distract me looking through a seemingly endless stream of random unrelated things" features should be buried or secondary at most.

Toward IndieWeb Checkins

I find Checkie not just useful, but inspiring. If a third party client can provide a better check-in experience than Foursquare itself, then perhaps by adopting such designs we can provide a better IndieWeb check-in experience. Such an IndieWeb check-in interface would first post a check-in to your own site (perhaps privately or with limited access), and then syndicate it out to Foursquare (and potentially other check-in sites) so you could keep in touch with friends still in the silos. The best part: Checkie is on github.

Bottom line: if you have an iOS device and use Foursquare, get Checkie, use it, be inspired, build something similarly minimal and useful for your own site. Hat-tip to Edward O'Connor for showing me Checkie earlier this year (who then hat-tipped Ben Ward for telling him about Checkie).

Additional Reading