Vesper and the rewards of friction

I was bored today and decided to pop a few bucks at the AppStore and clean up my wish list. Don't ask me for a reason to do it, I'm at #teamappdiction for a reason. I always had a bad impression on Vesper, believing its highlight were the names behind, so I bought it today. What it unveiled kept me intrigued me for a while.

Before moving ahead, I'd like to share the other apps I got in my shopping spree. Skitch was irresistible with the 3.0 release (the new icon begs for a home screen spot); then I've read some tweets from @marcoarment about Bugshot and I rekindled an itch to play with it. Then following a chat with my good friend Matthew, I heard about Konvert and thought it would be nice to check how it paired against Amount as a conversion tool.

I played with these brand-new apps for a while, stumbling on their tricks, like resizing the rectangles created with Bugshot or changing the outline size in Skitch. These features were not screaming at me, but they were easily discoverable after one or two taps. It was a trial and error experience, as with any other app, where I succeeded with an unnoticeable effort.

Then came Vesper. I swept through the tutorial and learned the single imperceptible resource, which archived notes with a left swipe, although it became a gesture as ordinary as swiping right to go back since its broad use in iOS 7 built-in apps.

Everything else in Vesper was not just intuitive, but obvious. Even the animations were so perfectly choreographed I was never lost at each sliding of panels. I realized how this app was an achievement of user experience, at least to me. When I tapped the translucent tag label to enter a new tag or at the body of a note to edit its content, every moment felt effortlessly obvious – I didn’t need to explore Vesper, I only had to take the next step.

But then it stroke me that Vesper’s efficiency bored me and how fulfilling the tiny successes I attained with the aforementioned experiments with Bugshot and Skitch were. Each fruitless tap augmented the savor to come with its achievement and made me happier with myself.

Still, I smiled upon a funny trait of these observations. How friction — the right dose of it — is expected from apps, and the thrill to give the first steps on your own is remarkable. It is not a defining experience and won’t make you stick with an app; it vanishes as soon as it comes, but it builds a pleasant first impression. Vesper, compared to others, is closer to a movie.

The movie poster style of the credits’ screen gives us a clue, albeit I doubt the team developing Vesper thought about story structure as they built the app. When you go watch a movie, there’s a deal proposed in the early minutes, offering you to surrender to the fiction. After you sign this contract, you’re driven through your expectations and beliefs into a satisfying ending.

But I’d like to share something about great stories: their outcome is often predictable, at least unconsciously, or else you, as spectator, would feel cheated. Every tale is a natural chain of events and we love watching movies because they follow our hopes.

Vesper feels like that, the good kind of predictable, the way apps should be — but aren’t.

I still praise features absent in Vesper, therefore, its locus in my workflow is uncertain to me. However, it was a delightful realization that there’s more to Vesper than its idealists.