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How to create a usability nightmare: Foursquare and Swarm

When foursquare announced that it would separate its functionalities into two apps, I though “Well, that sucks”. Now that they have gone through with this and forced Swarm on us, I’m seriously annoyed by this usability nightmare. They took something very simple and made it unnecessarily and ridiculously complicated.

I signed up for a foursquare account back when the service came into being. However, back then I did not use my account because I had no smartphone yet, and then I completely forgot about it for a few years. It only came back to my attention shortly before I went to Australia last year, because I figured it would be a great way to keep track of all the places I would visit. And it was: I used it extensively, and thanks to dailyfratze.de I have a brilliant travel map of not only my daily selfies, but also my foursquare check-ins. Just look at the amazing detail on this travel map of southern New Zealand.

Screenshot 2014-07-28 13.03.57

Back home, I continued to use foursquare as I went about my boring old life. I realised that it was a great way to discover new places to eat. I love going to restaurants and getting to know different cuisines, which, if you know me, might surprise you—I’m a very picky eater. Not much later, I had created a great to-do list of all the restaurants I still want to try in my home town.

fsq to do

What I also particularly like is the ability to see if my friends have been to a place and whether they liked it. This information is provided in the foursquare app:

fsq friends

But sadly, not in the Swarm app. The Swarm app is completely useless for this and just wants me to go to foursquare. But when I see this mostly empty screen with a link to foursquare, I think “Why bother…” and just can’t bring myself to tap that button. This app is breaking one of the most basic rules of usability: make information available with as few clicks/taps as possible. Keep it simple. Don’t annoy us.

swarm venuephoto 1

Though Swarm pre-selects venues for check-ins, the check-in process itself feels more complicated than in foursquare. Very often the venue I want to check into is not preselected, so I have to change it. But usually, it’s also not in the list of things that appears, so I have to search for it. Searching is more complicated than on foursquare as well, because I have to tap something before the search area appears. And when I finally typed in the name of a venue, I can’t even check if it’s the correct place, because it is impossible to access information about it from Swarm. I’d have to open foursquare instead, search for the place there, make sure it’s the correct one, and then go back to Swarm to check in. What a gigantic waste of time.

I’m terribly vexed by this new Swarm/Foursquare system because I felt that using foursquare really enriched my life. It was great to have a simple way to keep track of all the restaurants I went to and be able to use past check-ins for future reference. That way, I could just look up the name of the restaurant I couldn’t remember, but knew I had been to in the past. It also made making plans for dinner simpler. Badges and mayorships were a nice incentive, but not particularly important for me—even though I was looking forward to earning the New York City badge someday on my next visit, though I have no idea when that might be.

I really don’t understand the reasoning behind the Swarm/Foursquare split. They say people use foursquare for searching places, but that’s kinda what you have to do when you check-in. They say they want us to use Swarm for meeting up with friends, but I have yet to experience that feature in action. I have a feeling that the programmers at foursquare were just bored and had to come up with a really stupid idea just to keep themselves busy, with no regards to user experience. It’s completely frustrating and annoying. Some of my friends have quit foursquare altogether as a result of this nightmare.

Here’s my solution: merge Swarm into Foursquare. Combine the two interfaces in a decent way and let us access all information in one app, not two. If you must, keep your stupid “plans” feature, though I’m pretty sure nobody uses it anyway.

[Added thought] And what about all the businesses who have a “check in on foursquare” sticker at their front door? There’s another can of worms…

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