Hooops: Form Without Function

I have to admit that I’m relatively new to Dribbble. If you’re not aware, it’s a social network for designers to post their newest work and get feedback from the community. You can read a review of it on Web.AppStorm here. I actually really like it as a tool, and although I haven’t been invited yet to post anything or comment on other people’s designs (feel free to invite me if you’re a user, by the way), I really like looking through the service and getting inspired by all the amazing work that’s available.

Although Dribbble has a lovely mobile site that can do most of what you’ll need, there’s a very healthy amount of iPhone apps available for the service as well. When the developer of Hooops reached out to me and I saw some of the pictures, I had to check it out.Like the article? You should subscribe and follow us on twitter.

Designing an App for Designers

Talk about a tough crowd. In a way, I feel bad for anybody who’s making a Dribbble app. This is a huge community of people, all of whom value the perfect marriage of functionality and form. They’re hard to please. For the most part, I like Hooop’s design and value what I consider its playfulness. In fact, it reminds me of Pincase, an iPhone client for Pinboard that I reviewed in October.

This is Hooops.

This is Hooops.

The app embraces large typography and fun iconography, along with easy-to-read menus. There’s no trickery here with pinching to zoom or using the iPhone in landscape to get a closer look at a piece of work (although I think that’s a regrettable omission). Hooops is all about the bare minimum of simplicity. What you see is exactly what you get.

This is both commendable and regrettable. Although it’s nice to have an easy way to navigate streams on Dribbble, the inability to get a closer look at design work is sort of sad. A lack of landscape support, especially for work that’s as good as it often is on Dribbble, is also incredibly sad.

The interface is really nice, particularly with its focus on comments.

The interface is really nice, particularly with its focus on comments.

But for all the things that it gets wrong, Hooops also gets much right. It’s incredibly easy to navigate through Dribbble users and designs, and I love how much of a focus there is on comments. Everything is very legible — much more so than Dribbble’s mobile website. Beyond that, sharing is built right in, so it’s not hard to share designs to your favourite social networks.

Marrying Function to Form

That’s about all you can do, though. And this is where I start to get really sad, because although I don’t Hooop’s interface is perfect, I really do like using it. It’s a nice place to be. But it doesn’t have anywhere near the functionality that I would hope for in a modern iPhone app.

The expected Streams are all here, but the Following tab requires an in-app purchase of $0.99.

The expected Streams are all here, but the Following tab requires an in-app purchase of $0.99.

You can log in to your account and check your Following stream (although that feature costs and extra $0.99), but you can’t display your Profile. There’s a really lovely (and super simply) profile interface in Hooops, and I think it looks fantastic when you’re browsing users on the platform, but there’s no way to see what your profile looks like. The profile interface in Hooops doesn’t have a ton of features, but it does look nice, and it’s too bad you can’t see your own.

You also can’t Like designs or Bucket them. You can’t follow users. In short, there’s not a lot you can do except look at pretty art. And you don’t need a Dribbble account to do that, which means that Hooops is a Dribbble app that isn’t really meant for designers at all.

This is a Dribbble "player's" profile.

This is a Dribbble “player’s” profile.

If you do want to look at anything in more detail, Like it, leave a comment, or follow a “Player,” as Dribbble users are called, you have to do that from the mobile website. Easy enough: there’s a share pane built right into Hooops, so you would think you could easily open Safari from there.

Sadly, the Copy URL button is a little slower than the Open in Safari button most apps ship with.

Sadly, the Copy URL button is a little slower than the Open in Safari button most apps ship with.

Only you can’t. You can copy a URL, which is great for anybody who uses an alternative browser, but you can’t open the page in a web browser with one tap. That makes the whole process a lot longer, and when you’re done, you feel like you’re better off just using the mobile website — which has a lot more functionality. Not to mention that the website allows you free access to your Following stream, while the app does not.

Final Thoughts

What we have here is an app that is halfway there: Hooops makes it easy to browse Dribbble and has a really lovely interface with only a couple minor flaws, but as far as function goes, it’s barely scratching the surface. There’s a lot of room for improvement. Sadly, most of the competition isn’t up to snuff either, and Balllin’, the old community favourite, is no longer available in the App Store.

If I was the developer, I’d start with adding the ability to view your profile. From there, I’d add the ability to “like” designs and follow Players as quickly as possible. The website is relatively fast, so the goal here is to provide every major feature of the website in a faster package that’s native to iPhone. Until Hooops gets to that point, it’s just a pretty interface — and, despite its free price point (with one current in-app purchase), I can’t recommend an app based on pretty interface alone.


Summary

Hooops has a nice and very usable interface that's very easy on the eyes. Sadly, you can't log in, comment, or even follow users from the app, making it feel useless compared to Dribbble's mobile website.

5