After 264 emails with tons of exchanges, 200+ mock screens, 30+ interaction prototypes, 9 months+, 17156 times of revisions (OK, I made this up) – we finally have The Fabulous app with Material Design pushed to the public on the early September, and we are happy that we reaches our first milestone for the redesign – an honourable feature in Google Play Store under New + Updated Apps category.
You probably have not heard about The Fabulous – It’s a Health and Fitness app uses scientific-based approaches to help people in reaching their health goal through a carefully crafted step-by-step program. We purposefully crafted the journey based on the user goal by slowly showing them relevant information and motivates them during the process, and hopefully get them to form some healthy habits at the end of the journey.
Floating Action Button, or, in short, FAB, is one of the unique UI element in Material Design for primary/promoted action for a particular screen. Since it is a frequently accessed UI element in a given screen, I think it’s important to make the FAB right in every details. However, there are a number of apps doesn’t have the right FAB as specced in the Material Design Guideline, which also included some of the Google apps (I know!).
Todoist recently have their major redesign using Material Design and I thought it was actually quite nicely done! Though I found one minor design issue that might worth a mention – did you manage to figure it out at the screenshot below?
Disclaimer: This post is mainly about the author rant about bad mobile app design from the largest bank in Malaysia, but it is also a great example of don’ts in mobile app design.
It’s September 2014. Material Design was introduced few months ago during Google I/O 2014. The predecessor – Holo Design was introduced late 2011 together with the launch of Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0), which is about 2-3 years ago, and it’s getting matured as time goes. It’s probably not wrong to expect any Android apps published in the year 2014 embraced with all the lessons that we have learnt in Holo Design and craft the best Android experiences for the user.
Last week, they have officially launched their revamped mobile banking app, claiming that it has the best mobile banking experience compared to the previous version. It does seems to have a refreshed design – except it’s probably one of the worst and most unacceptable mobile design that I ever seen. And it’s 2014.
Unclouded by Christian Göllner, an app that helps to analyse and clean your cloud storage (Dropbox and Google Drive, for now) has just recently out of beta, and I have the honor to work together with Christian on the design for this app. I was really impressed by the app quality when I first received the early build of the app – without hesitation, I told him that I wanted to work together to bring this app to the level of awesomeness. It is super amazing that the app has been featured by Android Police, TechCrunch, CNET, Lifehacker, and xda-developers, and these boosted our confidence about the design and development direction of the app.
In this post, I would love to talk about some design details that we have worked hard to fine tune in order to craft the ‘Unclouded’ experience that we have visioned.
While this blog post titled ‘How would I further improve TuneIn Radio app’, but I thought I would also like to take this opportunity to touch on the topic about consistency in visual design for mobile apps. No, this isn’t a fight between flat, skeuomorphism, gradient etc. – this is about embracing the consistency of visual design for better aesthetic integrity of a product regardless of the visual styling you opt for.
Visual Consistency is for better aesthetic integrity
One of the graphic design principles that I found here fit the context very well:
While creating rhythms and variations from page to page, one must also remember to maintain an overall aesthetic integrity. The purpose of graphic design is to communicate, not dazzle, and an inconsistent design will result in decreased user effectiveness. This means keeping individual visual and typographic elements simple and clear. It also means applying them uniformly, so that the connotations of a particular type style, or the results of interaction with a particular graphic element, are independent of their context. There should be an overall visual system to the text, carefully considered in the first stages of design, that brings together the elements into a coherent whole.
It is first started as a simple Google+ post after I saw the refreshed UI of Bank of America app which probably looks OK on the phone, but terribly on the tablet device, and I thought this topic actually worth a short blog post. Well, let’s first have a look on some screenshots of the refreshed UI of the mentioned app:
There are obviously many UI/UX improvements that I can suggest, for example:
Misuse of available screen estate – Navigation drawer is not done right and taking away too much of the core experience of the app – navigation drawer is meant to be transient. Also everything looks stretched-out and blown-up which make readability and glanceability become really bad.
Lack of Pure Android Experience – It’s 100% iOS experience – Tabs at the bottom, right caret, iOS top bar etc. There are certain UI and interactions elements really unique to Android to provide the user the best and pure Android experience, and this shouldn’t be taken lightly if you care about the user.
Lack of attention to details – Even for an untrained eye, it’s pretty obvious that the icon and text wasn’t aligned in a proper way – Mind the gap.
Terrible tablet experience – Rather than a blown-up version, a multi-pane layout should be already considered if tablet is meant to be supported.
Unoptimized tablet experience is a missed opportunity
We are currently living in a multi-screen world that we are no longer performing daily activities only on the computer, but also on the smartphone, tablet and TV. Of course, this does not apply to every single activity, but most of your digital activities can be done on any devices, and thus, there is always a chance that your user will try to accomplish a task using your app/service with any screen at any time. Unoptimized tablet experience would mean a missed opportunity – for the brand, for the customer experience, and for the customer loyalty.
And with the huge market share by Android tablet, it is probably no-brainer to pour in a little bit more efforts to optimize the tablet experience (unless your app/service does not make sense on the tablet at all) because tablet has penetrated in many users’ live faster than you could imagined.
What’s make a good tablet experience?
Make full use of available screen estate
Gmail app is a great example showing that multi-pane layout works really well for tablet, especially for apps that have a list/grid view and a detail view. This will enable the content navigation for the user while still provide the full experience on the content details.
Optimize the content density
With the available screen estate, especially the horizontal screen estate in Landscape mode, it is crucial to optimize the content density to show the user more information on screen at one time. Of course, this doesn’t mean that you have to show the information as dense as possible – finding that balanced density is very important (and tricky) – and this optimization must be able to enhance the content consumption experience (the user consume more information with the same amount of effort compared to small screen devices), and if it’s not, it is probably mean that the content density optimization doesn’t work. It is important to design the app with great tablet experience for the user to appreciatethe screen estate available on the tablet, not just treating it as an enlarged phone. Compared to the Facebook app, Google+ able to show more information at the same time, fully utilize the available screen estate.
Cares about content consumption quality
If you look at the screenshots of the Bank of America app, you will find that you will have some difficult time to connect the information on the left and the one on the right, because the readability is not optimized due to the stretched layout, causing the severe disconnection between the information on both sides. In the above screenshot, it is a good example showing why you should not fit the content (especially texts) as much as possible because you would also want to make sure that the readability is great (here, of course, we talk about the optimal line length), so the user can have great experience during the reading (or content consumption).
Tablet experience should not be an afterthought
If you app will be used by tablet users, always design the app with tablet experience in mind (as shown above) and make full use of responsive design. Besides that, Android team has written a nice checklist for tablet app quality, so you definitely need to go through it to ensure that you are providing the best quality and experience for both phone and tablet devices.
I hope this post is able to inspire and motivate Android developers and designers to optimize the tablet experience and it should not be an afterthought in app development. If you have any comment or question, feel free to leave it at the Comments section, and I should be able to respond accordingly.