Unoptimized tablet experience is a missed opportunity

Tablet

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:

Navigation Drawer
Navigation Drawer
Details Screen of an Account
Details Screen of an Account

There are obviously many UI/UX improvements that I can suggest, for example:

  • Misuse of available screen estateNavigation 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 in Tablet
Gmail in Tablet

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

Google+ in Tablet
Google+ in Tablet (Optimized Content Density)
Facebook in Tablet
Facebook in Tablet (not-optimized 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 appreciate the 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

Newsstand in Tablet
Newsstand in Tablet

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.

More high quality tablet app!

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Navigation Drawer Done Right

navdrawer

With Google+ on Android just updated with new navigation menu and ditched navigation drawer, this article might not be applicable anymore in the near future for Android Design, though I don’t think navigation drawer will be phased out very soon.

Finally, Gmail on Android has been recently updated with the proper Navigation Drawer interaction pattern (the lower-level edge-swipe drawer access, as well as the Settings/Help/Feedback placement), and I am pretty happy about it because we can finally talk about consistency for this design pattern (I am aware that Google+ and YouTube on Android have yet to change).

I am sure you have (if you always look around for UI/UX articles) come across this article about how navigation drawer reduces half of the user engagements or why or how to avoid hamburger menu – if you are not, I would suggest you to read them – these are some interest reads. Although for the Zeebox case, I couldn’t fully understand the decision to go for navigation drawer – it was pretty obvious that navigation drawer is not needed, and I would probably go for the QuickReturnTabs (in the current Twitter app) to regain some of the screen estate – though it’s appreciable that their A/B testing indicates that obvious helps.

These articles (and I think there are more in the wild) suggest that side menu is a bad design pattern and avoid it at all cost, but I say – in Android Design, you can absolutely use it, but only if it’s really necessary and it’s an informed design decision.

Understand Navigation Drawer in Android

In iOS, particularly iOS7, the side menu does clashed with the navigation element (back button) at the top left, as well as the edge-swipe that will act as back (which is not consistently implemented in all Apple apps if I am not mistaken, correct me if I am wrong), however, this is not the case with Android. The navigation drawer for Android is much more sophisticated where the edge-swipe is reserved for accessing the navigation drawer at any lower-level screens (discoverability could a problem here I know), making the top level navigations slightly easier and more accessible even though you are at the deeper level in the app structure. This potentially eliminates the Platform Navigation Pattern Clash mentioned in Luis Abreu’s post (of course he meant in the iOS7).

Information Architecture (IA) optimization

I do agree with Luis Abreu about Information Architecture optimization when you are tempted to use Navigation Drawer for your app – Navigation Drawer isn’t simply an answer for every navigation need. It is always good to rethink from a high level perspective about the app structure to find out whether the navigation can be made a little bit shallower by removing any unnecessary level/information that doesn’t help exposing the important content to the user – in Android Design Guideline, there is a pretty nicely written recommendations for app structure.

Do it right

Example

However, if it’s really necessary to use the navigation drawer as the top-level navigation pattern after careful consideration, just do it, and do it right. It’s not that I do not encourage variations (which is great for a platform), but for UI elements that involved heavily with interactions, it will be always good to stick with the one that is recommended in the design guideline for consistency, familiarity and predictability. We always want the user to ‘learn once, applied everywhere’, especially from an Operating System point of view – I hate to say this but it’s part of the responsibility of the Android developers and designers to help pushing this established* consistency so the user will have less interaction friction when they are shown with a specific UI element. The faster the user able to operate the app and achieve what they want to do = happy user.

*I know some of the Google apps are still yet to be consistent with the latest changes in navigation drawer, but I am sure they are working on it. Mind you that navigation drawer has come a long way and it takes time to get things right (I wrote about this back in 2012)!

“What’s out of sight, is out of mind.”

In Anthony Rose’s article about Navigation Drawer and a tweet by Luke Wroblewski below shows that when the navigation pattern is less obvious, the user engagements reduced (although I am not sure what’s the parameters in Luke’s chart).

Sure, for some, these statistics seem worrying – but I don’t think we have yet to see the whole picture in these examples. What does the reduced user engagement means? Does it mean they don’t explore the app anymore or it simply means the first screen (home screen) is already sufficient? Does it mean that the user accomplished what they want to do with the app much faster (with lesser distractions) and thus less engagements? I would probably see this as an achievement if my app is meant to help in productivity because it might means that my app helps the user achieve thing faster.

While I fully agree that we should keep “what’s out of sight, is out of mind” as one of the design principle, but it doesn’t mean that we have to show everything as long as we can, because every UI elements play different role during the user interactions and each of them have it’s own unique importance.

So next time when you come across the use of navigation drawer, make sure it is really necessary to do that – and the new Google+ app just show that Navigation Drawer is not really needed sometimes.

Result for Android UI/UX (Re)Design Challenge 2.0

android-design-challenge - result

After taking some times, we finally have the 10 winners from all 42 entries! Congratulations!

No, it wasn’t an easy task to pick the winners – it won’t happen without the judges involved that basically spent hours to look through all the entries and place their scores and comments on them – Thank you! And to those who doesn’t make it to the winner list this time, don’t be disappointed – it doesn’t mean that your entry is bad – go on, apply some tweaks and make it happen!

The 10 Winning Entries

Below are the 10 winning entries, together with the selected comment from the judges (not in any order):

Chris Basha – Dribbble

Awesome stuff. Great work wielding Android design language with some unique taste that feels completely at home. Using an Instagram-esque presentation of content makes sense (I’d do some recon on whether this is true) and the suggestions stream is epic – all about the content. The app has a good balance that caters to Prospects and Players alike – perfecting this experience is crucial.

Only things I can call out are the crowding of content on the Item view. The image is the most important piece of the screen and shouldn’t be covered by anything. At the very least the AB should disappear as soon as the view is loaded.

Besides that and some tight text on the Designers view, this is a great v1 and should be started immediately 🙂

Elad Izak – My Battery Saver

Sweet. While this is taking quite some inspiration from Timely, it’s a joy to just look at those colors. The app’s purpose seems simple enough, to use the visual layer for clean beauty. Make it a reality.

Andre Goersch – RunPee

The app design is clear and clean. Developers will be happy to see this design. I have concerns about scalability of this design though. Going to larger screens will take a lot of rethinking with some screens but would probably be possible. 

Brand and Android UX blend together nicely as well.

Cole Chamberlin – Eve Music Player

First off, great presentation of thought through the deck. This is really important because it helps relay meaning but also forces you to really consider the reasons for your choices.

Overall, this is a fresh presentation that balances native patterns with unique layouts and interactions. I think gestures are a great idea. They can be a double-edged sword however – the next step for this would be some user testing to make sure things are clear and fit the app’s desired use scenario (sitting on the couch vs running, etc.)

Polished to a near-shine – I’d fiddle with the action bar a bit more. GREAT WORK.

Alexander Karpilovich – Kinopoisk.ru

Great Androidy update to the original UI while keeping the brand. The design also looks very scalable to larger screens.

I’d reconsider transparent navigation bar and status bar use though. In this app there’s no added value of using them.

Evgeny Belyaev – Evernote

Great redesign. Evernote feels a lot clumsy on the current version, I would use it again if it looks like this work. I would considerate to not use Roboto Slab everywhere, but it’s a better look and feel, definitely a improvement over the current app.

Swapnil Chitnis – Project Throne

I like this a lot. Finally someone who adds some unique branding to the mix, without sticking too hard to the guidelines. It’s clean, it’s clear, it’s fun and it’s Android.

Paul Forgione – Kho

Any experience that helps manage my medical needs without bringing the “serious medical issue” aura to light is a winner in my book. This presentation is simple and follows the guidelines while staying unique. It feels more “human” than analytical which is especially important for a daily use app.

Only a tad more polish on things like the graph labels and scrolling blocks/buttons at the bottom and you’ll have something realllllly great.

Sean Smith – HBO Go

Then we have (finally) a great use of KitKat immersive features here, you can see the ActionBar but the opacity trick make it beautiful, specially the home screen with pictures and stuff. Love the animations to show UX interactions, great presentation!

James Jun – TweetLane

Great work simplifying the app. Some apps try to be everything and that doesn’t always work out. The focus on content and getting everything else out of the way is a good goal.

The little flourishes like the bird moving with refresh is great – these bits of polish differentiate and delight.

Two points:
The tweet button is nice, although it gets a little lost and covers content. Consider making it the prominent blue and hide on scrolling down. The compose view could have a tad more queue that it is the input box and not just an expanded button.

I’m a little concerned the menu view will be difficult to find, so some user testing and feedback will be needed to confirm its placement.

Nice, simple, and clean!

General Impression on the Entries

I received a lot of great feedback from the judges and sponsors for the design challenge this time – below is the general impression of the entries:

  • General quality of the entries are satisfying (though it can be better!)
  • The Android Design Community show signs of maturation
  • Scalability (read: responsiveness) of the design, most of the time, is not considered
  • Lack of tablet-centric design
  • Entry need to be a complete story/flow to capture the overall UX rather than just a few screens

These feedback are great for me to prepare for the next one (if there is one).

Prizes for the Winners

As promised, each winner will walk away with a Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto T-Shirt at the selected size, and a 10 USD Play Store Gift Card (or 10 USD Paypal cash). The T-shirt has been ordered and it will be shipped once it is printed, and I will email the winners for the Play Store Gift Card.

Thank you and I hope everyone able to grab something from the design challenge, and if it’s all possible, I will definitely make the third one next year!

Minna, Domo Arigato! 

How I would Further Improve Mailbox App

Mailbox

The famous Mailbox app in iOS has finally arrived for Android users, and again it’s a very disappointing move from a company under Dropbox. It’s fine (actually not) to have the Android platform as the second thought of your app/services, but why some of these companies doesn’t just show some Android love by making things familiar and easy for Android users?

I am sure I will hear ‘Taylor, it’s about consistency. Our PdM requested to make it looks all the same across platform, so people gets familiar instantly! And it also provide consistency in the branding and marketing!’. My ass.

My Redesign Suggestions

  • Go consistent with Android UI patterns and building blocks. You can keep some of the unique elements while not breaking the Android Design Guideline.
    • The user of navigation drawer indicator (change color depending on the page)
    • Use the tab style in Android
    • DON’T block the notification bar by your syncing/refresh/whatever you call bar. Just use crouton to display the progress in-app.
    • May be use path-tracing for the loading indicator?

Inbox

  • The color of the elements can be consistent to the different screens, so it keep that uniqueness in mailbox.

Later

  • Check Confirming and Acknowledgement page in Android Design Guideline. Positive (Delete in this case) action should be always on the right side.
  • Why control the user behavior? So now I can’t write a draft when I have some free time? Why the force of deletion?

Delete Cancel

  • Being a mailbox app that encourages users to organize their mails in different categories (read, dismiss, list, later), I find it really strange to place those actions on the top. Once you finish reading the mail (most of the time), you focus will be at the bottom part of the screen, and it’s way easier and natural for the user to reach the buttons at the bottom for organizing the mail.

In Mail

Since they have hacked around to make certain things work differently from what Android has to offer (like the notification bar on top of your notification bar), why not spend a little bit more time to polish it up for Android users?

What do you think?

Android UI/UX (Re)Design Challenge 2.0

Android Design Challenge 2.0

After a successful Android UI/UX (Re)Design Challenge last year in June, I have been occasionally received inquiries on the second one, as well as some industrial feedback on such design challenge. This is one of the feedback I got:

I ended up hiring one of the finalists in last years competition.  I hired him to do a bit of freelance work on an app I’m building – so it would be good to give similar encouragement to upcoming designers.

Frankly, I didn’t expect that. The aim to make such design challenge is always meant to create awareness towards the importance of Android Design, and it seems to go beyond that – it’s totally awesome! This is why I decided to make the second one, namely Android UI/UX (Re)Design Challenge 2.0.

But first, I have to apologize to all the participants last year for the undelivered Android UI Design Kit Logo stickers – there has been some issues with the sticker quality and hence I decided not to ship any of them. I will look into options this year to make good quality sticker (any suggestions?) and I will send them out again.

Really simple rules

  1. Anyone can participate!
  2. Design a brand new app or redesign any existing app by 18th April 2014
  3. The (re)design should use Android Design Guideline as a reference. Only use appropriate UI patterns and building blocks for your design.
  4. At least 5 screens are required (in order to tell the app flow/structure). Please provide comparison/explanation/justification for each screen. A good example of the design entryDon’t let us guess! I repeat, don’t let us guess! 
  5. App icon can be redesigned to match with the new UI (re)design.
  6. Optional: You can design for the Android Wear version if it meet these design principles. If it’s not, don’t do it!
  7. Optional: Making animated UI design (in animated gif or video) is encouraged, but it will not have huge advantage in the judging system.
  8. Optional: Feel free to post your design to any Google+ Android Design Community (including Android Designers) to get feedback and further improve your app (re)design before your final entry. It’s always encouraging to see such design iterations which involved communities.
  9. Post your design entry in Google+ publicly, and remember to use these hashtags:

#androiduiux #androiddesign #ADiA

Submission

  1. Submission of the final entry must be sent to the email address androiduiux [at] gmail [dot] com (so I know which is the final entry if you have multiple revisions)
  2. The title of the email should be Entry for Android UI/UX (Re)Design Challenge 2.0
  3. Send me the link to the final entry in a public Google+ post (or any link that can be viewed publicly)
  4. I will then send you the confirmation email to acknowledge your design entry

Design Tools

  1. Feel free to use any design tools that you are comfortable with, as long as the final result are high-fidelity mock up screens.
  2. If you are looking for some design resources to start, check out the Free Design Resources page

Winner announcement

  1. Five best entries will be announced via my Google+ account and androiduiux.com after the deadline. They will be also informed via email.
  2. All entries will be judged by awesome android designers in order to pick the winners.

Prize

The 5 best entries will walk away with:

  1. Domo Arigato Mr. Roboto T-shirt. This is a new T-shirt campaign that I just launched for Android fans. If the Teespring campaign is not successful, I will print these T-shirt myself and ship them accordingly.
  2. 10 USD Google Play Store Gift Cards. You can request to make it a Paypal transfer if the Google Play Store Gift Card in USD is not usable due to the difference in region/currency.
  3. I reserved the right in prize management based on the quality of the entries.

Credit

I would like to thank these people for their awesome support:

That’s all! If you are interested, start (re)designing and submit your awesome design entry by 18th April 2014!

Android Design Mock Up Preview Kit for Photoshop and Powerpoint [Free Download]

Android Design Mock Up Preview Kit

I was working on a client request for a realistic screen preview in a device for marketing purpose, and I realized while there are so much love for the iPhone/iPad mock up, there are rarely such mock up preview kit for Nexus devices for free. So while I am working on that request, I also made the Android Design Mock Up Preview Kit (Nexus 5) freely available for any use.

What to expect

  • 1 x Adobe Photoshop file (.PSD)
  • 1 x Microsoft Powerpoint file (.PPTX)
  • My left hand (in the image, not the physical one)
  • Nexus 5 device with replaceable smart object for the screen

How to use

It’s rather straight forward to use them. You should have the screenshot/mock up image (ideally in PNG format) ready with the resolution of 1080×1920. Android UI Design Kit for Photoshop 4.4 can output at this resolution.

  • Adobe Photoshop version: Open it up, double click on the smart object with the label ‘REPLACE SCREENSHOT HERE’, paste the screenshots or mock up in it, and save. The screenshot should be reflected in the preview kit. Drop a background image, apply some light Gaussian Blur on it, and you are good to go! If it’s necessary due to brightness difference, adjust the color overlay effect for the hand layer.
  • Microsoft Powerpoint version: Open it up in Microsoft Powerpoint 2013, right click on the hand layer, send to back. Then right click on the screen layer > change object > select the screenshot/mock up. The screen should be changed to your selected. Send the hand layer to the front. Drop a background image, send backward, apply blur, and you are done! You can turn on the Selection Pane to make the layer management easier.

Some examples

If you are wondering how this preview kit can be used, below are some examples (click on them to view full size):

Example 1

Example 2

Download

As usual, it is ready to download via my Mediafire storage space – Android Design Mock Up Preview Kit.

Hope this helps in creating some awesome marketing material! I will try (no promise) to release a few more variants of such preview kit if I am able to do so.

Android Wear UI Design Kit for Photoshop 0.1 [Free Download]

Haze Watch on Moto 360

As you might have aware, Google has announced Android Wear specifically designed for wearables, and I am really excited about it – new form factor and new UI/UX to explore (and the sexy Moto 360).

I was playing around with mock up on a small app called Haze Watch (to monitor Haze condition in Malaysia), and it’s really fun – with that very limited screen estate, it’s really important to only show crucial information that is meant for a glance, not read – and this design principle is well explained in the official Design Guideline. I am really looking forward to see how Android Wear change the very new wearables market, I guess exciting time ahead?

Android Wear UI Design Kit for Photoshop 0.1

Then I was thinking, why not a simple design kit for those who want to play around with this new form factor which has a very small screen estate? So I decided to make one very simple Android Wear UI Design Kit for Photoshop. What you can expect from it:

  • 2 Adobe Photoshop files – Square (280×280) and Round (320×320)
  • A few different layout like Incoming Notification, Notification Stack, Contextual Card etc.

That’s it! It’s not meant for accurate mock up as of now since I don’t have the design specs, but it’s good enough to play around and get prepared for the next wave.

Download

You can download it from my Mediafire account Android Wear UI Design Kit for Photoshop 0.1. For the round one, it goes really well with Spiderfly Studio Moto 360 Mock Up tool for Photoshop (though you might have to do a little bit of resizing)!